Defying the world to ignore the psychedelic shamanism and intense spirituality of their music, the battle cry of late 60s Stockholm underground quintet Pärson Sound was “We, Here and Now!”. Unfortunately, up to now their music has been a well-kept secret, despite such high profile appearances as supporting The Doors, and being personally invited by Andy Warhol to open his 1968 exhibition at Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art.
Compiling unreleased live and studio recordings, Pärson Sound is an astonishing find that successfully buckles all notions of how rock, jazz and experimental music should behave. The first record opens with a lulling guitar drone that fools you into thinking that the remaining nine minutes or so of ‘Tio Minuter” (“Ten Minutes”) will be equally laid-back and hypnotic. It turns out that the intro is a short musical fuse setting off a cacophonic hard rock explosion that owes more to the psychedelic
Metal brutalities of 60s heavyweights Blue Cheer than the minimalistic tone patterns of La Monte Young and Terry Riley (whose ideas Pärson Sound were also strongly attracted to; indeed they met in an ad hoc ensemble put together to perform Riley’s music). Rather than just endlessly chipping and hammering at rock’s surface noise, however, the group carry out complex sound experiments, whose full richness only emerge with several patient replays.
On “From Tunes To India In Fullmoon (On Testosterone)», a live recording from 1968, the group bring into play their love and understanding of free jazz. Bo Anders Persson’s looping electric guitar, Thomas Ticholm’s aggressive sax and Anne Ericsson’s howling electric cello supply the swifling black center for a sonic tornado.
The main members of Pärson Sound went on to form the equally short lived International Harvester, who recorded one album for Love Records called Sov Gott Rose Marie (Good Night Rose Marie). Disc two opens and closes with works from this period, both of which plunge head on into a rock filled swamp of strange sounds, devotional drones and amplified abstraction.
– EDWIN POUNCEY/WIRE, UK
“I might as well go ahead and divulge a tidbit or two upfront: Pärson Sound is a musical outfit with Swedish origins and a predilection for psychedelia. Depending on the take, it’s a concoction capable of sending you on a run to the nearest exit or reaching for the knob to crank the volume. What’s more, prior to this year, the majority of the music world had never heard the name, much less encountered any of the music. Hence, a little rundown is in order: For a brief period during 1967-68, Pärson Sound was a frontrunner in the burgeoning Swedish music scene, leading to a few shows accompanying Terry Riley, an opening gig for the Doors and an invite from Andy Warhol to play an art exhibit in Stockholm. Regrettably, no album was ever cut and the band’s activity ended almost as soon as it began– although later manifestations would emerge and continue under the names Harvester (sometimes known as International Harvester) and Träd, Gräs och Stenar (translation: Trees, Grass and Stones).
Up until this recent release, Pärson Sound was basically just a blip on a musical roadmap, their name appearing sparingly in Warhol articles or Swedish musical histories. So I’ll let you in on a little secret. As January rapidly approaches, I can say this two-disc set is by far the most unexpected surprise of the year. Serving up a platter of archival recordings (rehearsals, studio and live cuts), this Pärson Sound collection is drug-addled psychedelic mindfuckery at its best. And that’s just the beginning. Successfully marrying the ideas of rock, jazz, and drone experimentalism, this Swedish quintet sounds like it wasn’t just trying to break free of the limitations inherent in each genre; at times, it sounds like they were trying to blow the doors off the hinges.
Opening the first disc, “Tio Minuter” (“Ten Minutes”) starts out quietly enough, beginning with a hushed guitar atop distant vocal chants. Don’t let it fool you. It’s a ruse. One minute in, the band forsakes the mesmerizing guitar for an intense, cacophonous clamor. Sounding as if someone suddenly set the stage on fire, Pärson Sound unleashes a grinding series of brutal guitar riffs. Stretching out beyond ten minutes, the band isn’t content to remain in one sound territory. The track builds from a mammoth sludge-fest into a ringing guitar drone backed by the screeching sounds of Arne Ericsson sawing away at his electric-cello. Everything settles into a glacial pace near the end as the sounds of ghostly tape-lagged voices glide over each other, an invocation for the ether-regions (which makes sense– séance is a credited instrument in the liner notes).
The blissed-out trance work continues with “From Tunis to India in Fullmoon (On Testosterone),” a miasmic sound orgy that drips with ecstatic energy. It’s a Bacchanalian noise festival, an acid-drenched lunar ride in which everyone is whipped into rapturous primal frenzy while Pan taps his hoof and bleats out the age-old hypnotic spell. Driving forward into free-jazz, “Tunis” finds Pärson Sound openly and aggressively exploring ideas through improvisation. The entire track is a swirling sound-world, held fast by Thomas Mera Gartz’s pounding percussion. Guitarists Bo Anders Persson and Ericsson immerse themselves in locked drones, enticing out a series of resonating vibrations, while saxophonist Thomas Tidholm reels off a series of rasping moans and pain-filled squeals. Coalescing into a tight-knit entity near the end, Persson hammers out a delirious buzzsaw solo over the increasing urgency of Gartz’s percussion. The resulting din is pure astrophysical beauty.
“A Glimpse Inside the Glyptotec-66” leaves the instruments behind, abandoning them for tape-looped guitar and Persson’s lagged-voice experiments. Recorded for 1966’s Young Nordic Music Festival, “Glimpse” is a surprisingly early collage for guitar and voice that places Persson alongside contemporary minimalists Terry Riley and Steve Reich. Having captured several glittering guitar drones and sequencing them on tape, he slowly adds pre-recorded tapes of voice mixed with his live moans and vocalized syllables. “One Quiet Afternoon (In the King’s Garden)” is a massive squall of noise. Again toying with pre-recorded tape experiments, Pärson Sound creeps along, drowning everything in a rumbling clatter (much of it produced from the feedback-saturated tapes). Howling, pre-recorded voices amble over each other while the tapes are either accelerated to furious speeds or slowed to a dazed crawl.
The second disc in the set both opens and closes with nascent versions of songs that would appear later on International Harvester’s debut. Stretching to thirteen minutes, “Sov Gott Rose-Marie” is centered on a reverie-inducing guitar solo, but builds gradually into a frightening full-band chant of the title. With three members repeatedly intoning the title phrase, other instruments begin to pile up, climbing over each other and saturating the space. The result is a haunting, claustrophobic grumble filled with battered organ keys, pummeled bass strings and the fading remains of an earlier guitar drone.
A track that starts with smoldering embers, “Milano,” moves at an increasingly rapid piece as time elapses and Pärson Sound stoke the fire. Subsumed within the booming percussion and electrically charged cello, Persson leisurely constructs a guitar solo that moves swiftly from rattling mess to drifting murmur. Moving in a recurring pattern, Persson’s guitar workouts are sprawling meditative journeys– shifting repetition often giving way to gradual movement and pulsing breath. With only five tracks per disc, the average length of each song is easily ten minutes or more, occasional stretching to the half-hour mark (the lengthy spiritualistic drone “Skrubba”) and once or twice staying in the seven-minute range (the acoustic “On How to Live”). In spite of this, any concerns related to length tend to dissipate once your head is fully submerged in the band’s constantly inventive surroundings.
During their brief stint, Pärson Sound had a rallying cry of “We, Here and Now!” that embraced their musical philosophy of a defragmented universal language. The time elapsed since their active years have seen a number of acts such as Amon Düül, Acid Mothers Temple, Bardo Pond and Taj Mahal Travelers traverse the same paths, garnishing accolades and international success. For a fan of any of these bands, or anyone fascinated by psychedelic, acid-blasted madness, this is ground zero. Rating: 9.3 – Luke Buckman/Pitchforkmedia