What should you be listening to right now?
It’s called Reverberating Garden #7and, in as much as that title is going to set more synapses firing than anything I could write, and certainly more than you will glean from any of the many reviews this remarkable album has already received, let us take a few moments while you contemplate all that those words mean to you.
Welcome to the world of Octopus Syng. They are Finnish, they are fabulous and they are led by Jaire Pätäri. Who has been doing these things for a long time....
“I started to record songs with a 4-track tape recorder back in autumn 1998 in Kouvola. It was so much fun that I bought a 8-track digital recorder in summer 1999 and I named my one-man's band Octopus Syng. Then I made a couple of little records in Kouvola, before I moved to Helsinki in 2003.”
That’s where Octopus Syng commenced the gradual transformation into a full band, at least for live performances... two albums, released by Nasoni Records in Berlin in 2004 and 2007, continued Pätäri’s solo peregrinations; but finally “I found such a good and solid live lineup that I decided to forget my one-man band, and to start making music with this lineup.”
Music that became Reverberating Garden Number 7.
It’s psychedelia. You know that now. There’s a Syd Barrett influence that is apparent in more than the band’s name, and a post-Syd Floydy vibe that makes you wish they’d released more albums during that peculiar phase between Saucerful of Secrets and Atom Heart Mother. More albums, more songs, less over-egged sidelong puddings.
Or not, because the Octopus sings a lot of what they could have been, if they were wrung through a few extra wringers first. “I think I have got influences from the whole area of 60's psychedelic rock, pop and folk music scene,” Pätäri muses thoughtfully.
Work on the album began back in October 2011. “We had many kinds of problems on our way although, if I'm honest, all Octopus Syng recording processes have been nightmarish. But I / we still have loved making them.
“On some days, the songs sounded so good that they almost made me cry; and on other days. they sounded so bad that I totally lost my faith in what we were doing. But it's always the same with Octopus Syng. It's nothing new for us.”
Tricky pop shot through period glissando, cunning choruses and magnificent melodies that spiral from places most toadstools cannot touch, recording was carried out in the band’s own rehearsal space, “using mostly old, quite lo-fi dynamic mics.” Pätäri collects microphones, so there was a lot to choose from - “the older ones were from 30's and the newer ones were from 70's. Then we used some quite unusual recording techniques, searching for personal psychedelic sounds, not just ‘normal’ sounds. But thinking about the result, I can describe it as a many-sided psychedelic album, including electric rock, delicate pop and beautiful folk songs. With a couple of more sinister and dark songs too.
“Of course everyone always mentions influences of Syd Barrett/ 60's Pink Floyd in Octopus Syng's music and I can't deny it; they are right, but it's not the whole truth. We wanna create our own personal unique sound in the music we make.”
They already do. Listen. You can hear the late Pekka Streng, a Finnish progger whose two albums, cut in 1970 and 1972, were both recorded in the shadow of the cancer that would kill their creator aged just twenty-six in 1975. The Velvet Underground are in there, and the Beatles, the Doors, Kaleidoscope, Amon Duul II, Neil Young....
And Marc Bolan. For many people, their first exposure to Octopus Syng came via their fabulous cover of Bolan’s “Midsummer Night Scene” - a true psych legend, of course, as the cancelled John’s Children single ranks among the rarest British records of all time. Included on a Fruits de Mer collection, it’s an audacious effort, but one that lies wholly within the boundaries of what John’s Children themselves expected from the song.
“The first time I heard that song, I loved it at once,” explains Pätäri. “It's a lost classic psychedelic song. Also, I'm a big fan of Marc Bolan, but because his voice is so unique, I wouldn't ever dare sing a song which he has sang. No one has a such voice that he had. But Andy Ellison sang with John’s Children, so now I could sing one of his songs. Which doesn't mean Andy is a bad singer... no! He's a great one. But he doesn’t have Marc’s voice. And John's Children was a brilliant band!”
As with so much of what is great and good this year, Reverberating Garden #7 is released by the Mega Dodo label. And like so many of his bandmates, Octopus Syng are simply thrilled that such a company even exists.
“We needed a good label for our album, but we didn't have it. Then we found Mega Dodo through the internet and sent a couple of tracks there. [They] asked to hear more, and...” - and the rest will be history. “It's a pleasure to release this album on Mega Dodo, because it's a label who treats their artists and bands well, and makes a lot of effort for them. We surely would like to make more records on Mega Dodo!”
Future plans, then?
“We actually we started to make a new album last year, making it simultaneously with Reverberating Garden #7. It’s half-finished at the moment. Then we have made two 7" EP's at the same time, and they are half-finished too now. Maybe it sounds a little bit freaky to make several records at the same time, but it's our way of doing things.
“During the last two years, I have been listening to a lot of old French stuff, especially France Gall's 60's stuff. I love it so much. Then I have listened to Edith Piaf, Erik Satie and Claude Debussy too. I think there might be some influences of ‘60's France Gall and Erik Satie in Octopus Syng's music in the future!
“For now, though, it's time to concentrate on playing more gigs. We have a few gigs coming up after a long pause, mostly in Finland and then we have some gigs coming elsewhere in Europe, but we are still working on them. So let's see what will happen with them. So, we’re gonna play gigs in the future and make these EP's and a new album. If we'd get our EP's out next autumn/winter and the next album out spring/summer 2015 it would be great, but it all is just a dream right now. But these are the kind of things we are planning for at that moment.”