Friday, 22 June 2018

Sermilä, Honkanen, Vesala, Helasvuo, Hauta-aho - Ode To Marilyn (1974)

A very welcome first time on CD (plus a vinyl reissue) for this legendary chunk of Finnish weirdness.  Copies can be bought directly from the label at, who specialize in reissues of Finnish prog, metal and jazz - definitely got my eye on that release of two Vesala live sessions.  But for today, let's listen to the sound of two composers and a bunch of jazz musicians letting their ideas run wild in the Finnish Broadcasting Company's experimental studio.

This mindwarpingly bizarre hybrid of electroacoustic music and free jazz was the brainchild of Jarmo Sermilä, a composer/trumpeter who had been leading an Experimental Music Group into sound research at the studio.  Electroacoustic composer Antero Honkanen, who was working at the studio as an engineer, was also involved.  Between them, the plan was hatched to hire some of Finland's most interesting jazz musicians - drummer Edward Vesala, fresh from one of ECM's most out-there sessions and albums of his own, bassist Teppo Hauta-aho and flautist Mikael Helasvuo - and see what happened.

After 160 hours of recordings, and poaching of some further sound effects from the studio archives, a tape of eight finished tracks was sent to Scandia Records.  The label released seven (the eighth, Awakening, is now restored on this reissue) tracks under the name Ode To Marilyn, from the poem by Marilyn Monroe sung by guest soprano Pirkkoliisa Tikka on A Doll's Cry.  And what an album it was.

Dominated by Honkanen's dark, swirling and swishing ambience (especially on his three solo tracks, Nightmares, Awakening and Midnight), the result is nothing less than proto-Nurse With Wound - in 1973 Helsinki.  The sometimes extreme dynamics of the experimental studio create an unearthly, unsettling dreamscape, with the flute, trumpet, bass, drums and organ/synth used sparingly, sometimes hanging in mid-air or subjected to other processing.  Vesala's reversed voice can also be heard on The Waves, apparently requesting further takes.  A beyond-essential cult classic.



  1. Thanks so much for this. A testament to the time and the open mindedness of all the protagonists. Magnificent!

  2. Edward Vesala's definitely one of the great masters. Didn't know this one. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I have only ever heard about this. Now I get the chance to hear it. Many thanks!