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Pekka Streng - Kesämaa CD (album) cover


Pekka Streng


Prog Folk

3.42 | 12 ratings

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3 stars In my mind at least, the life and music of the late Pekka Streng draws inevitable parallels to that of the late Nick Drake, although admittedly there are important differences in both their personalities and musical styles.

Like Drake, Streng was a post-WWI child who passed at much too early an age; in fact, both were born and died within months of each other. Drake left behind three studio releases to Streng’s two, although there was a compilation of Streng’s unreleased material issued long after his passing. Both were very private individuals who left behind very little beyond their music; neither were public figures that toured much or gave many interviews. Each was essentially a folk singer-songwriter who favored guitar, although both were multi- instrumentalists (Drake was first a piano and clarinet player, and Streng dabbled with synthesizers and various percussive instruments). And both became something of cult figures long after their deaths, achieving influence in their respective countries on generations of young musicians who succeeded them.

Musically the two were quite different though. While Drake would emphatically favor stark acoustic arrangements throughout his short career, Streng was seemingly happy to experiment with electric guitar, brass and other accompaniment, especially on this, his final studio release. Streng seemed to have a wide group of acquaintances to call on for support of this record, while Drake relied almost exclusively on himself and whatever studio support that was effectively forced on him by his producer and mentor, the American Joe Boyd. Streng would succumb to cancer, while Drake’s tragic end was due to a self-inflicted overdose, although to this day no one seems to know for sure whether it was intentional or not.

And on that note, Streng’s music, while as delicate and introspective as Drake’s, does not project the kind of austere world-view or depression that permeated virtually everything Drake ever recorded.

The songs on this album are all quite short, sung in Finnish as far as I know (certainly not English anyway). At times Streng seems to show an interest in experimentation, sometimes with poetic spoken-word passages such as on “Auringon lapsi”; elsewhere with grand and heavy celesta such as on “Kanttorinpoika Max” and several of the early tracks on the album; and sometimes with simple acoustic picking and plaintive vocals as with “Katsele yössä” and “Mutta minä lähden”. Most of the songs are subdued but not necessarily sad; Streng seemed more interested in layering various instrumental sounds for effect than in projecting s barren world view. And at times he manages to blend his unique brand of folk with borderline pop, particularly on “...Ja Tuittu Ruusut Sai” and the almost lounge-like “Puutarhassa”.

I’m told the lyrics are quite deep and poetic, although unfortunately without knowing the language that aspect of his music will be lost on many listeners. But no matter, this is a very pleasant album to listen to even if the various song meanings are unclear. Pekka Streng will be very much an acquired taste for many, but for those interested in the bright, impassioned new generation folk singers of the early seventies this album should be considered essential. I’m tempted to give it a four star rating, but from a progressive viewpoint it doesn’t quite merit that. Three stars seems too low somehow, but that’s the most appropriate rating when Streng’s music is considered in total. Well recommended to students of progressive folk music, and particularly to those of Finnish persuasion as I suspect Pekka Streng was more than a passing influence on the folk-based artists of his homeland who came after.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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