For the best part of his career, spanning some forty years, Pekka Airaksinen's music can be said to have been ahead of its time. His current plans, too, reach far into the future. In the 80's he initiated a series of albums and compositions, each of which is dedicated to one of the thousand Buddhas in the Buddhist mythology. Probably the most prolific recording artist in Finland, at the moment he is "only" about a hundred Buddhas down. This year he expects to release some 15 albums in all.
Airaksinen is still mainly known for the controversial underground/performance group The Sperm, formed in 1967. He was responsible for the musical side of things of the collective, whose recordings mostly resemble the noise and industrial music of some ten years later rather than any of their contemporaries or Airaksinen's influences - who were mostly the classics of 50's and 60's electronic music, such as Cage and Stockhausen. Alongside musicians, in true 60's multi-media style The Sperm also featured in their ranks visual artists (Peter Widén, Markus Heikkerö, and others), conceptualists (J.O. Mallander), interdisciplinary artists (Mattijuhani Koponen), light show specialists (Timo Aarniala), and more.
Things have changed in 35 years – so much so, in fact, that in the current apprehensive climate of neo-conservativism most people don't like to reminisce about the struggles of those times – and even if they do, time tends to have tinted the memories. In any case, some contemporaries testify to the fact that especially in their early years The Sperm waged a serious guerrilla war against the status quo in Finland and "the spirit of the Winter War" - one nation united against a common threat from outside. For this they chose a pro-drug, pro-sexual revolution rhetoric and a rather dadaistic sense of humour as weapons. Much like the revolution-minded students all over Europe in the late 60's, members of The Sperm were eager to be influenced by American free jazz, underground rock, and anarchist elements of the counter-culture like Yippies. Koponen and Widén ended up being jailed for lewd behaviour during a performance. Even after the pair was released, the police continued their clampdown – despite the fact The Sperm's artistic achievements were being lauded in the national media, their shows being increasingly sold out, and the group joining a larger entertainment package to tour mainstream venues all over the country. After The Sperm disbanded in 1970, Airaksinen continued making experimental music, but this time he stayed in his recording studio. Together with a few ex-Sperm members he also participated in the exhibitions of the artist group Elonkorjaajat ("The Harvesters") with his psychedelic paintings.
What runs through the whole of Airaksinen's musical output is his idiosyncratic mode of expression; the disintegrating, out-of-sync rhythms, the intense dynamics, and the feverish visions. Unlike in most electronic music, his approach is unpolished, spontaneous, and improvisatory. The cosmic "electro-jazz" Airaksinen developed in the 80's, fusing bebop, free jazz and the 808 drum machine sound, still astonishes. During the following decade he incorporated some techno influences into his work, but filtered uncannily through his experiences and his Buddhist outlook on life.
Tibetan Buddhism is ideal for Airaksinen: like the Dalai Lama, he is an unassuming, venerable gentleman with a sense humour, to boot. He may make a deadpan comment on the holy scriptures that recount the lives of the thousand Buddhas that "they include statistics on the lives of the future Buddhas", or that "they boast rather a lot of transgalactic traffic" – or, in just as light-hearted a way, he might downplay half of his recent output as "trivial music". Even in the Sperm days he never tried to push his own persona to the forefront; instead, he often played behind the amps at concerts. For the last thirty years he has steered clear of the media limelight. Even his latest music can only be ordered from his website.
The Avanto performance is also a record release concert: the revered Love Records is putting out Madam I'm Adam, a double CD collection of Airaksinen's music from 1968 to 2003. Most of the concert will consist of brand new material, but we can also expect a few reinterpretations of popular Sperm favourites from "the golden sixties". He has also designed the concert's visuals, which promise to be of the psychedelic variety. Also featured in the bill is Englishman Simon Wickham-Smith, with his special mixture of Buddhist glitch and minimalist noise.