Friday, May 19, 2006

I Don't Live In A Forest



The mystical forests of Tampere for you

Talking about hivemind thinking. As I've already written in this blog, lately international music fanzines have gotten hold of Finnish avantgarde-folk-improvisation scene (one example here). What especially has amused me has been hearing the Yankee critics in their reviews spouting freely such ridiculous phrases as "the mystical forests of Tampere". The emphasis here is apparently on Finnish "exotica" style of idyllic rural landscapes, forests, elves and stuff, as imagined and fantasized by someone who has never been here. (Hell, I've heard in this context even some talk about fjords -- those exist in Norway, not in Finland!) Well, I guess there are as many different Tamperes as are people there. I used to live in its suburbs of Kaukajärvi and Hervanta, which were both a combination of concrete blocks of flats and forests. Now I live in mid-town, and the most I see during its long dark winters and rainy summers is dirty snow and slush, factories spewing out vapour trails, porno shops, white B-boys and hooded teenagers strolling around with bottles of beer in their hands, goths, senior citizens in their garish shellsuits, winos bumming money, darkness descending mid-afternoon during winters, and general bleakness amidst the yearly seasons of sub-arctic hysteria. Maybe I should relocate to suburbs, double my Prozac intake or drink more elf's pee.

Anyway, this new folk craze is clearly a product of the post-9/11 shell-shocked mindset. People obviously want escapism, a retreat from the ugly world of power politics, numbing mass culture, globalisation on the terms of the rich people only, general alienation and blah blah. I can detect a sort of regression to childhood in this scene, in its music and artwork on the records. People sitting on the floor playing acoustic guitars and toy instruments, creating noodling improvisations (now, musical improvisation is one of the hardest games there is; only very few musicians can do it with some skill: otherwise it will become only pointless free-for-all and disappear up its own rearhole). All very lo-fi, acoustic, "authentic", "natural" and "free". The days of hippiedom are here again. Everyone so sweet and innocent. All this reeks to me of a sort of cosy self-indulgence, which was mercifully kicked out by the late 70s punks. Perhaps we would need in music something like punk; not "punk" as it is presented to us by such pathetic retro-style bands like Green Day, but a similar attitude that the original punk had, which would have the 21st sound (not boring three-chord guitar sounds), would fit to and reflect the current mental landscape.

I used to see some of these artists and their gigs, clapped my hands politely, but for me "forest folk" has worn out its welcome. (And what the hell is "folktronica"? A monster obviously invented by trendy music critics, a contradiction in terms!) It doesn't speak to me about the world as I see it, things I can detect happening around me. I've got nothing against escapism: hell, I retreat to it myself all the time, but it makes me guilty too, since I believe (though are far from living these ideals myself) in such old-fashioned concepts as social conscience and even the responsibility of artist's social commentary. You can hide in your little circle of people like Finnish forest folkers do and pretend the global ugliness doesn't exist, but I don't want to and I can't run away from the world, and live in some mythical twilight fantasy forest.

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Some Google search results with the words "forest" + "folk":

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