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Swissair was a group of schoolboys from Helsinki that existed as a band from the spring of 1980 until late 1983, when all members (Anton Nikkilä, Mika Taanila, Juha Soivio, Pietari Koskinen, Jari Härkönen and Mikko Kuussaari) had just turned eighteen. The band’s initial concept was to play ”scientific music” – as a liberating move away from the young artists’ earlier enthusiasm about the booming Finnish punk rock. In practice the taped experiments consisted of gloriously amateurish and unintentionally idiosyncratic extrapolations based on early This Heat, Cabaret Voltaire, Metal Box-era PiL, The Residents, and others. Swissair almost never rehearsed and performed only a few times, preferring instead to record every session with cheap cassette and reel-to-reel machines. A part of the results were released on four cassette albums by their own Valtavat Ihmesilmälasit Records ("Enormous Miracle Glasses") label in microscopic hand-made print runs.

Simultaneously two of the members, the future film director Mika Taanila and Jari Härkönen, now a photographer, started to shoot super-8 films with ”no discernible aim or verbally definable idea”, as Taanila later wrote. In 2005 he went through the material and edited a new 23-minute screening version out of compilations shown previously only at a few private parties over the 1980’s. For the soundtrack of this work, "Hermafrodiitit" (”Hermaphrodites”), he segued seven tracks from Swissair’s cassette albums. The gloom and desperation of the early 1980s’ cultural climate can be distinctly heard through layers of tape hiss and recent post-punk revivals, but somewhat unusually for the time of creation of Swissair’s oeuvre, the key is in the perplexing humour which permeates every moment of ”Hermafrodiitit” and is reflected in its title.

Swissair's last cassette, "15. joulukuuta 1981" from 1982 was re-released as an online album in September 2009.

Below are two excerpts from the film "Hermafrodiitit". The film is intended to be screened as a dual projection so that two super-8 projectors are manually synched to start at around the same time. In addition to this the sound is also synched manually. This way every screening is different. You can try it with these looped video fragments:

 

 

 

You can also try switching on different parts of the soundtrack from this mp3 player:

 

 

If you don't see the video and mp3 windows above, please install Adobe's free Flash Player.

 

"Hermafrodiitit" (23 minutes, 2 x super 8mm) is available for screenings at festivals and other events.

 

 

                                                 

(The Wire, UK, July 2008)

 

 

 

(Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes, Italy, September 2008)

 

 

 

 

(EtherREAL, France)

 

 

 

Wie sechs 16-jährige auf die Idee kommen, ‚wissenschaftliche Musik‘ zu machen, seltsam. Anton Nikkilä, Mika Taanila, Juha Soivio, Pietari Koskinen, Jari Härkönen und Mikko Kuussaari stellten aber 1980 ihr Projekt SWISSAIR und mit Valtavat Ihmesilmälasit Records gleich auch ihr eigenes Kassettenlabel auf die Beine mit genau dieser Ambition. Dazu ließ Taanila schon eine Super-8-Filmkamera rollen. Der 23-min. Soundtrack from the film Hermafrodiitit (NBRD-09DD) gibt einen akustischen Eindruck von diesen Jugendsünden, wobei der Klangmulm in Lowest-Fidelity das Bemühen erkennen lässt, mit Gitarrengedröhn, minimalistischen Bass- und monotonen Maschinenbeats stoisch-nüchterne Statements zum alltäglichen Grau in Grau abzugeben. 15. joulukuuta 1981 (NBRD-13DD), einst eine C-30 auf dem eigenen Label, zeigt die Youngster dann ganz weit draußen als ‚Neo-Primitivisten‘ und ‚Post-Webernianer‘. Die Aufnahme ist so rauschig, dass der Tapenoise eine eigene Qualität annimmt. Erkennbar wird Zweifingerklavier, ‚schamanistische‘ Perkussion, zirpendes Gegeige und Geflöte. Als ob nicht mehr Chrome und Wire, sondern Cholagogues und Circadian Rhythm sich auf den Plattentellern der Jungs gedreht hätten. Schwer vorstellbar. Leichter fällt es, Swissair heute als Urtyp des finnischen Freak Folk zu bestaunen.

(Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy 62, 2009, Germany)

 

 

 

(Skug #78, 2009, Austria)

 

 

 

(Sebastian Pantel, Nordische Musik, 2009, Germany)

 

 

 

 

(Till Kniola, Auf Abwegen, 15.9. 2009, Germany)