LISTEN: Malmö artist puts sound of fizzy pain pills on vinyl and it’s oddly captivating

A Malmö-based sound artist has won unexpected global attention after putting out twelve recordings of effervescent pain-killers as a limited edition vinyl record.

LISTEN: Malmö artist puts sound of fizzy pain pills on vinyl and it's oddly captivating
Malmö sound artist Alexander Höglund recreates his experiment. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
The story has gone viral worldwide and has been written up by the international news agency Reuters. “It is beyond any expectation. I am beyond surprised,” Alexander Höglund told The Local on Friday.
“I was thinking that my close group of highly enthusiastic sound artists are maybe going to like it. But of course it is super fun that a sub genre of art gets such notice.” 
He said that he thought people appeared to find “something appealing in the silliness of it”. 
The sound of fizzing pills held a powerful emotional appeal, which he had wanted to capture, he said. 
“For me this sound is loaded with childhood memories, but it also holds a promise that things will soon get better,” he said. “Maybe it's getting rid of a headache or taking down your hangover, or whatever you need it for.” 
“I also thought there was something humorous about going to the effort to put it down on vinyl.” 
He ordered the pills on eBay from around the world and had them shipped to Malmö, before recording their different sounds in a high-end studio. 
The resulting record, SUBSTANCE, includes local Swedish favourites such as Alvedon, Treo, Apofri and Ipren, and international standbys such as Bayer Aspirin C, Anadin Extra, Dispirin Aspirin, and Nurofen.
He said his favourite was the Bayer pill. 
“It's the Aspirin C. It's different from the others, because it dissolves much slower, and since it dissolves slower it also generates a more fulfilling or satisfying sound,” he said. 
Here is a video of Höglund meditating as Aspirin C is recorded:
As well as capturing his own feelings about the sound, he said, he wanted people to consider the different meaning it might have for someone with a chronic illness. 
“For people who are suffering from chronic pain, these things have a completely different meaning. A severe meaning,” he said.  
Höglund, who comes from Kalmar and studied in Stockholm, said he felt Malmö was a good place for creative people.  
“There's a lot of opportunity for emerging artists in Malmö so that's why I'm temporarily here,” he said. “I don't see myself as a permanent person.” 
He pressed 150 copies of the record, which can be bought on his website for just 300 Swedish kronor. How many he has sold is, he says, “a commercial secret”. 

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US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success

The US criminologist behind the anti-gang strategy designed to reduce the number of shootings and explosions in Malmö has credited the city and its police for the "utterly pragmatic, very professional, very focused" way they have put his ideas into practice.

US criminologist lauds Malmö for anti-gang success
Johan Nilsson/TT

In an online seminar with Malmö mayor Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, David Kennedy, a professor at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said implementing his Group Violence Intervention (GVI) strategy had gone extremely smoothly in the city.

“What really stands out about the Malmö experience is contrary to most of the places we work,” he said. “They made their own assessment of their situation on the ground, they looked at the intervention logic, they decided it made sense, and then, in a very rapid, focused and business-like fashion, they figured out how to do the work.”

He said that this contrasted with police and other authorities in most cities who attempt to implement the strategy, who tend to end up “dragging their feet”, “having huge amounts of political infighting”, and coming up with reasons why their city is too different from other cities where the strategy has been a success.

Malmö’s Sluta Skjut (Stop Shooting) pilot scheme was extended to a three-year programme this January, after its launch in 2018 coincided with a reduction in the number of shootings and explosions in the city.

“We think it’s a good medicine for Malmö for breaking the negative trend that we had,” Malmö police chief Stefan Sintéus said, pointing to the fall from 65 shootings in 2017 to 20 in 2020, and in explosions from 62 in 2017 to 17 in 2020.

A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of shootings from 2017 to 2020. Graph: Malmö Police
A graph from Malmö police showing the reduction in the number of explosions in the city between 2017 and 2020. Graph: Malmö Police


In their second evaluation of the programme, published last month, Anna-Karin Ivert, Caroline Mellgren, and Karin Svanberg, three criminologists from Malmö University, reported that violent crime had declined significantly since the program came into force, and said that it was possible that the Sluta Skjut program was partly responsible, although it was difficult to judge exactly to what extent. 

The number of shootings had already started to decline before the scheme was launched, and in November 2019, Sweden’s national police launched Operation Rimfrost, a six-month crackdown on gang crime, which saw Malmö police reinforced by officers from across Sweden.

But Kennedy said he had “very little sympathy” for criminologists critical of the police’s decision to launch such a massive operation at the same time as Sluta Skjut, making it near impossible to evaluate the programme.

“Evaluation is there to improve public policy, public policy is not there to provide the basis for for sophisticated evaluation methodology,” he argued.

“When people with jobs to do, feel that they need to do things in the name of public safety, they should follow their professional, legal and moral judgement. Not doing something to save lives, because it’s going to create evaluation issues, I think, is simply privileging social science in a way that it doesn’t deserve.”

US criminologist David Kennedy partaking in the meeting. Photo: Richard Orange

Sluta Skjut has been based around so-called ‘call-ins’, in which known gang members on probation are asked to attend meetings, where law enforcement officials warn them that if shootings and explosions continue, they and the groups around them will be subject to intense focus from police.

At the same time, social workers and other actors in civil society offer help in leaving gang life.

Of the 250-300 young men who have been involved in the project, about 40 have been sent to prison, while 49 have joined Malmö’s ‘defector’ programme, which helps individuals leave gangs.

Kennedy warned not to focus too much on the number of those involved in the scheme who start to work with social services on leaving gang life.

“What we find in in practice is that most of the impact of this approach doesn’t come either because people go to prison or because they take services and leave gang life,” he said.

“Most of the impact comes from people simply putting their guns down and no longer being violent.”

“We think of the options as continuing to be extremely dangerous, or completely turning one’s life around. That’s not realistic in practice. Most of us don’t change that dramatically ever in our lives.”

He stressed the importance of informal social control in his method, reaching those who gang members love and respect, and encouraging them to put pressure on gang members to abstain from gun violence.

“We all care more about our mothers than we care about the police, and it turns out that if you can find the guy that this very high risk, very dangerous person respects – literally, you know, little old ladies will go up to him and get his attention and tell him to behave himself. And he will.”