Varttina iki Review

BBC Review

Finnish folk group release new material to mark their anniversary. 'Stunning', says...

Fiona Talkington 2003

Outside the temperatures were sub-zero and the sea was frozen over. Inside the atmosphere was electric as the audience had their senses stroked and seduced by the three women on stage who weaved a brand of magic clawed up from the depths of the Karelian soil. The venue was the Alexander Theatre in Helsinki where, this February,Finnishband Värttinä gave their 20th anniversary concert, and launched their new album iki.

The evening had begun with home video clips of children in national costume singing folk music accompanied by accordion or the Finnish zither-like instrument the kantele.

This was how it all started for Värttinä in a small town in Finnish Karelia near the Russian border. Prompted by their mothers they formed agroup to sing and play traditional Karelian tunes.This tradition is still at the heart of their music, with the female voices front-lining the instrumental textures of fiddle, guitars, accordion, bass and percussion.

Many bands would have been tempted to release a best of compilation to mark an anniversary.iki is a best of - but it's new material! It captures the great sounds of previous albums while forging new ones which are both raw and elegant, shocking and reassuring.

iki opens with a tragically poignant a-cappella number 'Syllinen Syli' (Faithless Arms) which displays the beauty and purity of the female voices.'Sepän Poika'shows off percussionistJaska Lukkarinen's brilliant ability to punctuate with dry and spacious colours.

Heartbreaking 'Morsian' allows stunning accordion player Markku Lepistö to reaffirm one's faith in tear-jerking melodies. His duets with fiddle player Lassi Logren send shivers down the spine.(Surely Lassi's bow is strung with silver?).And for a real treat try 'Nahkaruoska' or 'Leather Whip'.This is where the rhythmic energy of the Finnish language comes into its own and the whole band becomes a volcanic eruption of explosive fun and danger.

This is astunning album!

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