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Ensemble Gamut! — Re
(Eclipse Music ECD-2022178, 2022, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2023-10-20

Re Cover art

Back in 2020, the album Ut by the Finnish group Ensemble Gamut! was one of the most interesting albums I’d encountered, with an intriguing blend of ancient instruments and modern sensibilities. Their second album, Re, takes them up a step, carrying them a little further on their unique trajectory. (Pun very much intended — look it up if you’re so inclined.) Much of the music is sourced from liturgical music of medieval times, augmented with some traditional Finnish songs and some original material, bridging the earliest music known from the land now known as Finland with the modern era. The lyrics are partly in Latin and partly in Finnish, mostly sung by Aino Peltomaa’s lovely voice, and she takes the Gregorian chant material only as a starting point, interpreting the melodies in a modern way. Juho Myllylä and Ilkka Heinonen contribute vocals from time to time. The instrumental accompaniment is generally rather sparse, consisting of Peltomaa’s medieval harp, Heinonen’s jouhikko, and Myllylä’s blockflötes (recorders), along with occasional percussion. There’s also very subtle electronic manipulation, mainly in the form of expansive reverberation, but it’s nearly unnoticeable. The jouhikko is a type of bowed lyre that mostly provides droning, cello-like notes, but can also fulfill a more melodic role. One track that strays from their basic idiom is “Veri,” which features spoken word vocals by “rapper” Paleface, whom I had previously heard on a Mikko Karjalainen album. I don’t know what he’s speaking about because it’s in Finnish (aside from a few phrases of Latin I hear), but it doesn’t have the rhythmic element typically found in rap. In any case, it’s only a brief diversion from the main stream of the music. With the harp and jouhikko often taking droning roles, it falls to Myllylä, who dances above the stillness with his recorders, and Peltomaa, with her expressive vocals, to provide the sense of movement in the music. Re is a glimpse into a long-gone time presented sensitively and creatively, blending the medieval and the modern in a way no other group has done.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Ensemble Gamut!

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