Sanna Kurki-Suonio — Musta
(NorthSide NSD6021, 1998, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 1999-04-01With this release, Northside proves that their string of extraordinary CDs (see last issue’s overview) was no fluke. In addition, Musta proves that Sanna Kurki-Suonio is not just one of the Finnish singers in Hednigarna, but a substantial artist in her own right. Stylistically, this disc continues the fusion of ancient Scandinavian sounds with modern sensibilities so successfully begun by Hednigarna, Garmarna, Mari Boine, and Värtinä. That sonic expansiveness I’ve come to associate with artists from this part of the world is well evidenced, as is the capacity for energetic workouts. If you close your eyes and listen intently, you seem to float over a vast windswept plain stretching infinitely in all directions, suspended on a cushion of sound. The focus of this album is squarely on Sanna’s voice, which is an instrument of great expression and range. On the opening track, she varies from bouncy singsong harmonies to an eerie wail, all over a digeridu-like drone and subtle rhythmic patterns. The second track builds from a simple tune chanted over bubbling percussion into a pounding electronic groove. The third track is built upon a voice sample very reminiscent of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” but the presence of the Finnish kantele harp ends the similarity. Many times the singing style reminds me of Native American music, with an ancient modal sound well-suited to a combination of modern and traditional instruments. The lyrics are all in Finnish (at least I assume it’s Finnish!), but the liner notes provide translations for the rest of the world. In any case, the joyous but thoughtful mood comes through clearly without the benefit of understanding the words themselves.
Related artist(s): Sanna Kurki-Suonio
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