Värttinä — Iki
(NorthSide NSD6071, 2003, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2003-08-01After three albums (Kokko, Vihma, and Ilmatar) that featured electronics heavily, including keyboards, samplers, and rhythm loops, Värttinä has elected to revisit a completely acoustic sound. Fans who might worry about the band going mellow and producing a set of ballads needn’t worry, though. These most popular of Finnish folk revitalizers are in fine form, with their instantly recognizable vocal harmonies backed by acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, accordion, fiddle, and a variety of percussion. The CD is bracketed by a pair of unaccompanied vocal excursions (the two parts of “Syyllinen Syli”) that encapsulate everything that makes this band so wonderful: complex, confident harmonies with lots of unexpected intervals and stunning dissonance. The organic compositions (which incorporate some traditional elements) are full of unconventional (to American ears at least) phrasing and surprising resolutions. From the hyper-speed tongue-twister of “Nahkaruoska” to the gentle “Morsian,” singers Susan Aho, Mari Kaasinen and Johanna Virtanen amaze with their dead-on harmonies as well as occasional solo spots. On guitarist Antto Varilo’s “Vihi,” the backup players get their chance to shine with a lively piece rife with the shifting accents and highly coordinated rhythms they provide so well in accompaniment. “Maahinen Neito” emphasizes the similarities between Finnish and Middle Eastern music, and would sound at home in the repertoire of a band from Turkey. Iki would serve admirably as an introduction to Värttinä’s magic, and should please existing fans as well.
Related artist(s): Värttinä
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.