Värttinä — Ilmatar
(NorthSide NSD6054, 2001, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2001-07-01With Ilmatar, the Finnish band Värttinä enters a third phase of their career. The switch to NorthSide puts them in the company of many like-minded Scandinavians. Like Sweden’s Hedningarna and Garmarna and Denmark’s Sorten Muld, Värttinä take their folks roots and expand on them, utilizing musical influences from around the world and the best that modern technology has to offer. Having started in the early 90s with relatively traditional renditions of Finnish music on their first few albums (released originally on Green Linnet’s Xenophile imprint), they added more and more non-folk elements, culminating in Kokko and Vihma (1996 and 1998 respectively). Those two albums showed a band reaching out in all directions, grabbing everything from Middle Eastern percussion to dance-floor electronics. Ilmatar finds them a little more at home with themselves, still including those diverse influences but crafting a sound of their own. That sound is like nothing else on earth. Four female vocalists front the band, ranging from intimate solo spots to lush harmonies; the melodies are complex but instantly hummable even if you don’t understand the words. Backing comes from bass, drums, and an array of percussion topped by violin, accordion, sax, and a wide variety of other instruments. The music is mostly quite energetic, and a trademark is shifting accents, so that while a piece may be in 3/4, you get the impression of constantly shifting time signatures. Värttinä is one of my all-time favorite bands, and I can’t recommend this new album highly enough.
Related artist(s): Värttinä
Larry Coryell RIP – One of the greats of jazz guitar has left us at the age of 73. Larry Coryell was one of the founding figures of jazz fusion, but produced a significant body of work the bridged many styles. His group Eleventh House provided a unique take on the combination of jazz and rock that was distinct from contemporaries such as Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever, and Weather Report. » Read more
John Wetton RIP – After a long battle with colon cancer, singer and bassist John Wetton has died at the age of 67. As an integral member of such bands as King Crimson, UK, and Asia, his was one of the distinctive voices in progressive rock, lending a human touch to often difficult music. » Read more
Seaprog Announces First Artists for 2017 – The organizers of the Seaprog Festival in Seattle have announced the first set of confirmed performers for the 2017 festival. The best known names are Cabezas de Cera and Jack o' the Clock, but a host of other bands are featured, mostly from the Northwest. The festival will take place June 2-4, 2017. » Read more
Acoustic Festival of Britain 2017 Announces Eclectic Lineup – The Acoustic Festival of Britain has been going since 2006, and this year's event sees a number of outstanding artists on the bill. Fairport Convention, Tir na nOg, and Martin Turner are some of the artists we've covered, and there are many more, including The Men They Couldn't Hang, Howard Jones, Chantel McGregor, and many more. The festival runs June 2-4, 2017 at Uttoxeter Racecourse in Staffordshire. » Read more