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
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more
Neil Peart RIP – One of rock music's defining drummers has died at the age of 67. Neil Peart's work with Rush provided one of the templates for percussion in rock, and he certainly ranks in the top ten most influential drummers of the 20th Century. Peart retired from playing in 2015 due to health issues, and succumbed to brain cancer on January 7, 2020. » Read more