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They are one of Finland's biggest musical exports but they could hardly be described as typically Finnish. They are, simply, Värttinä: musicians with a unique sound, with their feet firmly rooted in Finnish ground, in its language, culture and history, yet with the courage to develop over nearly two decades, something no-one else in the world has been able to copy.
I suppose it's high time that someone write a rave review of Miero, and I'm happy be the first! First of all, Tad Hendrickson's snide remark in the Editorial Reviews ("...we'll have to take their word for it since the singing is (as usual) in Finnish.") is ridiculous. An English translation is provided, as it has been for the last several Varttina albums. Opera fans around the world don't seem to mind singing in a "foreign" language, and folk enthusiasts shouldn't either, especially since English would completely ruin the music! The many peculiarities of the Finnish language (umlauted vowels, glottal stops, rolled and clicking consonants) are an integral part of Varttina's unique sound, and the rhythm of the words and unusual rhyming schemes (often based on the Kalavela) have a large influence on the odd phrase structures and melodic contours of the music. I think more folk groups should be singing in their original language, not less, and I am very happy that Varttina has not succumbed to this pressure.
In reading the many Varttina "Customer Reviews", there seem to be two basic "camps"-- Some prefer the earlier, more obviously folk- based albums like Seleniko and Aitara, and others think the group reached a high water mark with the powerful, atmospheric Ilmatar. I have a third opinion; Varttina is one of those exceedingly rare groups that has, in 23 years, gotten better with each succeeding album. What started out as a group of teenagers with an enthusiasm for folk music has evolved into a highly polished, intensely creative ensemble in which member could probably have a solo career.
So, what makes Miero so great? Certainly one must start with the trio of vocals (Susan Aho, Mari Kaasinen, Johanna Virtanen) who have never sounded better.Read more ›
The first album I got by Varttina was Seleniko and, in my opinion , it is still their best. Miero is a good disk with the expected vocal mastery Varttina have shown on all of their recordings. The harmoies they produce are unusual and very mystical. The production is also well done balancing the voices with the instruments supporting them. Although Varttina are known mainly for the extraordinarey female vocals, their players of instruments are also remarkable in their own right. It is for this reason that I am giving this disk four instead of five stars. For some reason, it seems that the instrumental arrangements are much more sparse on Miero tham on previous releases. The percussionist for this group has to be one of the best in music, regardless of genre but on this recording, he is only rarely turned loose. This is also true of the fiddle and accordion as well as ehe other instruments. They are now nore in the role of playing back-up which serves to weaken the impact of the songs which are, overall much less manic than those on previous Varttina cds.
But all that having been said, Miero is still well done. Check out the samples on amazon.de if there are none available yet on amazon.com. The songs have the ancient mystical feel that I have come to expect from Varttina although, as I said before, the music is more restrained. I think that Varttina fans will like this disk as will many not already familiar with the band however I would recommend Seleniko or Ilmatar for the uninitiated.
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