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Oceans
Oceans
Offered by Brighton Resale
Price: $21.95
68 used & new from $0.01

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gently mysterious and well-crafted, December 31, 2003
This review is from: Oceans (Audio CD)
Ed Van Fleet combines his trademark synthesizer compositions with recorded ocean sounds to produce a relaxing yet thought-provoking listening experience. All the selections are in a minor key, but not ponderously so. Rather, they have light, bouyant, mysterious qualities reflective of a calm yet wonder-filled exploration of the unknown. The simultaneous beauty, quietude and adventure of life on, in and by the sea is nicely captured here in all its variety. Much of the New Age music that appeals to me is either extremely energizing or soothing to the point of sedation, but this recording does neither of those things, finding instead a comfortable and intriguing middle ground between the two extremes. What I like about Ed Van Fleet's compositions is that, though replete with texture and atmosphere, they feature harmonic structures and melodic elements that are engaging enough hold a listener's attention. They really do sound like music rather than just collections of cool, atmospheric sounds. There is progression and purpose; the pieces begin pregnant with promise and then deliver, at least enough to keep the listener hungry for whatever might come next. And indeed, in this recording, the whole point seems to be depicting the haunting-yet-enticing quality of the ocean, which always has something of value to offer but never reveals all the secrets (or hazards!) hidden in its depths. "Oceans" is the mellow cousin to another of Van Fleet's releases, "The Forgotten Tribe", which is more intense and cinematic, and definitely worth seeking out as well. For another musical take on the ocean, try the exotically meditative "Pacific Moon" of Gary Stroutsos, and if you are in the market for more gentle music of exploration and journeying, try the recordings of Jeff Johnson and Brian Dunning, and Tim and Paul Frantzich.


Iki
Iki
8 used & new from $5.03

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Varttina mellows out, December 30, 2003
This review is from: Iki (Audio CD)
Known for their barrages of strident, dissonant, rapid-fire folk lyrics set against a modern backup band, the Finnish group Varttinna takes a more laid back approach in this album, giving yet another dimension to their ever-developing style. The tone of "Iki", which translates as "the primal, eternal breath", is less frenetic than their early, folksy releases and less dark than their more recent CDs "Vihma" and "Ilmatar". Replacing these elements are approaches more evocative of modern electro-accoustic American folk music and even light jazz. The trio of female vocalists on "Iki" consists of staple Mari Kaasinen, veteran Susan Aho and newcomer Johanna Virtanen. Most of the arrangements are by multi-instrumentalists Anton Varilo and Janne Lappalainen, while the majority of the texts were penned by Kaasinen. "Iki" is actually a good overview of Varttina's different faces. Numbers like "Nahkaruoska", "Potran Korean" and "Vihi" are exemplary of their rowdy, folksy side, while "Tuulen Tunto" and "Sepan Poika" are gently and progressively contemporary. Other tracks, like "Maahinen Neito" and "Syllinen Syli, parts 1 and 2", show more of a world music influence, incorporating rhythms, harmonies and vocal dissonances reminiscent of Balkan and Middle Eastern traditions. For a look at the group's darker side, try the albums "Vihma" and "Ilmatar". If you like the gentler, jazzier numbers on "Iki", you may also enjoy the creative arrangements on the albums "Moon Run" and "Remembered Ways" by the American group Trapezoid.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 2, 2008 7:30 PM PST


Ilmatar
Ilmatar
16 used & new from $3.98

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and primal!, December 30, 2003
This review is from: Ilmatar (Audio CD)
For this album, the Finnish group Varttina delves deep into the darker side of their culture and mythology, producing music that is haunting, startling, redolent with mood and reminiscent of ancient shamanic epics. The focus here is on the stark, dissonant harmonies of the four female singers--Susan Aho, Mari Kaasinen, Kirsi Kahkonen and Riikka Vayrynen. There is less of an emphasis on modern electronic backups than in the group's previous releases, and when present, the tone of the accompaniments is more primal than pop. All in all, "Ilmatar" is striking and compelling, a truly exciting musical statement by an already remarkable group. If you enjoy the music of "Ilmatar", try also the album "Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares" by the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir, which features a similar vocal sound and some equally unique and interesting compositions. You may also like the many other recordings of neo-traditional Nordic music released, like "Ilmatar", by the NorthSide label.


Ilmatar
Ilmatar
3 used & new from $28.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and primal!, December 30, 2003
This review is from: Ilmatar (Audio CD)
For this album, the Finnish group Varttina delves deep into the darker side of their culture and mythology, producing music that is haunting, startling, redolent with mood and reminiscent of ancient shamanic epics. The focus here is on the stark, dissonant harmonies of the four female singers--Susan Aho, Mari Kaasinen, Kirsi Kahkonen and Riikka Vayrynen. There is less of an emphasis on modern electronic backups than in the group's previous releases, and when present, the tone of the accompaniments is more primal than pop. All in all, "Ilmatar" is striking and compelling, a truly exciting musical statement by an already remarkable group. If you enjoy the music of "Ilmatar", try also the album "Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares" by the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir, which features a similar vocal sound and some equally unique and interesting compositions. You may also like the many other recordings of neo-traditional Nordic music released, like "Ilmatar", by the NorthSide label.


Vihma
Vihma
26 used & new from $0.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Varttina takes a darker turn ..., December 30, 2003
This review is from: Vihma (Audio CD)
The word "Vihma" seems to denote a fierce, cold wind and is a name aptly chosen. Following in the pattern of other Nordic "neo-folk" groups like Garmarna and Hedningarna, Varttina's sound in this album takes on an edgier, heavier tone. The music tends toward the minor and the dissonant, punctuated prominently by percussion, while loneliness, disenfranchisement and despair figure prominently in the Finnish lyrics. Vocalist Sari Kaasinen is gone from the lineup and Susan Aho is now a featured singer. Most of the selections were written by singer Sirpa Reiman and multi-instrumentalists Kari Reiman and Janne Lappalainen. Track #9, "Mieleni Alenevi, is especially interesting, featuring the dissonant harmonies of the female singers against a background of whistling Tuvan throat-singing by Albert Kuvezin and Aldyn-ool Sevek (who perform in several other numbers as well). While "Vihma" has a markedly different sound from Varttina's earlier work, the change suits them and I applaud them for stretching their wings and flying into the wind. Previous releases by Varttina include the lighter-hearted "Kokko", "Aitara" and "Seleniko". A subsequent release, crafted in a dark vein similar to that of "Vihma", is "Ilmatar". For more music by contemporary Nordic artists drawing inspiration from the past, try any of the three "Nordic Roots" collections from the NorthSide label, or the compilation "Wizard Women of the North".


Kokko
Kokko
27 used & new from $3.47

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense, compelling and delightfully different!, December 30, 2003
This review is from: Kokko (Audio CD)
Finnish neo-folk group Varttina continues their musical evolution in this 1996 Nonesuch release, developing a more modern sound while retaining the distinctive, strident folk-singing style of traditional Finnish music. Like Varttina's previous album, "Aitara", most of the songs on this recording were written by members of the group. This is my favorite of their albums--primarily upbeat and cheerful, but with a satisfying depth as well and a graceful blending of a wide variety of world music elements--Finnish, Celtic, African, Middle Eastern, rock and jazz. The title of this album means "eagle", and I like the variety of the release as well as the power and maturity of its sound. Varttina's previous CD was "Aitara" while their next is "Vihma". If you like the sound of Varttina's singers, particularly on the last track, "Emoni Ennen", you may also enjoy the work of Bulgarian women's choral groups in such albums as "The Magical Voices of Bulgaria" by the Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble.


Aitara
Aitara
23 used & new from $4.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lively and stunning!, December 30, 2003
This review is from: Aitara (Audio CD)
The penetrating, slightly nasal female voices of traditional Finnish folk music join with an intense fusion backup band of guitar, bass, drums, organ, bouzouki, accordion, whistles, kantele, cimbalom and cumbus tanbur to create a uniquely stirring sound. Sometimes in dissonant harmony but often in unison or call-and-response style, the voices of female singers Sari and Mari Kaasinen, Kirsi Kahkonen and Sirpa Reiman stand out, unapologetic in their ethnicity yet blending splendidly with the accompaniments designed around them. The faster-paced numbers like #1, "Katariina", #2, "Tumala", #10, "Yotulet", and #12, Aitara", are particularly distinctive, with the singers' Finnish lyrics fired forth in an unrelenting, rapid staccato. (The lyrics to "Tumala", in which a woman tries to seduce a boy by bragging about her livestock, are also hilarious). "Travuska", is slower, dark and spooky, lamenting the loss of childhood, while the instrumental "Pirsta" sounds more neo-Celtic than neo-Scandinavian with its whistle, accordion and guitar instrumentals (perhaps a nod to the band's Celtic-oriented label, Green Linnet). Varttina's previous release was "Seleniko", also from Green Linnet/Xenophile, while their next is "Kokko" for Nonesuch.


Aitara
Aitara
8 used & new from $2.46

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lively and stunning!, December 30, 2003
This review is from: Aitara (Audio CD)
The penetrating, slightly nasal female voices of traditional Finnish folk music join with an intense fusion backup band of guitar, bass, drums, organ, bouzouki, accordion, whistles, kantele, cimbalom and cumbus tanbur to create a uniquely stirring sound. Sometimes in dissonant harmony but often in unison or call-and-response style, the voices of female singers Sari and Mari Kaasinen, Kirsi Kahkonen and Sirpa Reiman stand out, unapologetic in their ethnicity yet blending splendidly with the accompaniments designed around them. The faster-paced numbers like #1, "Katariina", #2, "Tumala", #10, "Yotulet", and #12, Aitara", are particularly distinctive, with the singers' Finnish lyrics fired forth in an unrelenting, rapid staccato. (The lyrics to "Tumala", in which a woman tries to seduce a boy by bragging about her livestock, are also hilarious). "Travuska", is slower, dark and spooky, lamenting the loss of childhood, while the instrumental "Pirsta" sounds more neo-Celtic than neo-Scandinavian with its whistle, accordion and guitar instrumentals (perhaps a nod to the band's Celtic-oriented label, Green Linnet). Varttina's previous release was "Seleniko", also from Green Linnet/Xenophile, while their next is "Kokko" for Nonesuch.


Seleniko
Seleniko
31 used & new from $0.72

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Neo-Finnish folk music with a twist, December 30, 2003
This review is from: Seleniko (Audio CD)
Varttina's debut album for the Green Linnett/Xenophile label, "Seleniko" is the folksiest of the group's releases. Traditional Finnish melodies and strident female folk-singing are successfully blended with instrumental accompaniments that combine Scandinavian, Celtic and modern elements. More laid back and accoustic than some of Varttina's later work, "Seleniko" celebrates the band's traditional roots. Topics of the songs, sung in Finnish with English translations provided, are the stuff of all traditional folk music--love, courtship, marriage and drinking. The acapella song "Sulhassii", accompanied only by hand claps, is particularly fun, gaily encouraging young girls to accept a suitor. "Hyva Tyttona Hypata", on the contrary, warns girls to remain maids so they won't have move into a stranger's house and fawn on a mother-in-law. This simple song is arranged with a modern feel to it, building and evolving as the verses progress. All in all, "Seleniko" is an impressive and innovative debut with the promise of much more to come! Varttina's next, "Aitara", kicks it up a notch, while the solo release by lead singers Sari and Mari Kaasinen, "Can We Have Christmas Now?", delves more deeply into traditional Finnish music.


Seleniko
Seleniko
9 used & new from $15.90

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Neo-Finnish folk music with a twist, December 30, 2003
This review is from: Seleniko (Audio CD)
Varttina's debut album for the Green Linnett/Xenophile label, "Seleniko" is the folksiest of the group's releases. Traditional Finnish melodies and strident female folk-singing are successfully blended with instrumental accompaniments that combine Scandinavian, Celtic and modern elements. More laid back and accoustic than some of Varttina's later work, "Seleniko" celebrates the band's traditional roots. Topics of the songs, sung in Finnish with English translations provided, are the stuff of all traditional folk music--love, courtship, marriage and drinking. The acapella song "Sulhassii", accompanied only by hand claps, is particularly fun, gaily encouraging young girls to accept a suitor. "Hyva Tyttona Hypata", on the contrary, warns girls to remain maids so they won't have move into a stranger's house and fawn on a mother-in-law. This simple song is arranged with a modern feel to it, building and evolving as the verses progress. All in all, "Seleniko" is an impressive and innovative debut with the promise of much more to come! Varttina's next, "Aitara", kicks it up a notch, while the solo release by lead singers Sari and Mari Kaasinen, "Can We Have Christmas Now?", delves more deeply into traditional Finnish music.


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