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Written in fRoots issue 329/330, 2010

Frigg FRIGG 00007 (2010)

Lusti LUSTICD 003 (2010)

Seita SEITACD 014 (2010)

Sibelius Academy PELI-009 (2010)

Kansanmusiikki-instituutti KICD 105 (2010)

A bunch of new albums from some of the Kaustinen new wave written about elsewhere in this issue.

      Frigg is essentially a Kaustinen band, but also a meeting between Kaustinen players and the Larsen brothers from Norway. Over the years since its 2002 debut Gjermund Larsen has found it increasingly hard to fit Frigg gigs into his many involvements back home in Norway, and he’s now left, but brother Einar Olav is still in the band, which has become one of Finland’s most world-wide travelled. The current line-up is five fiddles – siblings Esko and Alina Järvelä, Tero Hyväluoma, Tommi Asplund and Einar Olav Larsen - with Tuomas Logrén on guitar and occasional dobro or mandolin, Petri Prauda on cittern and mandolin and Antti Järvelä, cousin to Esko and Alina, on double bass.
      Grannen is their fifth album in eight years; rather a high production rate, but these people speak with their fiddles and new material flows out of them. It opens with a take on Ale Möller’s Potatisvals before settling into the band’s characteristic glorious mutually intuitive playing of memorably melodic tunes, a blend of new composition and trad. Guest contributions include a woodwind and brass section on Logrén’s Amurin Tiikeri (‘Siberian Tiger’), and Roope Aarnio adds mandolin to Patana Sunset/Hölökyn Kölökyn. (The latter title is a Kaustinen expression for ‘cheers’, the former a tribute to Hyväluoma’s home hamlet, Patana; for an entertaining glimpse of its minimalist sights and delights, just south of Kaustinen beyond the mystic fleshpots of Veteli and Vimpeli, see www.myspace.com/patanavillage).

      Snekka uses the melodic and fiddling styles of Kaustinen music, but deconstructs and reassembles them in a rock way that’s complex and subtle while exuberantly populist and danceable. Beginning in 2000 as a group of students at Kaustinen’s music high school, which teaches all forms of music including of course folk music, the band achieved local youth-popularity quite soon, but with their shows at this summer’s festival and this third album they’ve established a powerful, wild sound and assured, big-stagecraft visual identity that should take them much further afield, probably reaching a rock audience untapped by the acoustic JPP and Frigg.
      Akropolis begins with K.A.U.S.T.I.N.E.N, a constantly direction-changing tour of the local music’s identifying motifs by fiddler Tero Hyväluoma (now also in Frigg) and guitarist Olli Seikkula. Transformations of polska, schottis and other pelimanni tune forms follow, one based on the traditional Juottomarssi, the rest written by Hyväluoma, Seikkula or bassist Tarmo Anttila. Completing the line-up are Markus Luomala on accordion and bandoneon, keyboardist Matias Tyni and drummer Oskari Lehtonen. Live and studio sound engineer Markus Pajakkala is also listed as a member of the band, and it’s this integration of composition, playing and sound manipulation that seems to have produced such a strong musical and live-performance result that takes Kaustinen music on a new ride.

      Snekka’s 2002 first album was produced by another very skilful and creative Kaustinen fiddler, Ville Ojanen, who with each new project takes the music further, indeed beyond. His new album Hero’s graphics, inspired by bullfight posters, show a fiddle-bearing torero confronting a ground-pawing bull, and perhaps that hints at a sense of confrontation in Ojanen, a quest to make music that doesn’t reject his fiddle tradition but isn’t bound by it.
      With a big, wide-ranging sound including fiddles, brass, vocals, keyboards and rhythm section, while springing from and rooted in the spirit of the place and involving some of its musicians including Snekka’s Tarmo Anttila and Tero Hyväluoma, apart from on the closing track Matador it’s far from the shapes of pelimanni music and hard to hang on any genre hook. On its own most of it probably wouldn’t be fRoots material, but it really does show that the deep grounding in music gained by having the good fortune to be born and raised in Kaustinen can lead anywhere.

      Named ‘band of the year’ at this year’s Kaustinen festival, Elina Järvelä and Juha Virtanen’s album is a very attractive exemplar of the present-day development and expansion of pelimanni music. Elina is only distantly, if at all, related to the other fiddling Järveläs, but her ability and musical charm is certainly akin to theirs. Juha, one of Finland’s new wave of sophisticated melodeon players, matches it perfectly. Their duetting is beautifully expressive and sensitive, in dance tunes and slow airs whose sources jump from Ostrobothnia to Sweden, the UK (Wood and Cutting), France (Jean Blanchard), Venezuela and their own compositions, all coming home together in a satisfying way.

      On Maestro the new Kaustinen wave including Järveläs Mauno, Antti, Aili, Alina, Anni, Esko, Jaakko and Elina and seventeen others form a fiddles, harmoniums and double bass orchestra, a multiplied version of the old Kaustinen wedding bands, to play the repertoire of Konsta Jylhä (1910-1984), fiddler, leader of Purppuripelimannit and writer of many of the most well-known Kaustinen tunes.
      His best known have been much recorded already, so this album, on the centenary of his birth, features others from his repertoire: twelve of his compositions, one by his contemporary, kantele player Eino Tulikari, and another dozen traditional. They’re not flashy or complicated, and the band plays them straight and sweet; Kaustinen music has developed hugely since Konsta’s time, but the characteristics of these fairly foursquare, hummable sotiisis, waltzes, masurkkas, polkkas and polskas are at the core of today’s music, and today’s Kaustinen players don’t forget that.

www.frigg.fi, www.snekka.net, www.seitamusic.com, www.myspace.com/duoelinajuha, www.kansanmusiikki-instituutti.fi

© 2010 Andrew Cronshaw

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