The raw power of folk tradition and fantasy
Keyed fiddle and violin player Meriheini Luoto and violist Iida Savolainen form a duo called Akkajee. Their album Lastenkerääjä [Child collector] focuses on childhood, but instead of placid songs for children we are treated to the raw and unbridled power of a child’s imagination.
On the six tracks on this album, terrifying and sad stories from folk tradition are enjoyably enfolded with superb singing, nuanced string tones, sounds of everyday items and homemade instruments in a rich tapestry. The end result is an entrancing disc with multiple layers that requires focused listening.
The repertoire is like a delirious meander through the archives of the Finnish Literature Society: the lullabies will keep you awake, the nonsense rhymes from south-western Finland are both giggly and grim, and the laments and stories of contemporary events from the early 20th century present with such a painful, strange and enticing groove that you will find yourself swaying in time to them, even if you are listening devoutly to the lyrics. The tracks have not been shoehorned into durations or topics appropriate for radio play; each one is given time and space to tell its story.
Not a second goes by without the ear idly wondering what is producing a particular sound, because trying to figure this out using the extensive instrument list is like reading a detective story. Obviously the main element is the combo of keyed fiddle, viola and vocals, but where on this album can one hear a shovel, hedge clippers or a frying pan? What is inside the seed percussion? Why is it specifically stated that the branches and leaves are dead? Which sounds were produced using a cassette tape recorder or a human foot? Akkajee injects the most mundane of sounds into their eccentric backup ensemble, and there are Easter eggs galore as the listener occasionally identifies a pair of scissors or a Russian jingling children’s toy contributing to the soundscape.
Years of distillation went into producing a highly original disc whose profundity clearly took a long time to mature. Each track makes the listener marvel at the many facets of the stories and of the music. The wild and wonderful tales of folk tradition have here found a worthy interpreter.
Eclipse Music 2021
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi