in Reviews

Original twilight tales

by Tove Djupsjöbacka

The band Sähköpaimen combines folk music heritage with electronic sounds. Their latest album, Hämärä (Twilight), is at once a refreshing listening experience and an intellectually stimulating mini-journey. Led by the band, we dive into various archives and countries, surrounded by a murky colour spectrum.

The group’s sound is crafted by three strong musicians. Electronics are provided by Eero Grundström, who also plays with groups such as Sväng, Suistamon Sähkö. He’s no ordinary beat technician, but rather a sensitive and intelligent musician who plays his machines organically, smoothly reacting to his bandmates’ playing. I particularly admire his ability to weave different beats into a seamless whole, such as the ‘Koivumetsä’ medley with its briskly rocking sleigh song and the slowly stretching Romani song featuring the magnificent Hilja Grönfors on guest vocals.

The electronic instruments paint a landscape, with the vocals and wind instruments settle into a peaceful dialogue with each other in the foreground. Kirsi Ojala’s wind instruments are as soulful as ever; I especially like her wooden flute playing. Vocalist Amanda Kauranne’s sound is warm and even though she is virtuosic in many ways, the focus is always on the music, not so much on herself. Sometimes she also moves naturally into speaking-voice and storytelling. Extra points for how carefully all the sources used are explained in the liner notes, including who sang and played what, where and when.

The musicians of Sähköpaimen are clearly used to thinking in long musical arcs, and there are several fine, extensive longer pieces on the album. For example, ‘Jaakko-kulta’ grows incrementally from short, brisk melodies towards harrowing wailing, while in the background the electronics explore melodies similar to the kantele classic ‘Konevitsan kirkonkellot’. 

Several tracks seem to delve into folk music as a phenomenon that transcends borders. Although everyone’s musical heritage is unique, they are also closely related. The same narrative themes and everyday phenomena can be found in several countries. As a reminder of this, cattle calls from Finland, Sweden and Italy are entwined into an elegant whole in the lively ‘Jyrinpäivä,’ for instance. ‘Mataleena på Källebro’ also elegantly combines interpretations of the same story from three linguistic areas. 

Sähköpaimen: Hämärä
Nordic Notes, NN173, 2023

Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi