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CD Feature/ "Finnish Snow-Walks and Dances"

img  Tobias

I bet you didn’t know that there is a Finish tradition called „Snow Walking“, intended to calm the mind. It harks all the way back to the national epos, the Kalevala, which speaks explicitely of “scooping rhe songs out of the frost” and of “unlocking the box of tales”. But don’t worry – not many other people have heard of it, either. The very informative text, which accompanies this release, which can either be bought as a regular CD or a luxuriously packaged, truly beautiful LP (have I made amply clear, which one I prefer?), therefore serves to outline the aims of the project: To present the entire spectrum of snow music, from its folk roots to its present forms, to capture the “poetic universe of snow” and to “mark its entry into the 21st Century”.

Based on the field recordings made by the famous Sisukas Poronainen from the renowned “Kansanmusiikin Instituutti “(which, I am sure, I need not explain any further), Gabi Schaffner (who has already held publich lectures on the subject) has taken on the task of sifting through the material, selecting the most representative cuts and of researching the scene for assorted genres, such as “Lumi Core” (Snow Core) and acts from the experimental scene, who are carrying on the traditions. She has found some wonderful music and a fair amount of equally fascinating stories. Take the tale of the “Tytönhamepilvet” for example, tiny clouds, which come into existence closely to the ground, which is why they are referred to as “Maiden’s Skirt Clouds”. Local boys will anxiously await the day of their arrival and then run around the field, trying to stick their heads into them. The eponymosuly titled piece on the record captures the ambiance in one of these clouds, a tinkling and chiming mid-winter dream. While this track was later edited in the studio, other titles were left in their original state, such as the “Circular Snow Walk, a hypnotic melange of repetetive balalaika-patterns and the foot steps of the walkers circling a tree. The “Sleigh Ride” features a plucked motive on the ancient Finnish Kantelele, an instrument with five to fifteen strings and a carved wooden body. While the first side of the album concentrates on similar, unprocessed material, the second site investigates the current exponents of the scene, including the bizarre noise experiments of the Snow-Core bands (who ardously collect samples from snow excursions, in order to fulfill the 50% snow-quota in their music) and the dark, eleven-minute long dronescape “Joen Ylitys”, which builds from a richly harmonic opening, seemingly filled with the sound of an orchestra tuning, into a dark and threatening barrier of deep bass pads.

All of this may seem like a foreign and unexplored world to you. And it seems, as though some are doing all they can to leave things this way. When we tried to find information about the contributinmg Finnish artists, we couldn’t find any and when we called the Kansanmusiikin Instituutti, they claimed to never have heard of Sisukas Poronainen. We assume this is an intended effort to stop thinking too much about the historical background and to just enjoy the music. It should be noted, however, that Gabi Schaffner’s public speech was entitled “Snow Music – Fake or truth?”. And that the “Acknowledgments”-section mentions a lot of acts which have no relation whatever to Finland, but a very close one with the German Gruenrekorder label. In any case, they have remained almost entirely true to the Kalevas creed: The songs may not have been scooped exclusively from the frost, but the box of tales has certainly been unlocked.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Gabi Schaffner
Homepage: Gruenrekorder

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