Sampo Lassila Narinkka - In Strange Lands (Vierailla Mailla)

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Sampo Lassila Narinkka
In Strange Lands (Vierailla Mailla)
Narinkaattori Records (

Listen "Narinkka"

Sampo Lassila Narinkka are a Finnish trio: Sampo Lassila (on double bass, viola da gamba, and then literally everything but the kitchen sink: milk churn, garden rake, and liquorice box, included), Aleksi Santavuori (viola), and Harri Kuusijärvi (accordion). Together, these musicians make music for the cinema of your mind. On In Strange Lands, each tune is grounded not just in Finnish folk music, but in compositional strategies that have absorbed European (particularly Eastern European) sensibilities. This is café culture as filmed by Jim Jarmusch, the open road as scored by Ennio Morricone colliding head-on with the French band L'Attirail. Every track is accompanied by liner notes that provide background to the unfolding scenes, but you're better off creating your own story: put this album on, go for a long walk, and get lost.

Listen "Fonk"

Opening track “In Strange Lands” begins with the crunching of gravel; it's a wandering, loping tune, and indeed the band has dedicated it to migration across borders. “Narinkka” evokes the Helsinki square that was home to the first Finnish flea market, and the murmuring of voices emerges at the end of the tune. “Contabile” provides wonderful contrast between Kuusijärvi's accordion, and the deeper strum of Lassila's double-bass: one moment, it's pensive art-music, the next moment, a waltz. “Fonk” slides into dissonant bass work, offset by percussion; there's a sense of tension and adventure in the back country, the rusticity embedded in the music by the accompaniment of (yes) that garden rake. “Colonia Finlandesa” is the kind of dark, mysterious tango that the Finns love, and the trio adds avant-garde touches; it sounds as if the bellows of the accordion are mimicking the back-and-forth of a DJ scratch. On the lengthy “Palkano,” plucked strings give way to Balkan explorations, exuberance giving way to deep improvisation and a quiet interlude that eventually whirls upwards into the sound of wind.

Listen "Palkano"

In Strange Lands is a gem of an album, the kind of soundtrack to life that makes your environment tremble with naiveté and wonder. Lassila, Santavuori, and Kuusijärvi play off each other beautifully, and with great invention so that Sampo Lassila Narinkka's magical art-compositions settle the listener into the director's seat. – Lee Blackstone

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Audio and images ©Sampo Lassila
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