Vilma Timonen Quartet

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Vilma Timonen Quartet
Bafe's Factory (

"Pinnan alla (under the surface)"

Drops is meant to represent the waters connecting all of humanity. Yet the biggest drop in its musical ocean is the kantele, that most enigmatic of dulcimers and a core timbre of the traditional Scandinavian soundscape. In the hands of Vilma Timonen, who wields it like a bodily extension among her talented quartet, the kantele is a painterly tool that is every bit as illustrative as the brush. With Tuomas Timonen (percussion), Topi Korhonen (guitar, trumpet, mandolin), and Jaako Kämäräinen (bass), she cohabitates a dwelling of shadows, starlight, and eventually daybreak.

With the exception of two instrumental tracks, the album is fully song-based, with Vilma singing lead and her band backup, and takes the listener across a terrain of fairytale lyrics (available on the band's website), nuanced arrangements, and fusions of various genres.

As implied above, a feeling of night pervades the album's nine tracks, all of which were composed in-house, as it were. If titles like “Tähtineito” (Star Maiden) and “Kuutar” (Moon Goddess) say enough, it's only because these musicians dictate the stories that fall under them with utter clarity. The sounds of the kantele are ideally suited to such imagery, whether tracing the footprints of that wandering maiden or, in the latter song, evoking the sparkle of divine jewelry stolen from the farmer's daughter to whom it was bestowed. Other, more delicate colors run through these mixtures of folk, pop, and jazz, through which trumpet, metallic percussion, or vocal alterations only enhance an underlying cinematic quality.

Listen "Kuutar / Moon Goddess" (excerpt)

“Viima” (Gale) and “Tuuli” (Wind) more obviously reference the invisible element of air, which in these songs speaks of dislocation and unrequited searching. “I try to listen to ancient words,” sings Vilma in the former, “they melt in my mouth.” In expressing as much, she encapsulates the folk musician's constant dilemma. Here Vilma's voice is like a forest sprite who has wandered into a pub: a symbol of nature in a world that is anything but, yet which allows her to enforce her sense of self against the harmful wonder of those who will never have ears to hear it.

Listen "Viima / Gale" (excerpt)

All of this may seem like dark going, but there's hope to be savored, tasting sweetest in the title track, where love is reciprocated and destinations are reached. As in the concluding “Paasto” (The Fast), it shapes the rising sun into a talisman for the weary. And this album may just feel just as protective when you try it on for size. - Tyran Grillo

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