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Ville Ojanen

Artist release
Review by Andrew Cronshaw

Ville Ojanen is from Finland's fiddling nexus, Kaustinen, and over the years has been a member of Sikiät, the dance group Ottoset, Folkkarit and Troka. While still a part of that scene, and the Kaustinen accent and its evolving tradition is strongly there in his compositions, he moved away geographically, the music he composes is wider in its influences, and while he's a very fine fiddler, his albums aren't about showcasing his fiddling, with other instruments in an accompanying role; they're albums of his compositions, featuring a variety of musicians. This is his fifth, with a titular tie-up he must have been waiting for: the Roman numeral, 'viisi' - Finnish for five and his first initial.

So here Johanna Juhola, a well-known and ever-innovative artist in her own right, shares lead lines on chromatic button accordion or melodica with Ojanen's fiddle, viola, mandolin, or an old form of nyckelharpa modelled on one from Ahtävä, and Juha Kujanpaa's piano, harmonium and melodica and Tero Tuovinen's double bass are prominent in interpreting Ojanen's compositions.

Indeed it's piano and double bass that open the album in "Akka Kebnekaiselainen" before fiddle and accordion spring in on top of them. "Old Folk School", the second track, whose title I'm presuming refers to Ville's education at Kaustinen's music-oriented high school, moves through quotes from typical Kaustinen fiddle compositional styles like the intro to a film musical.

"Mehiläisvaha", also suggests a score, for a quirky movie. Opening with slapped bass, it has a pictorial flow and nonchalance as it moves though the sort of unexpected changes of chord, mode and rhythm that have become so characteristic of the music created by Kaustinen's many brilliant and energetic present-day fiddlers. "Kevätjäät" ('Spring Ice'), with fiddle and accordion melody over a piano pattern, is a contrasting thing of serenity and gentle surging reflectiveness. In "Säästölä Reel" piano, accordion and fiddle sing over a deep chunking 4/4, with the double bass taking the melody towards the end.

"Säärijärven Juhannuskisat", with those Kaustinen trademark chord changes between major and minor, is as lively and bouncing as the 'midsummer kittens' of its title. Säärijärvi, where Ojanen now lives, is a town among the lakes of central Finland, whose name is also known for a particular form and playing style of kantele. "Kaupunginjohtaja Rusasen Polska" ('Mayor Rusanen's Polska'), dedicated to its new mayor Timo Rusanen, elected in 2020, has a triumphant march-like feel (Finnish polskas are very different from Sweden's wiggly, lurching ones).

"Kalmarin Kuninkaat" ('Kings of Kalmar') cascades over a plucked double bass ostinato, and it's that woody double-bass sound that opens "Pohjoiset Veet" ('Northern Waters'), before the entry of a slow, stately melody featuring the hurdy-gurdy-like drone and key-click of the ähtävänharppu, joined by a thick orchestral richness of accordion and bowed double bass.

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