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"Sepän Poika (The Blacksmith's Son)" from iki (NorthSide)
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iki (NorthSide)
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CD review

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Songlines, CD review >>

iki: named Number 9 in Songlines Top of the World Top 10

Varttina iki

After 20 years and ten albums, this Finnish outfit have hit a new creative peak

From the exhilarating drive of "Nahkaruoska", its jostling rhythms and bristlng close harmonies bringing to life a story of infidelity and leather whips, to the sheer beauty of "Maahinen Neito", a song of an unwanted earth maiden, Varttina's tenth album (celebrating their 20th year) is their most radiant and satisfying to date.

The group's stimulating reinvention of ancient, long-forgotten women's laments and boasting songs gives them a universal appeal reaching far beyond the borders of Finland. You don't need to understand a jot of Finnish to appreciate the potent wit, the unusual female-led vocals, the subtle arrangements or the distinctive instrumentation.

iki exudes confidence, perhaps due to working again with producer Janne Haavisto, as well as line-up changes. The song themes, as usual focusing on the vicisstudes of love relationships from the female viewpoint, seem more reflective, while the mellow arrangements feel pared back - in contrast to the recent more experimental moments of Vihma and Ilmatar, which, while they had their thrills, lacked the coherence found here.

The songs, in various moods, flow magically together and even the cover looks better than those of the group's recent albums. I'm a consistent follower and this is the first time I feel the band and their material have surpassed the heights achieved with their original line-up led by Sari Kaasinen. A totally desirable disc.

--Jan Fairley, Songlines

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