Miero

Värttinä

Released 01 February 2006

  1. Riena/Anathema
  2. Valhe/The Lie
  3. Mataleena
  4. Synti/The Sin
  5. Maaria
  6. Miero/Outcast
  7. Mierontie/Path Of The Outcast
  8. Mustat Kengät/Black Shoes
  9. Lupaus/The Promise
  10. Lumotar/The Enchantress
  11. 9 Lukkaa/9 Locks
  12. Eerama
  13. Vaiten Valvoin/I Lay Awake

Liner notes

If Värttinä had never recorded another album after ‘iki’ in 2003 their achievement would have been momentous, an unrivalled catalogue celebrating a tradition, in performances of unrivalled brilliance. Maybe that’s why Miero has such an incredible effect, sweeping us off our feet with an unexpected surge of creativity that has dug deeper into that ancient tradition, taking our breath away, and stretching the song-writing genius of Värttinä further than we ever thought it might go, with a vocal range previously untapped and blinding instrumentals.

How can a band which has been together for so long achieve this? Part of it, says sax and bouzouki player Janne Lappalainen, is that with the The Lord of the Rings the band has been forced to be together for much longer stretches of time than ever before, writing songs and lyrics all the time. This has served to unleash huge amounts of music from them, not just for the stage production, but when it came to the album in the summer of 2005 there were nearly forty songs that could have gone on it, they just dripped music and texts. “Just when we were worn out and tired, we wrote our best tunes ever,” laughs Janne.

What emerged is an album of the darkest songs the band has ever done. “We’ve done happy music,” says Janne. “We’ve grown up, we have the confidence to address any emotions.” ‘My loathing drips blood, my pain slashes, curses, drenches with pus’ – there’s plenty more like that, dangerously cloaked in that wonderfully mysterious Finnish language. Dark? The lyrics are black, jet black, yet the music is vibrant, energetic, pulsating with gleaming instrumental writing and witty singing. It’s this all-important contrast which makes the album so successful – music which gets under your skin and words which impregnate your mind. “I’m a big fan of strong emotions,” says producer Aija Puurtinen (lead singer with Finnish cult band Honey B and the T-Bones as well as vocal coach at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki). “You don’t have to understand the language but we’re all human beings and the heart is the seat of affections and everybody understands this.”

Janne and singer Mari Kaasinen give huge credit to Aija. “This is the first time we had a producer who was also a singer,” says Mari. “She understood us, showed us how to take risks, to try different techniques, encouraged us to have the confidence to do what we wanted. Everybody was so full of melody, so creative.”

The key thing for Aija was that she’d known and loved the band for twenty years: “They are dedicated and inspired about what they are doing. I also like their craziness!” Now with the title of producer she spent six months just going to their rehearsals, and having separate workshops for the singers helping them to try different approaches. Sound engineer Risto Hemmi worked alongside helping Aija achieve the sound she wanted: “a little bit scary and yet magical” is how she describes it. “I didn’t want their music to repeat the cliche-like ‘overly cheerful’ side of Finnish folk music.”

Aija Puurtinen places huge importance too on the traditional aspect of Värttinä’s music: “That’s the most important thing. The rhythm of the vocals comes from the pulse of the traditional rhyme. The music itself can have influences from different cultural and ethnic sources, yet the phrasing and rhyme of the vocals keep Värttinä characteristically rooted in Finland and in Finnish tradition.”

All of which makes the band the obvious choice to collaborate with A.R. Rahman on the score for the The Lord of the Rings. The ancient Finnish tradition is dark and haunting, truly another world, Tolkien’s world. The band is feisty and ready to take on this world in the 21st century.

How appropriate too to bring that tradition to a record label which is renowned for celebrating cultural roots yet is never afraid to address the audiences of today and tomorrow. The intriguing, and slightly scary, question is: whatever will Värttinä do next?! For now though, let Miero assault your senses.

Listen

Reviews

  • An exhilarating concoction of wild female vocals, crisp, asymmetric rhythms and stirring Nordic melodies. The Guardian (UK)
  • This record should come with a "parental advisory" sticker, for the venom - musically and lyrically - scarcely lets up throughout. Folk music as cultural terrorism, anyone? The Times (UK)
  • After writing the music for the imminent stage version of The Lord of the Rings, this Finnish female roots trio deliver a bold post-folk experiment in which their harmony vocals are twisted into almost Wagnerian shapes. Uncut (UK)
  • Just the stuff of Middle Earth Time Out (USA)
  • One of the great contemporary folk acts of our time Record Collector (UK)

Further Listening

  • 2

    The Gloaming

    Released 26 February 2016

    The Gloaming dwells at the musical crossroads, enhancing traditional Irish music’s rich, melancholic tones with modern hues of jazz, contemporary classical and experimental music as they redefine what Irish music can be. This, their second album, was recorded at Real World studios during an inspired week in December 2015.
  • Pole Star

    Spiro

    Released 08 September 2014

    Spiro’s debut album was something of a lost gem before it’s re-release in 2014. The material was written in a series of rural retreats in Wales and Cornwall and recorded live in a two day session at the former BBC Christchurch Studios in Bristol in the winter of 1996-7 by Portishead engineer Rik Dowding.

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