Eight Seasons is Mari Boine's first effort for the Minneapolis-based Scandinavian music label Northside. The album was issued in conjunction with Remixed, which features notables like Jah Wobble and Bill Laswell interpreting her work. Boine seems to have been inspired, collaborating with producer Bugge Wesseltoft for a collection of pieces weaving her alternately supple and intimate, angry and otherworldly vocals into moody arrangements tinged with jazz influence and electronic programming. It's been a cliché or a curse of the so-called world music community ever since the days of Deep Forest, but capable people can still integrate traditional melodies and voices with modern electronics for a seamless and relentlessly interesting sound. That's mostly what happens on Eight Seasons. Here, Boine's drifts between languages, using both traditional vocalizing techniques as well as modern singing in an effortless, captivating dance. She wavers in a cappella like the fingers of a chilly wind over the expanse of "Mu Váibmu Vádjul Doppe," before a quiet acoustic guitar joins in; while Boine's vocals are of an entirely different tradition, there's a commonality of strident emotion between she and someone like Sinéad O'Connor. Initially, "Boadan Nuppi Bealde" is one of the more straightforwardly down-tempo affairs here, as Boine's vocals share time, far-away keyboards, and the throbbing bass groove typical of chill compilations everywhere. But when Jan Garbarek's sax joins in, and her vocals become something wordless and amazing, the track has settled in a land unknown to most. "Guovssahasaid Ájagáttis" and "Sáráhka Viina" balance voice and accompaniment perfectly, each element contributing equally to the overall energy that permeates Eight Seasons. It's in the background, or in the darkness, or around a bend. But it's there, the warmth, in every wandering electronic program or expressive vocal trill from Boine, a sliver of flame on the grassland's horizon, snaking into the sky. After the soaring vocal and subtle, almost bluesy grooves of "Duottar Rássi," the nearly eight-minute "Silba Várjala" feels like the emotional heart of Seasons, its most penetrating gaze. It begins with what sounds like a looped field recording, yelping dogs, and footsteps. Boine's voice, filtered at first behind the halting notes of a guitar, builds in strength over the brooding electronic rhythm, until her Joik overtakes the electronics completely, becoming fully responsible for the song's deep, chilly atmosphere. Let's see a keyboard's hard drive do that.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus