Various Artists

Rough Guide to the Music of Scandinavia

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This is a 22-track sampler of the new music trends in Scandinavia from folk to classical to pop and avant-garde across seven countries in the region. It is remarkable in both its scope and in the quality of the music it presents, and is far more consistent than other Rough Guide offerings. There are familiar figures included, of course, from Frifot, Väsen, Värttinä, Hedningarna, and Annbjørg Lien. But there are lesser-known entities as well who have either devoted themselves to preserving tradition or gone out of their way to build upon it. Of the former there are Lena Willemark with her cohort Ave Moller, whose folk music can date back 500 years. There are also the mavericks like classical composer Louis Andreissen from Greenland whose work "Saqisaaq" is the most provocative and delightful thing on the collection. The in-betweens lie with Leena Joutsenlanhti from Finland. Her "Karitti" is drawn from folk tradition but creates from it what can only be called pop music. Maria Kalaniemi and Aldargaz weigh in with "Ahma," with her haunting accordion altered by an electronic process, creating a kind of ambient music from drones. It's all here, including the punk-folk tradition that has been taking the region by storm with groups like JPP, Hedningarna, Tallari, and others. That this compilation ends with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra with the Langholt Church Choir performing the Icelandic National Anthem is, it seems, a warning as much as it is as offering of Iceland's own original music. The warning is simple: don't lump Scandinavia's musical traditions together -- or else. Given how wide the reach is here, there is little cause for worry about that. This is an excellent introduction to an entirely new -- and foreign -- musical landscape.

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