Suden Aika

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This 33-minute release plumbs the depths of group leader Tellu Virkkala's obsession with Finnish vocal music and Scandinavian fairy tales in a collection of pieces for voice with sparse instrumental accompaniment. Like American post-folkie Ani DiFranco, Vikkala pushes the boundaries of vocal music, hitting the extended narrative "Kosinta" with every dart and barb her tongue can muster, then letting it all hang in terrible emptiness. "Malinan Itku" ups the ante with unbearable wailing signal-processed to approximate the murky fidelity of a 78-rpm recording. Pieces friendlier to the ear include "Intro," which could almost fit on a Varttina disc, and "Jopa Jouvuit, Neito Rukka," an optimistic-sounding tale about a serf who wastes away to nothing in service of an evil master. Each song is performed with an oddly attractive combination of playful cold-bloodedness and grace.