Europe Award Winner
Itku on Nordic Notes
Electro-folk, Finnish-style, from a thrilling and compelling band from Helsinki. Okra Playground features three remarkable front-line singers who can sound quietly exquisite, thrilling, spooky or downright menacing. They are also instrumentalists, with Päivi Hirvonen playing the fiddle and bowed lyre, while Essi Muikku and Maija Kauhanen add kantele dulcimers.
These ancient folk instruments are matched against contemporary backing from electric bass, throbbing percussion, keyboards and accordion. Itku is their third album, and it’s a varied, often epic and atmospheric fusion of ancient and modern, in which folk themes are transformed into rousing anthems and soundscapes, with those glorious female voices always to the fore.
The opening title track sets the mood, with drums matched against the edgy vocals, while in ‘Veri’ (The Blood) the attacking, swooping and intense voices are backed by pounding percussion. The band slow down for the more lyrical ‘Kymmenniekka Kylässä’ (The Tythe Collector) and ‘Hetkeen’, with dulcimers now backing the gently charming harmony singing, but they are back in epic mode for the finale ‘Hypnoosi’, in which rumbling drone effects, an insistent bass line and wordless vocals help the song build to a rousing climax.
A great album from this year’s deserved winners from Europe.