Frigg - Polka V
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Frigg
Polka V
(Sibelius Academy Folk Music)

You can roughly divide Scandinavian folk music in two categories: acoustic and electric; but the Finnish instrumental group Frigg blurs the line, melding the two, adding its own electricity to acoustic-based music.

Frigg might be considered a second-generation group, following the path blazed by of the big fiddle band JPP – itself a step removed from the rustic folk musicians of old. The band was incubated in today’s folk music departments at universities; they were not the product of wedding dancefloors. The four-fiddle-fronted band plays with fire, speed and passion, but the members’ collective playing is precise even at hyperspeed. Unlike some other instrumental traditions, the players here rarely step out front for solos; instead taking the songs through meticulous, ever-changing arrangements. This time out, they only briefly take a step out of the fast lane.

Well-rooted in Scandinavian folk music, Frigg always ventures out, reflecting the larger world of traditional music. The seven-member group has a bit of a bluegrass-reminiscent twang, here on “Kiulupolska,” but also play with a Scandinavian accent, such as the elegant “Seronda.” In their efficient and amiable experimentalism, the band even is reminiscent of cousins in the classical world such as the Kronos Quartet or the Penguin Café Orchestra.

“Vuodet Raakkylassa,” (“The Years in Raakkyla”) has an elegiac feel initially, which seems to point to big sky country, but it starts to whisk through that landscape with the sleek speed of a European convertible sportscar. One of the loveliest tunes on a lovely album is “Elinan Ja Teron Haavalssi" (Elina and Tero’s Wedding Waltz), which introduces a delicate (and uncredited) piano into the swaying tune.

Throughout, the musicians play with brilliance, contagious energy and a real sense of fun. While there is a limited fan base for Scandinavian folk music, this multi-facted album could appeal to much-wider audiences, given the chance. - Marty Lipp

CD available from cdRoots

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