Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L - Sanguis Meu, Mama!

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Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L
Sanguis Meu, Mama!
GAEA Records

If you've liked Pekko Käppi's unrestrained bursts of jouhikko on his previous recordings, you're forgiven for expecting more of the same. His ancient and primitive string instrument (a Finnish variation of a bowed lyre) is just right for shamanic, hypnotic ritual music and the like (like psychedelic, man). And he does look like a witch doctor, with long hair and flailing hands obscuring the mysterious play thing in his lap.

He does rip some hard riffs on a couple of tracks toward the end of his newest work, but are you ready for a mellow string warrior? Sweet love songs, even? Not on your nellie, Jim. Sweet love songs don't have blood and mayhem all over them. Even if most of the songs (and they are definitely songs, not meandering jams) are newly written by Käppi with a little help from some friends, they definitely draw their inspiration (and bloodlust) from murder ballads of yore, known in every land that man has ever trampled someone under foot.

The rhythms may not be that frantic this time, but the moods are dark and insistent. Aided by his new two-man back-up band of cigar box guitar and bass, Käppi croons about young men hanging young girls and a priest's son hauling a machine gun up a church steeple. Don't let that cherub's voice (or the harmonies) soothe you so much that the piercing jouhikko passages startle you - not that they're easy to identify as jouhikko noises, as all kinds of effects are being used quite heavily.

All of that makes this record sound more appealing to contemporary ears, I notice now, checking out several very favorable reviews in the Finnish media. In the past, I've lamented the scant attention given to Pekko Käppi. Today's rock critics seem to be relieved that they don't have to touch that marginal stuff, but his persistence and these more coherent songs seem to be paying off. "It would be strange if you were disappointed by this", writes one, while another notes that Käppi "has understood the connection between Fenno-Ugric and roots blues... and Tuareg blues". - Waldemar Wallenius

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