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Pauliina Lerche Kriya
Kriya
Alba Records (www.alba.fi)

Pauliina Lerche
Malanja
Ruote Records (www.pauliinalerche.com)

Two sides of Pauliina Lerche's musical psyche are highlighted in these releases, but it turns out they're not so different after all. As part of the band Kriya, she explores the possibilities inherent in fusing Finnish and Indian music. On her own, on Malanja, she keeps it closer to home, experimenting with traditional Finnish genres and instruments.

Listen!
As might be expected, Kriya is the more ambitious, more produced of the two releases. Lerche shares vocal duties with Sarathi Chatterjee, but the two pretty much stay to their own corners, Chatterjee singing rhapsodic Hindustani paeans to the divine and Lerche countering with precise, decisively-phrased songs of more earth-bound love. "Saalina," a Lerche composition, is full of Nordic lilt. It's followed by the Bollywood buoyancy of "Hanuman." The six-member band shakes up a mixed bag of genres, from Bhangra beats to jam band to New Age to Finnish folk. There's even a blues number with konnokol vocals. Each track is intriguing in its own way, but sometimes the album doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. It's more disparate and less unified than her similar work on 2002's Katrilli. There's a lot of wonderful electric guitar jamming courtesy of Peter Lerche, some of it sounding like stadium rock, some sounding like the soundtrack of "Apocalypse Now." It's all very beautiful and transcendent, if a bit unfocused at times.

Listen!
More cohesive and just as appealing in its own way is Lerche's spunky Malanja. She gets to show off her accordion chops, which are rock solid, on many of the tracks. A large group of guest musicians contribute a lot of lively unplugged fun. On the instrumental "Touko (Spring)," Arttu Takalo throws in an unexpected vibraphone jam. While Lerche is a willing experimenter (one can occasionally hear a hint of Pauline Oliveros), sometimes she indulges in cliché, as in the harmonies of "Kaisan katrilli" and the schlocky New Age-y seagull sounds in the kantele-guitar duet "Aallot." Despite minor drawbacks, both albums have a lot of fresh, listenable sounds. Lerche and friends draw from a deep well of talent and energy. - Peggy Latkovich

CDs available from cdRoots
Malanja
Kriya
All music by Pauliina Lerche

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