Päivi Hirvonen Kallio
Review by Chris Nickson
The second solo album from the Finnish fiddler and singer (who’s also more than adept on the bowed lyre) builds with fire and intensity as it progresses. Serene enough to begin, with fiddle and vocals on “Kulkuat/Travellers” – the only track with guests, two other singers lovingly layered alongside her own voice and some programming to flesh out the sounds – it’s the lull before a storm of passion that takes in subjects close to her heart: shattering glass ceilings, polyamory, societal expectations and more.
Ultimately, however, what’s more important than the subject matter on a disc is how it’s presented. Here’s where things become interesting. Hirvonen is superb at evoking atmosphere, like the darkness that creeps around “Varjot/The Shadows,” where she multi-tracks violin parts to impart a strange, creeping eeriness and sense of disquiet, or “Irti/Letting Go,” where the fiddle track is a demo recorded on a phone. Its raggedness and rawness possesses the kind of burning urgency that sets the heart beating faster, even without the incendiary power that drives Hirvonens’s vocals.
"Vanha Ja Vappa"
This is very much an album where singing and playing sit equally. No surprise, perhaps, as Hirvonen is known for doing the two simultaneously, but they become completely interwoven, nowhere more than on the final track “Vanha Ja Vappa/Old And Free,” a celebration of the freedom that aging can bring. It’s a loving end, and a fascinating use of an octave fiddle to create the delicious atmosphere.
Experimental (one track is composed from the plucking of three differently tuned violins, for instance), fiery and filled with a passion, Kallio is a real triumph.