Helsinki Mandoliners 2
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Helsinki Mandoliners
Folk Music Institute

cd cover As their title implies, this is the second virtuoso album for Finnish mando boys Petri Hakala, Arto Järvelä, Olli Varis, and their sidekick bassist Tapani Varis. Listeners will find a well-performed and tasteful acoustic instrumental album with no obnoxious production tricks and no further accompaniment. The three mandolins create crystal clear notes and patterns as intricate as the green forest leaves on the back cover of the CD booklet. What a treat for mandolin fans around the globe!

Unlike their eponymous first album, all the tunes are composed by the players, most of them by Järvelä. Consequently, it is hardly a traditional album, though there are traditional influences, as well as puffs of jazz and international. On 2, the melodies are subtle, though there is abundant thematic variety in the tracks. Unless you're interested in mandolin technique, you might think that there's too much high level noodling and too few strong melodies. You may need to turn the volume up, so you can really hear the sophisticated excitement that is going on, without it being overridden by cats digging in the closet or neighbors swearing at each other.

One of the nicest tunes is "Marching gigue." "Is this a Celtic album?" you might ask. Olli Varis' "Cauchyn Horisontti" has an odd jazzy Latin beat. "Ingela and Morten" sounds Ostrobothnian (Swedish-Finnish). "Kolmas Rastas" is fast Joplin-style pop. "Kaustilainen menuetti ja polska" is slower and more stately, at least at first. And then there's a familiar Finnish tango, "Siltatanssit-tango." Some of the other tracks seem less memorable.

All the mandolinists play on all the tracks and there are few identifiable solos, so it's hard to single any of the players out for comment! The mando pickers play with each other, strum behind, and twine around each other like a pretty grapevine. Tapani Varis' bass is easier to pick out, as his fingers nimbly flick behind the front-liners and keep a jazz-flavored bassline going to complement all those high plinks!

Recommended for mandolin and acoustic music enthusiasts and Fennophiles. Hauska tavata! - Judith Gennett

Available from cdRoots

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