Maria Kalaniemi - Bellow Poetry
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cd cover Maria Kalaniemi
Bellow Poetry
Aito Records (

A master of the demanding but highly expressive free bass button accordion, Maria Kalaniemi has long been a fixture on the Northern European music scene. Her unique ability to bridge--and push against--the boundaries of classical and folk music, coupled with a highly intuitive approach to improvisation, has made her in great demand as a bandleader and as a collaborator, perhaps most notably as a member of international all-star ensemble Accordion Tribe.

Bellow Poetry is Kalaniemi's first solo release, a quiet, deeply personal outing recorded in her home studio. Most of the tracks feature her playing unaccompanied, her fluid, emotionally restrained stylings evoking the austere beauty of her native Finland. Kalaniemi is highly influenced by the improvisatory Kalevala runic poem singing tradition and strives in these mostly instrumental pieces to develop what she refers to as "'runo playing' where the feeling of the runo poems are expressed not in words but in the music". Many of the tracks, like the haunting "Kuun Henki" ("Spirit of the Moon") and the sublime "Autio" ("Desolate") have a taut, melancholic quality. In contrast, the incantatory "Kevään Kurjet" ("Cranes of Spring"), whose swooping arpeggios evoke so beautifully the flight of birds, reaches a state of quiet ecstasy.

Kalaniemi sings on some tracks which, if anything, heighten the sense of intimacy. On the emotionally complex "Salin Hämärissa" ("Dim Light in the Farmhouse"), for example, she quietly vocalizes the accordion's melodic lines as one would when playing without being aware that anyone else is listening. Even on a relatively conventional song, such as the beautiful "Så Skimrande Var Aldrig Havet" ("So Shimmering") by the Swedish composer Evert Taube, Kalaniemi's gentle voice draws in the listener. On two tracks, Olli Varis provides sensitive accompaniment on electric guitar, providing some much-appreciated sonic variety to the collection.

Because these pieces tend to be quiet and reflective, they require particular demands on the listener to prevent them from being relegated to background music. However, this attentiveness will be deeply rewarded for those who are willing to immerse themselves in Kalaniemi's rich musical poetry and uncompromising artistic vision. - Michael Duke

Artist's web site

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