What does Kardemimmit sound like?
Angelic Finish folk with warm female choruses and national pride.
The review of Kardemimmit – Sisko muistatko?
The national instrument of Finland is the Kantele. It’s a psaltery which is a bit like a lap harp. You can strum, pluck, hammer and bend the strings in all manners of ways. It sounds childlike, angelic, warm like honey and smooth like home. It’s the Kantele that Kardemimmit band themselves around, ensuring their Finish instrument is the backbone of all their folk songs. Returning for their new album ‘Sisko muistatko?’ (Sister, Do You Recall?), they bring more of their feminine pixie-tinged folk.
The key thing for Kardemimmit fans is that nothing has hugely changed. Each of the ten tracks is like a timeless, playful folk piece that showcases folk ditties with a skip in their step. We have warm powerful vocal melodies and psaltery strums for “Kultarinta” (Our Story). The track, like almost the entire album, has no percussion. The song most definitely has a beat though and this is provided by bass notes that sound like they come from a harp. Elsewhere euphoric vocal arrangements of backing “aahs” against lyrical chants shine on the title track and the sublime “Tuomenkukkia” (Bird Chery Blossoms). The latter track is a showcase of how to build a seed of a melody into something that soars for its finale.
Kardemimmit isn’t always on full sunbeam though. Some of the power powerful moments on the album are the softer, quieter and more introspective moments. “Nokkoset” (Nettles) is totally disarming and emotional with its sad lamenting riffs and hushed vocal delivery. It showcases how plucked kantele, harp and psalteries can evoke gorgeously rich bass tones and sparkling sadness. “Muut tyot” (Other Girls) is even a little brooding in the verses as the plucked strings are muted to create a strangled bass rhythm. Kardemimmit even veers vocally towards a more traditional Nordic and Irish folk with “Laulu onnesta” (About Happiness) which has strings and guitars leading a thigh-slapping track that sounds like it’s fighting the elements. Gone are the softer vocal styles of the rest of the album in comes something more Viking pub brawler. The album itself is about womanhood – its ups and downs. Some songs speak of witchcraft, girlhood, growing up, love and jealousy. There’s also an overtone of solidarity through hardship as if to remind other women to have each other’s backs. In that way, it feels like a folk fable collection to pass down through the generations.
The beauty of this album, like all Kardemimmit’s recordings, is that there’s no one else quite doing this. Yes, there are female folk groups and yes, there are psaltery-led troupes too. No one else is able to balance feminine warmth, a damn good jig and a bit of witchcraft with only plucked instruments quite like Kardemimmit though. For that reason alone, each album feels like a treasure found deep in a pixie forest. It brings warmth and smiles to all without feeling trite or saccharine. Pulling that off consistently is remarkable. Join the quartet in the forest.
Recommended track: Tuomenkukkia
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