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Superhuman Sámi innovations
Wimme Saari is one of Finland’s most celebrated vocalists; he is known for combining joik (the Sámi’s unique vocal tradition) with contemporary improvisations, techno and ambient sound. Human is the second album by Wimme and Tapani Rinne, a revered Finnish experimental musician and producer. Mixing traditional joik, electronica and jazz, it’s a genre-defying tribute to the raw beauty – and occasional madness – of the human condition. Some of the record’s most delicate moments come from Norwegian joiker Elle Some Henriksen, as on the stunning opener, ‘Elle’, where she’s joined by Rinne on bass clarinet. As for madness, look no further then the title-track, an astonishing blend of thumbing Kraftwerk-esque electronica, joik, saxophone, clarinets and whistles.
Wimme and Rinne
Westpark Music / Rockadillo
They are two long-time travelers, Wimme Saari and Tapani Rinne. Wimme Saari is known as one of the world’s foremost joikers, the form of musical expression found amongst the Sami people. Tapani Rinne has been the leader of RinneRadio, Finland’s electro-jazz experimentalists who have often placed their musical expressions alongside those of folk music. Together, Saari and Rinne have released several albums of essential contemporary joik music. Wimme Saari joiks about nature and its elements; animals; places; and concepts. Saari’s vocalizations have been captured solo, and he has also produced by Tapani Rinne, who has set the joiks into deep ambient textures and thudding techno-tribal workouts. Whenever these two musicians join together, there is mystery and joy to be explored.
Human is Saari and Rinne’s latest collaboration. It’s a spare, uncluttered release, and feels like a concept album (following on their Soabbi record, which was oriented towards religious hymns). Wimme Saari is also not the only joiker present; Elle Sofe Henriksen also contributes to two tracks on Human. The soundscape features Rinne’s numerous woodwinds, especially his expertise on bass clarinet; violin and whistle (by Olivia Holladay); piano (Iro Haarla); and electronic experimentation (Rinne, and Dj Slow).
The album begins with the quiet intonation of Rinne’s bass clarinet on ‘Elle,’ on which Elle Sofe Henriksen takes the lead. It could be an acknowledgement of women, and of Henriksen herself (she is a joiker, a dancer, and a filmmaker). This lovely, tender joik is the first of five joiks on Human‘s nine tracks that invoke an individual dimension. Elsewhere, Wimme and Rinne are alone on ‘Heart,’ which begins – perhaps predictably – with the deep thudding of a heartbeat, caressed by Rinne’s clarinet. It’s a deep, droning track, Rinne blowing a relaxed clarinet line that is slowly distorted via electronics. “Human” has the upbeat dance-tempo of RinneRadio’s work; the beat falls away, and Saari intones some words and vocalizations before the piece judders back to life. ‘Womb’ is another track filled with space, with plenty of echo on Rinne’s clarinet. The ambient track has a heartbeat buried in the mix; but, the music takes a turn for the experimental as various cries emanate from the amniotic surroundings, some sounding like birds, others like animals. The joik feels like a statement – human or not, here is where we emerge.
The ‘human’ theme is balanced by four tracks having to do with the natural world: “Wind,” “Rock,” “Spotted Crake,” and “Sounds of Snow.” Of the four, “Rock” and “Sounds of Snow” remind me of the wild ambient treks Saari and Rinne have produced in the past. “Rock” is particularly affecting; the music sounds solid, rent with deep electro-static jolts and bleeps. “Sounds of Snow” is a white-out, as if one’s radio connection in the Arctic were squealing through a storm, and sheets of foreboding clarinet and drones serve to obscure the sound painting. Wimme Saari joiks at the beginning of the piece, and he ends with liturgical humming.Fans of older albums such as Gierran (1997) and Bárru (2003) should note that the harder-edged dance beats are not present on Human. Saari and Rinne have matured into a place that feels like a textured organicism. It is not that people are separate from the environment; we are, of course, a part of it. On Human, Saari and Rinne offer listeners a work of calm beauty, affirmation, and a holistic worldview, from the top of the world.
– Lee Blackstone, RootsWorld
Human is RootsWorld’s selection for Music of the Month for July, 2017.
Wimme is a joiker, a creator of a chanting style that originated among the peoples of Northern Scandanavia; a region known as Lapland or Samiland. Normally handed down from generation to generation, Saari instead learned the craft from listening to archival records at the national radio station in Helsinki.
I’m already a fan of electronic music. But Wimme’s debut impressed me like no other. When I first heard the European copy, I felt like the only soul in North America to come upon this great discovery. Later I learned that Cliff Furnald also placed it in his 1995 Top 10 list at ‘CMJ’ magazine. To date, it has established standards found nowhere else in the industry. Listen! As if Saari and his producer Tapani Rinne never listened to any other electronic music form, creating instead their own folk music album complete with sequencers and studio tricks. The joiking of Wimme is nestled into an electronic landscape of Artic tundra and star-woven sky. As on “Milky Way,” you feel as the heavens themselves have opened onto you as the dance of the aurora borealis. For purists of Folk, this is a great leap of faith. But for lovers of Ambient, this album goes far beyond the weary Anglo-American product.
Once you’ve discovered Wimme, you may wish to hunt down his newest release (but only to the European market) Gierran. Still at work behind the vocals is producer Tapani Rinne. Rinne, by the way, heads his own group called, RinneRadio, a Euro-techno-jazz outfit. And if there was ever a vocal wing of RinneRadio, Gierran would be it. Normally Rinne keeps his bass clarinet in the background throughout the production. But on “Iras” (“Skittish”), the album’s opening track, Rinne lets loose with full bore, setting forth the RinneRadio tone. As on the debut, Jari Kokkonen and Pauli Saastamoinen again provide the keyboard programming. However, unlike the ambient landscapes of Wimme and the Bjork-like danceteria of Texas (the extended play single released on Rockadillo last year), Gierran serves up bigger helpings from several of the essential music groups. Throughout we’re treated to Saari’s chants, grunts, and falsetto whines, sometimes comical, other times beautiful. Between the two releases, Gierran is the preferred choice. Wimme presents a more soulful album, one that is satisfying after repeated plays. In either case, this artist is past due for some mainstream recognition.
– Wayne Whitwam, RootsWorld