The dynamic and globally popular Finnish group Varttina has been through many changes over the years, but the mission is essentially the same-to give hoary Finnish folk traditions a contemporary spin without losing sight of roots. For album number seven, Vihma (Wicklow 63262; 47:11), the group returns on a new label founded by members of the Chieftans contingent. And, as before, the Celtic connection is not far off, with harmonies and rhythms that are Scandinavian, generally, but part of the extended family of northern European musics.
The sonic spectrum is different this time around, as well, due to the role of co-producer Richard Horowitz, whose work with Sussan Deihim have been intriguing hybrids, worldly new music composites. Vihma flaunts the four vocalists to good expressive ends, but benefits from a sonic palette that also includes snippets of Tuvan throat singing from members of the Tuvan band Yat-Kha, Finnish fiddlers JPP, and tasteful use of electronics. Still, the singing is the thing: their vocal fabric and ensemble tautness can be startling, and awakening, like a sudden confrontation with a sound both of the present tense and something ancient, which is precisely the point.