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Varttina: Kokko

In other pop-friendly world music news, the popular Finnish band Varttina has released Kokko, its debut album on Nonesuch (79429; 41:00). From the pulsing appeal and strange buoyancy of the opening tune, “Tuulilta Tuleva,” we hear Varttina for what it is: a pop group whose relative distance from the pool of western pop clichés gives it strength and distinction. Like any good pop tune, it stubbornly sticks in your head, and validates the claims of listeners who have drawn comparisons with ABBA. Of course, there’s much more to this music, intricate in its designs and rich with references to Finnish folk and pop role models. The ten-piece band, led by the signature sound of four female singers, formed in 1983 in the Southeast region of Karelia and focused on extending Karelian musical culture. They entered the broader world scene in the early ’90s. The upward progression should continue: Kokko bristles with energy and boasts some of the oddest and yet captivating pop values around.

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