Those who enjoy BBC Radio 3's Late Junction will almost
certainly find the material on this disc very much to their
liking. Everyone else would be wiser looking elsewhere for musical
entertainment - as far away as possible, in fact. Because this
is not 'classical' by any stretch of the imagination, despite
the appearance of violin, organ and saxophone at various points:
it is cross-over.
The booklet warns of this; it says that the music of Swede Gunnar
Idenstam, who composed or arranged all the items, is a "bridge
between the French cathedral tradition, symphonic rock music
and folk music." So there are elements of all three throughout,
interwoven - not necessarily with much skill - and for that
reason the music will probably not please lovers of any of those
categories individually, least of all the first - César
Franck is a universe away. This is cross-over of the New Age
variety, with a beat through much of the music which only New
Age and pop fans will appreciate. At its worst, in tracks like
Reindeer on the Frozen River and Dance to Spring,
the music sounds like a refugee from 1980s pop.
None of the 'songs' are particularly memorable; in fact, because
of their New Age simplicity, they are really rather samey, the
price paid for Idenstam's intention to create a 'concept' album
- a kind of tribute to the traditional way of life of the Samis,
Finns and Swedes in the village of Jukkasjärvi in northern
The purely instrumental pieces are slightly better; Saari
Polska is as good as it gets, whereas Finn's Dance
comes reasonably close to a sprightly folk dance. As
for the "vocals", as they are inevitably described, Brita-Stina
Sjaggo at least has an attractive voice; Marainen's yoik (Sami-style)
singing is little more than a horrid throaty wailing.
The CD comes in a glossy fold-out case made of rather flimsy
card, and nimble fingers are required to extract the booklet
from its hidden pocket. The sound quality, however, is superb.
Why a great label like BIS chose to allot the extra resources
for an SACD to this kind of fare is puzzling - but not as puzzling
as their decision to record this in the first place. In his
introduction, Idenstam describes Jukkaslåtar thus:
"Baroque meets yoik, meets [...] high tech [...], meets juicy
symphonic layers of melody [...], meets orgiastic groove ...
meets you." Caveat emptor.