GUNNAR IDENSTAM: Jukkaslater (Songs for Jukkasjarvi) – Simon Marainen, yoik and vocals/ Brita-Stina Sjaggo, vocals/ Sandra Marteleur, violin/ Thorbjorn Jakobsson, saxophone/ Jonas Sjoblom, percussion/ Gunnar Idenstam, organ and pre-recorded sounds – BIS multichannel SACD 1868, 65:40 [Distr. by Qualiton]: *****:
Jukkasjarvi is a village of Northern Sweden (Lake of Assembly) which served as a marketplace for the Sami, or indigenous people of the far north of Sweden, Finland, and Norway. These 17 songs (some with vocals, others purely instrumental) are by composer Gunnar Idenstam, an organist, composer, folk musician, and student of the Royal College of Music, Stockholm, as well as studies in Paris with Marie-Claire Alain and Jacques Taddei. He is the first and only organist from Northern Europe to win the “Grand Prix de Chartres”. But his influences are quite eclectic, including folk rock and symphonic rock, so this is not some standard organ recording, but a deeply personal response to the Sami people and others whom he grew up with, littered with the sounds of old and new instruments, and the unique vocal yoik, one of the oldest living music traditions in existence, and meant to embody the essence of the person or place speaking. The poetry in the songs speaks of nature, comfort, warmth amidst the cold, and love.
Some are infused with a gentle rock-style beat—never anything really complex—but others have a penchant for lyrical richness that takes your breath away. I am thinking especially of the instrumental Saari Polska describing Saari Island in the setting sun of autumn—it sure makes me want to go there. But all of these works have their charms and attractions, and overall it is one of the most bittersweet, nostalgic, and life-affirming albums I have come across in a long time, and I am sure it will get a lot of air time at my house.
The surround recording is also first rate, with discreet channeling of various instrumental strata spread nicely around the speakers, all the while centered in a space a little in front of the main speakers right above your head. This is a superb disc that took me quite by surprise, and I encourage anyone in need of an hour of good feeling and basic spiritual restoration to give it a try.
1. Poem I
2. Vaggvisa / Cradle Song (Sami version)
3. Åtta årstider / Eight Seasons
4. Dans första snön / Dance of the First Snow
6. Finländares dans / Finlander’s Dance
7. Vattenanden / Song of the Water Spirit
8. Vaggvisa / Cradle Song (Swedish version)
9. Midvinter /Midwinter
10. Saari Polska
12. Renhjord över isen / Reindeer on the Frozen River
13. Dans till våren / Dance to Spring
14. Sommarvind / Summer Wind
15. Vaggvisa / Cradle Song (Meänkieli version)
16. Vaggvisa II / Cradle Song II
17. Poem II – Epilog
— Steven Ritter