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Review: Various Artists, Beginner’s Guide to Scandinavia

Various Artists
Beginner’s Guide to Scandinavia
[Nascente (2011)]

This three-cd set is compiler Tatiana Rucinska’s interpretation of what comprises modern Scandinavian music, which for this collection is defined as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and The Faroe Islands. Each disc has a theme: disc one is pop and contemporary; disc two is folk and roots; and disc three is jazz, experimental and atmospheres. Each contains 13 tracks that fit under these somewhat hazy boundaries.

Disc one sticks closely to its theme, opening with a strong track by Norwegian contemporary songwriter Kari Bremmes, moving on to others sung in English (the language of pop music) like House of Tree’s “Working Man’s Song” and Ane Brun’s “To Let Myself Go,” as well as other tracks sung in the artists’ native languages. Valravn, a folk group, gets included here because they perform an original song. There are no rock or up-tempo tracks included.

Disc two includes some well know groups, including Hedningarna, Varttina, Morild, Phonix and Boot, and mixes in a few instrumental tracks as well. The tracks are by and large modern in arrangement, most with woman vocalists with keyboards and percussion.

Disc three cuts the widest path: some piano and horn jazz (but nothing too passionate or busy), some folk style pieces, some ambient music and a piano and string track by Abba’s Benny Andersson.

What’s most telling about this collection (and its greatest strength), is its seamless flow from track to track. Nothing is too frantic, nothing too slow or moody. Each disc works as a separate collection, and while it might not ultimately work as a complete beginners guide, it does stand on its own as a singular musical statement. And with some Amazon vendors selling this for as little as $8, it’s well worth the investment as a standalone collection of interesting music.

—Jim Lee (Simi Valley, CA)

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