Vasen/JPP | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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If the idea of folkloric music makes you think of crusty sounds, peasant costumes, and line dancing, the recent Nordic folk movement might take you by surprise. Drawing on traditions from across Scandinavia, it's fueled primarily by younger players eagerly incorporating rock and pop; in other "world music" contexts this might seem forced, but in the best of the new Nordic music the extraneous materials are subsumed, digested, and entirely reanimated. This free showcase presents two of the movement's finest acts. JPP, a Finnish string band nonpareil, includes four fiddles, upright bass, and harmonium; performing a couple of years ago at the Old Town School of Folk Music, the band was spectacular, despite its very humble name--short for Jarvelan Pikkupelimannit, or "little folk musicians of Jarvela." Its ultrarich harmonies demonstrate a modern sensibility, while the contours of its melodic lines are built on hybrid northern-European traditions. On the lovely "Koyrinkulma," from the band's new String Tease (NorthSide), it dives into quite outre territory--which makes sense, since the outest music in the world is real folk. The foursome Vasen is more overt in grafting non-Nordic elements--including aggressive fusion jazz--onto music from the northern Uppland region of its native Sweden. Olov Johansson's stunning nyckelharpa (a chromatic, keyed fiddle) mingles with viola, big acoustic-guitar chords, and detailed hand percussion to create a unique and extremely attractive array of textures and colors. But like JPP, Vasen kicks out the jams: the power chords and badass melody line of "Tartulingen," from the band's fourth and latest album, Whirled (NorthSide), could hold their own against any metal anthem, though the song's played entirely on acoustic instruments and contains moments of great delicacy as well as awesome drive. Vasen guests on two tracks from JPP's String Tease, so we'll probably hear some compound version of the two groups during this performance. Monday, 7 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630. John Corbett

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Vasen photo by Thomas Fahlander/ JPP photo by Jouko Lehtola.

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