Tango-Orkesteri Unto: Dark Wings of the Night

February 13, 2017

Shadow and Stars

Listening Post 86: The range of human emotion stays largely the same, even in physical landscapes that are poles apart. So perhaps the mystery of Finnish tango lies not in how it flourishes on subarctic ground but, rather, in the eternal shadows of passion. One indicator of how rooted the century-old Argentine import is in Finnish culture is the exquisite sound of Tango-Orkesteri Unto—six virtuoso musicians with parallel careers in folk, jazz, classical and theater music. On Dark Wings of the Night (Yön tummat siivet) the group’s third album, Pirjo Aittomâki’s warm, soulful voice and the ensemble sweep one another into the air. Melancholy aches and glows across 12 tracks—classic and recently composed, including two each by the band’s pianist Timo Alakotila and accordionist Johanna Juhola. In Jos minut vielä kohaat (If You Ever See Me Again), resignation reigns: “The night lays its head on the dewy grass, the light in your window is still burning bright,” Aittomäki laments, adding, “I wish for one thing only—to forget you” (video 1). In Juna (Train), flight eases agony: “The train dashes through the icy night… and my broken heart heals with the race” (video 2). Finnish tango can also be upbeat, as in Humalapuu (Hop Tree): “Under your eyes, to the edge of light/Together we bear the light burden of the wreath,” Aittomäki sings (video 3). Other key tracks are Huudetaan (Shouting), about a heated argument followed by fervent reconciliation; and the title song—written by Unto Mononen, the great composer honored in the band’s name—acknowledging that night can shelter as well as oppress the love-afflicted. Yes, it takes two to tango, but this album shows what marvels you can produce with the perfect six. (ARC Music)






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