Tuuletar: Rajatila/Borderline

Tuuletar’s debut album introduced vocal folk hop, a performance style of a cappella harmony, beatboxing, gesture and movement that filtered the natural world through Finnish mythology. Listening to Rajatila (Borderline), the group’s second album, is—for want of a better analogy—akin to reading Ulysses: It’s experimental, challenging, brilliant, but instead of the tranquil … More Tuuletar: Rajatila/Borderline

Mari Kalkun: Ilmamõtsan

One of Europe’s smallest nations, Estonia is also among the most heavily forested. “The woods are a sacred place for many of us,” observes folksinger-songwriter Mari Kalkun. “Many Estonians have a spiritual connection to the trees, and a walk in the forest can be compared to a mini-pilgrimage.” Kalkun’s music is based on ancient regilaul chants, which she refreshes with newly composed works, and at the heart of Ilmamõtsan (In the Wood … More Mari Kalkun: Ilmamõtsan

Solju: Ođđa áigodat

Nothing is permanently frozen in time. In Sápmi—the Sami homeland that straddles northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia’s Kola Peninsula—this can be both blessing and curse. Ođđa áigodat (New Times) is a vivid record of a people fighting to preserve culture and language, even as development and climate change shrink their wilderness. The album’s authors are Ulla Pirttijärvi and Hildá Länsman, the mother-daughter/singer-songwriter duo from … More Solju: Ođđa áigodat

Kata: Tívils døtur

The voices of the women’s quintet are celestial and the album was recorded in a church dating from 1250, but the words embedded in Kata’s enchanting harmonies tell mostly cautionary tales. Tívils døtur (Tivil’s Daughters) features mythical heroes and folk figures, trolls, witches, giants, slayers and, always in the middle, vulnerable women—all figures in traditional songs from the Faroe Islands. Kata performs a cappella save for light drum and … More Kata: Tívils døtur

Folk’Avant: Gryningsland

Step away from the urgent world and into the dazzling universe of Gryningsland (Daybreak), by the Swedish-Finnish trio Folk’Avant. Anna Wikenius, Maija Kauhanen and Anna Rubinsztein—who met at Stockholm’s Royal College of Music—call their self-composed songs “experimental Nordic folk,” and they produce a sound that’s both tight (three voices, two instruments) and spacious. Drift on leisurely opening movements that merge into symphonic soundscapes, relish the strings and savor the … More Folk’Avant: Gryningsland