It’s a tough balance the Finnish artist known ad GEA is trying to hit: combining traditional folk music with electronica and even EDM is no easy feat. On her last EP Butterflies, GEA’s answer was to go minimal, with only a few ambient electronic ornamentation and even less in the way of backing music. It was nonetheless a triumph, taking ambient, soulful electronica to a level it really hasn’t seen since the early 00s. On her new EP Snow, GEA has gown bolder, bringing in a full compliment of traditional instrumentalists as well as adding more electronic flavor not only in the ambient background but in the beat. The results are stunning.
When recording traditional Nordic music, it stands to reason that some ambient electronic elements need to be added, as most of the style GEA does comes from ancient cattle calling vocal songs. There is a tremendous amount of echo in these songs due to the landscape they’re performed on and that’s what gives them their beautiful, ethereal quality. Some might remember the video of a woman (Jonna Jiton) in a field in Sweden calling to the cows and how stunning it was just with a good microphone. That is the tone and timbre of GEA’s extraordinary voice and it can easily stand alone, so anything she adds to the songs compositionally is a bonus.
With Snow, it’s clear that GEA took some chances, adding lots more electronic elements into the opening track “Time” and the title track. in fact, “Time” comes very close to a trip hop or slow breakbeat. In the latter portion of the EP GEA takes even more chances, adding an indie flavor and some avant-garde composition to “In Memorian,” “Blueberry Sky” an closing track “Untrue.”
At the same time, she adds more traditional instrumental elements to these last few tracks: traditional Nordic strings, flutes and drums. She even includes some more primal-sounding drum patterns. It’s interesting because while many of these beats are being made on analog drums and have been for centuries in Scandinavia and Finland, they sound thoroughly modern and even, dare we way, mixable.
Snow really speaks for itself as an album and is another triumph for GEA. Music this timeless really doesn’t need to be defined by a genre; GEA’s struck a beautiful and universal chord here. Here’s hoping she continues to connect modern music with its ancient history for a long time to come.