Virta, Elia Lombardini @ Tavastia, Helsinki, Finland, February 15, 2023 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Virta

Virta, Elia Lombardini

Virta, Elia Lombardini @ Tavastia, Helsinki, Finland, February 15, 2023,

Feb 19, 2024 Photography by Irina Shtreis (Lead photo) Web Exclusive
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It starts with soft guitar strums. A casual whistle adds some French chanson romanticism which is shortly converted into a polyrhythmic jazz-tinged chamanic session as the drums enter. Virta’s drummer Erik Fräki operates percussive elements from different realms. Alongside conventional snare drums and cymbals are bric-a-brac findings: a bunch of tin spoons, brass bells and a bicycle bell. All add different tones to this kaleidoscopic world. The moment of spiritual serenity is thwarted by a drumstick hit – a splash in the water of sound causing the whirlpool to speed up. The underwater current of Heikki Selamo’s Precision bass propels through the dense texture while celestial vocals and metallophone-esque sampler sounds by Antti Hevosmaa seem to be heard from heaven.

Elia Lombardini (photo by Ranieri Scoccia (IG @ransco))
Elia Lombardini (photo by Ranieri Scoccia (IG @ransco))

“Sininen” is one of the tracks from Virta’s third album Horros. Each composition is emblematic of the band’s name: from Finnish, virta translates as energy, stream or electricity. Signings of Finland’s main independent label Svart Records, the trio has had a cult following in their home country and far beyond. At venerable venue Tavastia, their status is obvious. The show takes place after Valentine’s Day amidst strikes affecting the public transport in Helsinki (neither metro nor trams run on that day while the bus service is limited). Still, the 700-capacity Tavastia is chock-a-block with fans. Some wear branded Virta T-shirts. This year, the band was nominated for the Emma Award (Finnish equivalent of Grammy) as the Best Jazz Collective.

Elia Lombardini (photo by Ranieri Scoccia (IG @ransco))
Elia Lombardini (photo by Ranieri Scoccia (IG @ransco))

On stage, Antti Hevosmaa (electronics, flugelhorn, trumpet, vocals), Erik Fräki (electronics, drums, percussion, vocals) and Heikki Selamo (bass, electronics, guitar, lap steel, vocals) are suffused with darkness. The only source of light is a brilliant installation by the band’s own set designer Jere Suontausta who comes from a visual art background. Hence, the immediate allusions. A huge foil screen is seen behind the three. The play of light turns the background into a moving version of the Horros cover. The artwork reflects essential components of the music: movement, fluidity and constant flow of sparkling energy. Brass instruments, trumpet and flugelhorn, employed by Hevosmaa, imbue the compositions with a vital force. On “Aamu”, the final track on Horros, the musician plays the custom-made Eclipse trumpet which unlike other instruments in this family has a softer velvety timbre as if it was the voice of a human.

Virta (Ella Lombardini - photo by Ranieri Scoccia (IG @ransco))
Virta (photo by Ranieri Scoccia (IG @ransco))

Similar anthropomorphic features can be traced in the set by Elia Lombardini, a Finnish-Italian solo artist providing support for Virta this evening. With violin and multiple effect pedals including Boss loop station, Lombardini channels emotional complexity and contemplation through multilayered ethereal compositions. Although some suggest a neoclassical approach at the core, e.g. “Flowers Of Life” from Lombardini’s latest album In Death and the Hunger for a Thousand Lives, others ostensibly bridge sources as distant Gregorian chants and Von-era Sigur Rós. Of seven compositions, six exist only in a live iteration and have never been recorded previously. The breathtaking final “Endtro” starts with Elia’s vocals recorded through a condenser microphone fixed to his violin. The loops spread across the space as if they were ripples on the water’s surface. It gradually evolves with multiple instrumental layers zooming out to the galactic scale. Fittingly, a circular neon light decoration above the stage, designed by Sofia Palillo, conjures up either a halo or a solar eclipse. Of course, it’s just a metaphor and the scenic elements are only props. Even so, the sense of sublime that both Virta and Lombardini invoke during this special show is haunting and lingers for a long time.




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