Auri are a remarkable folk ensemble from Finland consisting of the ever enchanting Johanna Kurkela blessing listeners with her spellbinding vocals as well viola playing, Tuomas Holopainen (Nightwish) gracing us with his talents as a backing vocalist & master of the keys, as well Auri’s very own jack of all trades folk instrumental master Troy Donockley offering not only both acoustic and electric guitars, but uilleann pipes, low whistles, bouzouki, aerophone, bodhran, keys, and augmenting the album with even more illustrious vocal work. The group’s 11 track self-titled album ‘Auri’ is an album none will want to look past, now allow me to have the absolute pleasure of illustrating just why we at Overdrive believe that to be true.
The first track The Space Between kicks off (quite literally) with tribal drumming which soon melts quite seamlessly into a beautiful vocal melody, the quality of which is absolutely impeccable. This track lays the foundation for the theme of the album that being a fanciful journey of both emotive splendour as well as a touch of eerie mystery. Following is I Hope Your World Is Kind, beginning with woodwind & key intro, soon met with a deep dynamic symphonic almost chant-like period soon softened with a story telling chorus, the song goes between the two once more and finds itself in an elevated chorus soon to be diminished with an unearthly outro consisting of spooky key work & a traditional folk wind melody.
Next, we have The Skeleton Tree, which has a very spirited beat-driven feel to it, a song one could find themselves dancing around.. well, a tree to in a ritualistic manner, incorporating an abundance of traditional folk instruments as well as electronic elements, this track will at the very least involuntarily swaying and toe tapping in your seat, a truly intoxicating piece.
Taking the album in a new direction is Desert Flower, beginning with a soft crescendo of strings being played both arco & pizzicato, the song is a slow emotive duet between Kurkela & Holopainen. It is a beautifully solemn addition to the album which plucked gently not only at the strings of the instruments used throughout but those of my heart, bringing me close to tears in its gentle yet stirring manifestation. Night 13 follows in the same vein, starting with a delicate melodic almost spoken-word quality to it which begins to build approximately halfway through consistently, raising the soulful motif into an incredibly powerful number, ending on a note much in contrast with how it began.
See is one of my favourite tracks on the album, a passionate piece seemingly assimilating an almost eastern vibe into its ethereal nature. This is something I wouldn’t be surprised to find in the soundtrack to a romantic adventure feature. An encapsulating introspective feat of the album, this track took me over completely.
The Name Of The Wind is a less than 4 minute insert (making it the shortest addition to the album) with the main focus on instrumental work layered with the divine though wordless voice of Kurkela complimenting the music in use as an instrument, this is a short but sweet segment, conveying just as much emotion as the rest of the album without the need for lyrical augmentation. Aphrodite Rising is a gorgeous acoustic feat of vibrant folk magnificence, the song is an upliftingly mystical & fairly feminine in nature which is no shock considering the song title, Aphrodite being the Greek goddess of love, beauty, fertility and of the like.
Savant brings with it a very different feel, the vibe being reminiscent of something almost Burtonesque in nature with a darker spooky theme that somehow manages to keep an air of delightful mystery at its side. The song certainly is a particular curious inclusion, though marvellous all the same. Underthing Solstice is another tune that brings an unearthly yet simplistic quality to the album, soft however haunting vocals usher in a profoundly magical chilling vibe, like that of a dark fairytale, halfway through the song goes from implying wistfulness to solidifying the spectral feel with the short accompaniment of low chanting and the ever evocative inclusion of an organ, the song then ends on a gentler note, as though it were a tale or lullaby to a child in bed with the implication of a storm right outside. Last but not least we have Them Thar Chanterelles, a distinctively European acoustic folk ditty, building from a playful humming like that of fairies in a forest to slow augmentation of strings, then woodwind, and soon drums establishing a blissfully spirited driving bringing an end to a tremendous album in a truly light-hearted manner.
I can hardly find the words to say how much I adored this album, with all of its contrasts and talented ability to convey both theme and emotion with such impactful technique & feeling, Auri have absolutely bowled me over!! I look forward to listening to it on repeat for months to come & certainly cannot wait for its release on March 23rd so I can share the wonder of this absolutely incredible album with others!!
Auri is out on March 23rd via Nuclear Blast. Pre-order your copy HERE!