Scandinavia has a long tradition of musical innovation. From the dulcimer players and folk fiddlers of yore to the band of nineteenth-century classical composers (Nielsen, Sibelius, Rosenberg, Grieg) who consistently pushed the envelope, the Nordic region has always bristled with creativity. Nowadays contemporary musicians are fearless innovators unshackled by the politics of genre.

The album opens with the tinkling sounds of ‘Lóri’ by Icelandic ensemble Amiina. Other Icelandic contributions come from Valgeir Sigurðsson and múm. Heading east to Norway, the music of Arild Andersen, Benedicte Maurseth and Annbjørg Lien takes on a distinctly jazz-inflected tone. Sorten Muld are a Danish folktronica band who mix traditional lyrics with techno soundscapes. 

Swedish artist Katzen Kapell heard here draws on influences as broad as Nino Rota, Astor Piazzolla and Frank Zappa, all mixed in with Arabic and Eastern European flavours. Johan Hedin and Gunnar Idenstam excitedly explore the matching of organ and nyckelharpa. A contribution from the late and legendary Swedish keys player Lars Hollmer is a real treat too. Hollmer fused folk and progressive rock to produce ecstatic creative music.

Finnish musicians also make a sizeable contribution to the track list of this Rough Guide. Maria Kalaniemi and Timo Alakotila, Värttinä and Milla Viljamaa fuse flavours of Karelian, classical and electronic musics together into a tasty mix. Wimme Saari is one of the best-known sami joikers from Finland and features on the glorious techno-ambient track ‘Texas’.

An excellent bonus album from Finnish quartet Kardemimmit rounds off the package. Good friends, Maija, Jutta, Anna and Leeni, each play kantele and sing in delicate close harmony throughout, producing their trademark fresh and folksy style.