July 23, 2024

Maarja Nuut – Une Meeles Estonian otherworldliness and electronica

3rd June 2016

Estonian music, hanging in the air between folk, world, singer-songwriter and ambient. Packed with sawing fiddle, otherworldly vocals (try the percussive opening to Kargus) and a crystalline beauty. Despite the dubious claim that the album was recorded in a studio in a forest in the capital, the album smells of wood fires and cabins by lakes. Estonian is a wonderfully alien-sounding language and Maarja multi-tracks her voice with tones of colours undreamt of in English (though Gaelic can approach it).

It isn’t traditional folk music though; this is contemporary, featuring plenty of electronics and songs about buses as well as maidens, hills, forests and fables. A comparison might be Martyn Bennett’s Bothy Culture album. The intensity of the repeated fiddle patterns echo in the brain and the plucked strings and percussive brush detail give a pictorial clarity to the album, burning the atmosphere into the brain. Something like Odangule’s vocal patterns bring to mind the percussive voices of Indian classical music, while Kiik Tahab Kindaid combines drone with the singing of electrical cables in the wind under Nuut’s piercingly simple singing. Nuut has worked and studied in Estonia, Sweden and India, fetching and combining traditions, weaving them into something clear and strange.

Masarja Nuut works with loops a lot, cycling patterns and overlaying new elements on top in a hypnotic imagining of new song structures. The only common feature is a constant awareness of tempo and rhythms. The result is very arty, marvellously exotic, futuristic and yet (to these ears) very accessible.

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