Last week, the duo Maarja Nuut & RUUM (Hendrik Kaljujärv) released their first joint album Muunduja (‘shifter’ in Estonian) that was presented at two concerts in Estonia – on Thursday, October 4 at Tartu New Theatre and on Friday, October 5 in Tallinn at club HALL. I participated in the Tallinn concert.
Besides Maarja and Hendrik, there were four other performers. The evening started with Klara Lewis, who was the only one who performed at the upper floor of HALL which is called Mesila (‘apiary’ in Estonian). The artist was located in a construction that was designed like a honeycomb – a very suitable place for a name like that. The artists who perform on that stage are like busy melomaniac queen bees, who can make all the small worker bees to dance together towards and around them. The strong atmospheric sounds created by Klara invaded the entire body and made every single body hair to shiver in the same rhythm with the continuous low bass in the background.
The performance of Klara Lewis was followed by an album presentation and the second half of the evening was filled with the sounds of Hüpnosaurus, Ats Luik and Jamaica Suk. The first two were able to attract people to the dancefloor with their ever-increasing, shifting, and transforming rhythmic layers. Unfortunately, I don’t know how Jamaica Suk contributed to the night, but after listening to her musical preferences later at home, I believe that her performance was definitely enjoyable. As the night went on, the crowd went smaller and smaller but this is definitely not a sign of the lack of high-quality music but rather the fact that the main part of the crowd had come primarily to listen to the album presentation, and other performers were just additional value of sorts that you could choose to listen to or not, depending on your schedule and preferences.
I had high expectations toward the main event of the evening – the album presentation. The whole week was like an introduction to the concert, I listened to the radio interviews with the duo from Raadio 2 and also the songs from their newly released and their previous album. From all the information I got during the week, it’s worth bringing out that the new album includes some new instruments, the use of which was the idea of a producer Howie B from the UK, with whom they collaborated in the first half of the creative process. Howie B was therefore an important catalyst who helped to break the old creative patterns. However, the album has been put together by the co-producer Evar Anvelt, who contributed to the process after the material had been settled in the time mud for months. All these various factors are felt while listening to the album, each giving a different colour to the songs.
Returning to the experience I had on last Friday, it’s noteworthy that at first, it seemed like their songs are similarly structured as before – Maarja starts the songs with her voice by creating already-known rhythm layers, which at one point is accompanied by a violin and followed by an electronic background. However, my initial feelings were quickly disproved because soon the completely new ways of creating sounds were added which offered great moments of discovery. In addition to the masterful handling of violin and looper, Maarja also played, for example, keyboards. Also, the soundscape was more electronic than before. When I wrote about Üle Heli Festival in 2016, I stated: “Together they formed a well-functioning duo, where, however, mostly Maarja’s intimate violin layers and simultaneously powerful and gentle singing voice were dominant. But in some of the songs, it was still possible to feel the virtuous charm of Hendrik’s deep bass.” Two years later, it can be said that the duo has achieved a well-functioning synergy, where both parties have something to say – they are complementing, commenting, highlighting each other while telling the same story and it is also perceived by the audience.
And what is this story they are telling? While listening to their music, the thoughts traveled to the historical distances and the experiences of the recent past. In parts, their music includes something very ancient, magical, it makes you feel like you are walking on the edge of a dream. On the other hand, it’s an invitation to be here and now, to move towards full self-realization. The traditional and electronic worlds have been interwoven, creating a link between the forgotten and the current moment. And as it comes out, these are not so different phenomena. Rather, it may be said that soundscapes that seem to be different at first sight, actually blend together perfectly because they are based on the same desire to express internal experiences and feelings.
Now I want to summarize some of the discussions that I had with my fellow audience members during the concert in the HALL. First of all, we were thinking that perhaps another venue would have been better for the presentation. It was difficult to find a good place in the hall where you could catch all the details of the music. An intimate experience characteristic of listening to the music of Maarja Nuut was missed. It was definitely difficult to bring music close to people in the room with such high ceilings and stone walls. For making better conclusions about the venue, it would be interesting to compare the experience with the concert in Tartu. But there was also a different kind of longing – the songs could have been a bit longer. Somehow, these meditative journeys ended too quickly and I would have happily added five minutes to some of the songs.
A special mention goes to Kristjan Suits‘s visuals that supported the soundscapes perfectly without overpowering them. The visuals evoked some images of a forest, the swaying trees, space, magic. There was a continuous slow movement, which had to be truly focused on to notice it. In this way, a parallel could be drawn with the music – for both the visuals and the music, it was necessary to engage with the material and to delve into them in order to truly appreciate the experience.
To sum up, it can be said that the newly-released album is really enjoyable and well thought out and it takes you on a journey. This concert last week was one chance to participate in this journey. But many chances are yet ahead. There will be an album presentation tour in several locations across Europe and, of course, it is possible to buy the album. The additional information can be found on the website http://maarjanuut.com/en. Soon, the record Muunduja will also be on my shelf and my record player reminding me its goodness again and again.