This Friday, Estonian musician Maarja Nuut will release her latest full-length studio recording Une Meeles. In English the album’s title translates to In The Hold Of A Dream. The twelve-song album is set up as a re-telling of pre-war Estonian musical traditions. It is assumed that pre-war refers to World War II. What is so interesting in noting this is that even if a listener were to come into this album without that knowledge, one would still clearly sense those roots throughout the course of the album’s short thirty-nine minutes. That clear influence couples with Nuut’s own modern musical elements to make the album a record unlike any other in the World Music realm today. The stories that Nuut offers audience in each song’s lyrical content proves this even more. One prime example of the impact of that mix of original music and lyrics comes in the form of the song ‘The Silken Feathered Bird.’ This will be discussed shortly. ‘The Horse Game’ is another example of what makes this record stand out. That will be discussed later. It is not the last remaining example of what makes this record stand out either. ‘The Swing Wants Mittens’ is one more example of what makes this record stand out. It is one of the most ear-catching of the record’s songs. All three songs show in their own way what makes Une Meeles such an interesting record to hear. Those songs, together with the album’s other nine compositions, make Une Meele a record that is one of the year’s most notable World Music offerings.
Maarja Nuut’s new album In The Hold Of Dreams is one of 2016’s most intriguing World Music offerings. That is due in large part to the album’s mix of pre-war Estonian musical culture and Nuut’s own modern musical elements. The lyrical content presented within each of the album’s songs plays just as much of a role in the album’s presentation as that played by the songs’ musical arrangements. The two together make the twelve-song record one of the most intriguing, standout offerings from the World Music realm so far this year. One point at which this is especially exhibited is ‘The Silken Feathered Bird.’ The song comes a little more than halfway through the album’s run. Its musical arrangement consists of Nuut’s own vocal delivery layered over a simple, also layered violin line. What’s interesting of the violin’s layering is the harmony that is created in said effect. It starts out with a simple, two-note line. That line is eventually doubled up with just the slightest variance in the secondary line. It is a variance that is so subtle that only a close examination of the song’s arrangement reveals it. Over time another layer appears to be created, which adds a harmony to the song’s two central lines. The layers themselves are interesting. The process in which each line was placed into the song creates a whole that is seamless and sounds just as if they were played by a group of musicians instead of just one. It is just one part of what makes this song stand out in Nuut’s new album. The song’s lyrical content is just as engaging as its musical arrangement. It isn’t just some song. It appears, rather, to be a story; one that one must assume is a classic Estonian story. The story centers on a “silken feathered bird” that built a nest not from gold nor from silver but from silk. When it laid its eggs, one was a silken feathered bird and the other two a crow and a grouse. After the birth of the birds, the story notes that the world was thus created. Having come up empty-handed on research about the song’s potential roots it is not known, at least by this critic, if there is any link to Estonian literary culture. Regardless, one can infer from the three types of birds and their personalities that they are meant to represent the earth’s different types of people. The silken feathered bird comes across as picky but also very smart and deliberate in its choices. The crow is noted to be a positive figure, too. The grouse however, is said to be lazy. Just as the birds each exhibited a different type of personality (despite being from one creator) so do the people of the earth exhibit their own distinct personalities. They are personalities that mirror those of the birds, too. Keeping that in mind the song’s lyrical content couples with its equally intriguing musical arrangement to make this song one prime example of what makes Une Meeles stand out. Just as notable is ‘The Horse Game.’
‘The Silken Feathered Bird,’ though it comes late in Nuut’s new album, is one of the album’s most notable inclusions. That is due in part to its equally engaging musical and lyrical content. The song’s musical arrangement seamlessly layers multiple lines together to form a musical foundation that is both simple and yet complex in its own way. The result is an arrangement that ensures listeners’ maintained engagement from beginning to end. The song’s lyrical content is just as certain to leave listeners talking and even doing their own research in the end. The combination of both elements makes ‘The Silken Feathered Bird’ one of the album’s most notable compositions. It is not the album’s only notable composition, however. ‘The Horse Game’ is another, equally notable inclusion in the album’s presentation. The album’s second song, this piece is just engaging as ‘The Silken Feathered Bird’ and any of the album’s other songs. Nuut utilizes a simple repetitive double-stop pattern as the foundation for the song’s musical arrangement. It is not even until roughly halfway through the song’s four-minute-plus run time that a harmony is included into the arrangement. The song eventually becomes even more complex from there with the inclusion of even more lines and even Nuut’s own vocals being layered time and again. That in itself makes this song more than worth hearing. The song’s lyrical presentation is just as interesting as its musical arrangement. Nuut sings here, “Let’s go, ol’ lale/Looking for the horse, ol’ lale/Listen, dear innkeeper / Dear landlady kroot/Have you seen my horse.” She goes on to describe the horse, noting in the song’s end for the wolf to catch the horse and eat it. More than likely the intent in those words was not for a wolf to actually catch the runaway horse. Rather one has to assume that the song’s subject is so upset by the horse’s disappearance that there is a mix of concern and anger at the horse. The story in itself will keep listeners engaged because of its content. When it is set against the song’s musical arrangement the two elements join together to make the song in whole another wonderful example of what makes the record stand out. It still is not the last example of what makes the album stand out either. ‘The Swing Wants Mittens’ is yet another example of what makes Une Meeles stand out.
‘The Silken Feathered Bird’ and ‘The Horse Game’ are both key examples of what makes Maarja Nuut’s new album stand out so starkly in this year’s new field of World Music offerings. Both present their own original musical arrangements and equally interesting lyrical content. As interesting as both songs are in the bigger picture of Une Meeles they are not the album’s only notable compositions. ‘The Swing Wants Mittens’ is just as attention-grabbing as those previously noted songs. That is due in part to its musical arrangement. The arrangement is based on a rather grinding metallic sound created by Nuut’s performance on the violin. It sounds as if she hit perhaps a high “F” above Middle “C” to create the sound. Nuut then sings in an almost mournful fashion over that sound, “Let’s go on the swing/Can this swing carry us/If it can’t then do away with it/What are you creaking about, dear swing/What are you squeaking about, base/What are you banging on about, crossbeam/The swing is squealing for mittens/The base for gifts/the crossbeam for red ribbons.” From here she goes on to sing about the swing letting the subject’s brothers get married, and then the swing and its parts will be rewarded. It is definitely an interesting lyrical concept likely based, again, on some Estonian pre-war tradition or story. Keeping this in mind, one understands at least slightly the mournful nature of the subject’s delivery ad the metallic sound at the arrangement’s base. The sound is the swing squealing and squeaking. The subject’s mournful vocal delivery perhaps is linked to memories of the swing and all that it has offered the subject and his/her brothers throughout the year. That is of course just an assumption being made by this critic. It hardly means it is the only or correct interpretation. Hopefully that interpretation is at least somewhere in the proverbial ballpark. Regardless the pairing of the two elements here makes this song one more clear example of what makes Une Meeles one of the most standout World Music offerings so far this year. That is not to ignore the album’s other included compositions. Each of those songs plays its own part in the album’s presentation, too. All things considered the whole of Une Meeles’ twelve songs—in their musical and lyrical content—make this album one that any World Music fan should hear at least once before the year is out.
Maarja Nuut’s new album Une Meeles is one of the most intriguing new World Music offerings so far this year. Between the musical arrangements at the base of each song and their equally engaging lyrical content within each song, the whole of the album’s songs makes it stand starkly apart from any of the year’s other World Music offerings. It will be available Friday, June 3rd in stores and online. More information on Une Meeles is available online now along with all of Nuut’s latest news and more at:
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