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PREVIEW: Tallinn Music Week
John Rogers , March 27th, 2014 07:59

Our man by the Baltic John Rogers gives us the lowdown on his highlights of this year's Tallinn Music Week, which starts today

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The annual Tallinn Music Week kicks off this week, as the picturesque Estonian capital basks in an unseasonably mild March. A festival with a conjoined conference and seminar programme (this year including an appearance by controversial Russian punk-rock collective Pussy Riot), Tallinn's many music halls, bars, cinemas, theatres and basement venues will play host to over 200 bands from the Baltic and Nordic regions, with a smattering of other international acts.

Estonia's interesting geopolitical and cultural position, between Russia and the Nordic countries, give Tallinn Music Week a distinctive musical character. Much like Reykjavík's Airwaves festival, it offers incomers a chance to unearth a treasure trove of underexposed local acts. We combed through the lineup ahead of Thursday's kickoff to present new music by some of the most interesting acts on the 2014 bill. For more information on the festival, please visit their website.

Faun Racket

Faun Racket's singer Andrea Lõo (image above) is a cult star on the Estonian scene, also known for his work as a film composer and art-maker. His work ricochets around the music spectrum in an alarming and pleasing fashion from year to year, from melodramatic cracked-actor solo work to fried, woozy psych-pop bands. With his latest project Faun Racket, he joins with collaborator Talis Paide to inject dancefloor-oriented tracks with his distinctive sensibility and vocal delivery. The results are hypnotic and disconcerting, culminating in an unusual brand of demented, theatrical dance music.

Kreatiivmootor

Kreatiivmootor are a genuinely dizzying and unique collective. Fusing together disparate and contrasting elements including improvisational jazz squiggles, motorik beats, electronic flourishes, and the snarling, yapping vocalisations of lightning-rod frontman Roomet Jakapi (who's also a professor of philosophy), Kreatiivmootor whip up an inspired, free-form, chaotic sound. In full flow, they're an overwhelming and unlikely spectacle that can tip a rowdy crowd into a kind of dance-party fervour.

Vul Vulpes

Refeshingly resistant to any kind of genre definition is Vul Vulpes, a.k.a. Estonian producer and vocalist Mari-Liis Rebane, who creates an impressively fluid racket of electronic noise, languid beats, spoken word and bass squalls. Rebane has a genuinely discursive, unpredictable and free-thinking approach to what she’s making, leading to a heavy, intoxicating atmosphere. It's great already, and she’s just getting started.

Dad Rocks!

This Danmark-based Icelandic maestro is single-handedly reinventing folk music for the modern age. His lyrical stories revolve around issues like cellphones disturbing sleep patterns, anorexia and body image, air pollution and the internet copyright wars, weaving the fabric of contemporary culture into an insightful, humane and melodic tableau. His second album “Year Of The Flesh” is coming later in 2014, and by all accounts, it’s an orchestral work of Sufjan-sized ambition. Keep an ear out.

Talbot

Talbot are another notable presence on the seemingly endless production-line of Estonian left-field bands presented at Tallinn Music Week. They build a pulverising sound from the stripped down combination of battering drums, distorted bass and roared vocals, coming off like mutant metal underscored by fearsome grooves. It’s hard to believe only two people can make such a huge noise.

Blood Pavilion

Jaarmo Nutre is the former powerhouse drummer of Talbot - a striking, heavy-set, tattoo covered dude who seems in danger of reducing his kit to rubble at every show. Blood Pavillion is his electronic project, but that’s not to say he lets up: it’s dark, dense coldwave; fierce, eerie and unremitting.

M-Band

M-Band is Reykjavík-dwelling multi-instrumentalist Hörður Bjarnason, who makes atmospheric electronic music with skittering rhythms and dubstep-influenced heavy bass, topped with layered vocals that meander through labyrinths of synth lines, flexing drones and twinkling micro-melodies. The tempo simmers low, and the tracks meander along tunefully and thoughtfully, weaving an engrossing wash of sound.

Check back next week for a Things Learned At Tallinn Music Week roundup.