Words by Nigel Williamson
Could she be the Björk of the Baltic?
The 2013 debut album by the Estonian fiddler and singer Maarja Nuut secured her a WOMEX showcase, which those lucky enough to have been present say took their breath away. Still in her mid-20s, she has released a second album that lives up to her prodigious promise – and then some. There’s an experimental otherness that marks her out as a Baltic Björk; but her music is also deeply rooted, drawing on a rich patrimony of traditional Estonian village songs and dance tunes.
Her debut was titled Soolo (Solo) and she’s similarly unaided here, although her voice and fiddle are multi-tracked and looped to create startling layers of sound. The effect is subtle and sensitive and yet, in its way, it is as subversive as the work of the Finnish accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen. Tunes such as ‘Kargus’ start with a minimalist drone, to which Nuut then adds a more harmonious second fiddle before her voice wordlessly joins the mix, imperceptibly at first but gradually taking over the melody to create a shimmering tone poem. Other tracks, such as ‘Sidisulist Linnukene’ (The Silken-Feathered Bird) and ‘Vaga Linnuken’ (A Silent Little Bird) are more conventionally song-based although the drone is still prominent, as if the Velvet Underground had morphed into an Estonian folk band. Unique, extraordinary and as warm as it is weird.