Best Albums of 2016
by Ingrid Kohtla from Tallinn Music Week

Djerro <BR>“Djerro Plays Musick”

“Djerro Plays Musick”

Erkki Tero aka Djerro has been the prime mover & shaker in Estonian underground since the early 90s when he was leading the high-voltage noise duo ÖÄK. He´s also the essential one-third of the hypnotic bio-electronics hippy pop trio 3 Pead and the co-founder and runner of Estonian indie label Eesti Pops.

“Djerro Plays Musick“ is an effective follow up to Djerro’s 2015 solo full-length “Xxmagick“, a hallucinogenic ode to artificial pleasures. Associations and traces to Brian Eno, Terry Riley et al can be tracked on these improvised re-interpretations of electronic, ambient and space classics but not once does it sound passé.

The very best pop music is based on the essence of dance music or anything from the neck down but these bodily sonics are surely sending some fascinating oscillations both up and down one´s spine. The most conscious massage session at the Subconscious Sound Spa.

♪♫ Listen: “Heavenlies” + album stream

Djerro on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook.

Florian Wahl <BR>“14”

Florian Wahl

Sensual and surreal ghost pop by the underground artist in a romantic 27 Club dreamworld that features Japanese imagery, a twisted sense of humour and extreme fragility.

“14“ is littered with technical trickery and effects from autotune to synthesised ghosts and references from Sakamoto to Lynch. Florian´s sound and vision is frequently tagged as ghost pop or vaporwave, though such labels might codify him too rigidly.

His tender, lo-fi magic blends in a colourful, shibuya-ish way, taking cues from anime soundtracks to French impressionism. Whether Florian is singing in Japanese, sampling porn or Winny the Pooh, he always expresses himself in heartfelt and ethereal ways.

♪♫ Listen: “Cyberpunk Atlantis” + album stream

Florian Wahl on Soundcloud, Bandcamp,

Go Away Bird <BR>“Sleep On It”

Go Away Bird
“Sleep On It”

An Estonian (Hanna), a Russian (Stanislav) and an American (Dirk) step into a bar, and after a while Go Away Bird is born.

The debut album by this international threesome feels like the ten-track cross-section of vintage nineties and noughties indie pop. They have taken the goofiness of twee and the cockiness of garage rock, poured them over with cool sensuality and a little touch of that western soul, and coated it all with dream pop’s sugary glaze.

Go Away Bird is trying to do less though within every single song, relying more on extremely accurate songwriting and self-conscious post-everything posturing, so the result is surprisingly functional, knowingly primitive indiepop.

But there are still some subliminal touches that don´t provide strict answers, forcing the listeners to search for traces of hidden madness lurking in dark corners.

♪♫ Listen: “Painkiller” + album stream

Go Away Bird on Facebook, YouTube.

Jüri Pootsmann <BR>“Täna”

Jüri Pootsmann

Estonian Idol 2015 season winner and Estonia´s attorney at last years Eurovision Song Contest, Jüri Pootsmann continues his artistic journey with nothing but drive in his eyes, mind and cool-cat poses.

The hi-gloss sound of “Nii või naa“ is a big leap from the retro sound we heard on his Eurovision entry “Play”, and the title song “Täna“ will haunt anyone with half an ear right after the first listen.

Meanwhile, the ethereal dark ballads, slow motion trips to the other side of pop, sensual murmurs, sublime percussion and echoes from the 90s show clearly that he is a soft power weapon to be reckoned with.

The Grand Magician behind the scenes is Sten Sheripov, composer and producer of the album.

♪♫ Listen: “Nii või naa” + album stream

Jüri Pootsmann on Facebook, Instagram, www.

Maarja Nuut <BR>“Une Meeles”

Maarja Nuut
“Une Meeles”

Maarja Nuut is a fiddle player, singer-songwriter and folk stylist of prodigious promise who uses technology to rework Estonian lore to create impressively original songs and soundscapes.

“Une Meeles“ flows as if it’s one continuous track, with lots of little recurring ideas and melodies popping up throughout the album. The relentlessly hypnotic, repetitive qualities of her songs seem to be drawn from a never-sleeping otherworld.

Indeed, Maarja has admitted that her mission is to explore the emotional spaces the border on the conscious, waking state. Sometimes these borders are designated by fiddle, sometimes by the author’s own foot stomping or hand clapping, or through looped vocal lines.

Her music is lacking any luscious frills or clever-clever trickery, yet it excerts a continual, heady and slightly unsettling spell over the listener. A stunning effort from the wise talent.

♪♫ Listen: “Kilk tahab kindaid” + album stream

Maarja Nuut on Facebook, Soundcloud, www.

Mart Avi <BR>“Rogue Wave”

Mart Avi
“Rogue Wave”

Post-producer and vocalist Mart Avi has fronted Madchester-citing artpop group Badass Yuki and “small town swank-rock gang” Stones & Holes, co-created some weirdly wonderful torch songs with the reverend of leftfield house, Ajukaja, whilst managing to release three critically adored solo albums – all that in just a few years.

His ghastly baritone, sound experiments and mannerisms have been compared to Scott Walker, Billy MacKenzie, David Bowie, and even Victorian-era explorers, yet his third full-length, “Rogue Wave“ bares more transitions than your average dadrocker or vaporwaver could ever count.

Here’s blue-eyed yuppie-soul and twisted synthpop, against the slices of rampant RnB, auto-tuned yodels, boxing footwork, and chopped-up trumpet blips. It’s all bygone pop-eras steamed out, ripped to shreds and stretched out into the realms of trans-humanist future. If pop music didn’t already exist and should be invented tomorrow, then the outcome would sound something like that.

Estonia’s most influential end-of-year album list, compiled by 55 music critics for weekly Eesti Ekspress, placed “Rogue Wave” as No 2 album of 2016 – right after Bowie’s “Blackstar”.

♪♫ Listen: “Blind Wall” + album stream

Mart Avi on Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp.

Mick Pedaja <BR>“Hingake / Breathe”

Mick Pedaja
“Hingake / Breathe”

Mick Pedaja is a singer-songwriter from the small city Rapla in the heart of Estonia.

Carried by meditative quality, his trademark sound can be tagged as airy, floating, meandering, ambient, even cosmic. His work seems to bear a distinguishable inward focus, which can be described as a search for harmony and serenity.

References and comparisons to Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell have been thrown, but there´s some more to his songs than just the reheated Laurel Canyon and psych-folk trickery. It´s unmistakably the 21st century music with distorted vocals, broken beats and field recordings sculpted into synth sounds.

It´s not a call from the deep forest full of floating fairies, but from the brushwoods of current radio waves. “Hingake / Breathe” is the future sound of new age.

♪♫ Listen: “Home“ + album stream

Mick Pedaja on Facebook, Soundcloud.

Ouu <BR>“Mango Fetch”

“Mango Fetch”

“Ouu is a machine made purely out of water in liquid form. If the machine made of water starts to freeze, then the music stops playing. We also play tennis, football, basketball, hockey and psychedelic rock-type music“, states the official intro of the band.

Ouu aka one of the last real-deal indie bands is like some postapocalyptic gang of gypsies, dressed in multicolored rags, but for some reason or other, manage to pull it off.

For every trainwreck of their gig, there are moments of spontaneous brilliance and a sense of danger that is a deliberate result of the DIY chaos. There´s eclectic, grandiose pop-psychedelia, cute indie-folk, twisted afrobeat – all a little messy and cranky – on their second album “Mango Fetch“.

It’s almost as though they keep things constantly close to falling apart on purpose, never forgetting that their strengths lay in the very amateurishness, and fragility, rebelliousness, extravagance and the ability to swindle us with big Tame Impala-ish scams like “Take Me Back In Time“ and twisted indie horror soundtracks like “La Maison de l’Horreur”.

♪♫ Listen: “El Pueblo Sonido” + album stream

Ouu on Facebook, Soundcloud.

Pastacas <BR>“Pohlad”


Pastacas is the moniker of Estonian folk-punk geek Ramo Teder who has released music under that name since early 2000s. “Pastakas” means “ball-point pen” in English, and Ramo likes to use this little instrument in his paintings and drawings.

By now he has moved on from early Warp-influenced electronica to his own quirky blend of experimental folk-pop which he creates using with looper, guitars, mandoline, flute, block flutes and vocals. Being kinda big in Japan he has also collaborated with Japanese twee chamber pop masters Tenniscoats.

Some wise men have said that only a philistine would follow the words and chords while the songs are playing, so take your seat and puzzle at this playful plate of “Pohlad“ / “Cowberries“ and surrender to the singularly bonkers sense it generates.

Nonsense syllables meet nursery rhymes, teeny-weeny yet hyperactive techno jabs soup up sunny melodies, slices of deep house roll over pastoral cattlefields.

♪♫ Listen: “Sinu papu” + album stream

Pastacas on Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp.

Ratkiller <BR>“Odor Orienting”

“Odor Orienting”

An 80s and psych tinged cassette release for the US Crash Symbols label from idiosyncratic producer and sound-collagist Mihkel Kleis displays elements of dance music yet in distorted, manipulated and juxtaposed stew of jazz, early electronic experimentation, reggae-bastard chords and plastic funk.

Deliciously batty, Kleis’ autodidactic approach to dance music is lithe enough to travel in many directions simultaneously without stretching itself too thin. A colourful cycle between day-dreams and hallucinations.

“Odor Orienting” features appearances from leftfield house producer Ajukaja and experimental artist Benzokai, both fellow Estonians, as well as a remix from Orange Milk Records co-proprietor Seth Graham.

♪♫ Listen: “Sympathy” (feat. Benzokai) + album stream

Ratkiller on Facebook, Bandcamp.

San Hani <BR>“Solaris”

San Hani

San Han (Sun Honey) is an art-hop personality who deflects the existing reality through the prism of textual and visual objects and allegedly digs his chunks of inspiration from the satistfaction and un-satisfaction of Eastern Europe’s suburbia and dark places”.

His approach to music-making is more reminiscent of the conceptual artist than the tried-and-tested rap act. Of course such freestyle approach is not unprecedented in today’s music scene inhabitated by Travis Scott, Babyfather et al, but Hani´s cut-and-paste, sketch-like aesthetics, spatial style and absent-minded transmitting of coded messages display his very own sense of post-genre flexing.

The production of “Solaris“ might be slightly uneven on sound quality, but it´s more than compensated by its author´s genre-swapping, magpie mindgames.

♪♫ Listen: “Meie päev“ + album stream

San Hani on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Facebook.

Wolfredt <BR>“Neverno”


Wolfredt is a solo project by Margus Voolpriit, former drummer of eminent Estonian shoegazers Dreamphish and Pia Fraus.

His second solo album “Neverno” takes the airy instrumentals and electronic beats of his debut “Lullabies to Vilhelmine” and shapes them into something slightly more gloomy, yet profoundly human, all the while making the transition from solo-artist purism to a more organic live-band context. There are more real drums on “Neverno”, and the indie-electronic wandering is kept on course with straight post-rock riffs.

Even though the texture of the tracks lets you think of the album as a collaboration of band members, Wolfredt has remained a solo producer and song writer providing an engaging, moving narrative. Only his own voice remains unheard. Or, almost so.
♪♫ Listen: “Night Has Eyes“ + album stream

Wolfredt on Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, YouTube.