Best Albums of 2018
selected by Tallinn Music Week



Right prior the end of 2018, Djerro, one of the the prime movers & shakers in Estonian underground since the early 90s, brought us a new part of his erotic fantasies created with electronic devices – his third full-length proper “DJERREXXIONS”. In a way it serves as a follow up to his hallucinogenic atmosphere of the imaginary cruising-club soundtrack (“Xxmagick“, 2016) and improvised re-interpretations of 70s electronic classics like Patrick Cowley (“Djerro Plays Musick“, 2017). “DJERREXXIONS”’ clinically crispy rhythm patterns seem to lead the listener to a more openly gay club with latex carpet and seedily styled atmosphere. (Creating THE atmosphere is Djerro’s hat trick in which he truly revels!).

These 10 frictions / djerrexxions work wonders for both upper and lower parts of the human body, whilst somewho managing to remake and repackage a good chunk of the very best of 20th century house and techno history for a more fluid ages yet to come.

♪♫ Album stream

Djerro on Facebook, Soundcloud.

ekke <BR>“Kangfarbenmodular”


ekke aka Ekke Västrik is a sound designer and composer, specializing mainly in modular synthesizers. In his compositions he uses sound objects, field recordings and modular synths, messing around with a myriad of plugs, wires to ensure he really “owns his own sound”. On his second full-length “Kangfarbenmodular, released under Detroid Underground, ekke is experimenting even more boldly. The compositions are varied in length and atmosphere and are highly texturized. Characterized by glitchy drones, nostalgic melodies and improvisation, the record is bursting with marvelous micro beats and shamelessly grand ideas. Having also created music for films, the album features a snippet from the film “Nukud ja tootemid” (2017).

Containing nods to IDM, glitch and ambient music, “Kangfarbenmodular” is for anyone with an ear for adventurous analogue electronic music. Jumping from chaotic to serene and nostalgic to downright eerie, that album is a must-listen with a set of good speakers or headphones.

♪♫ Album stream

ekke on Facebook.

eoins <BR>“Rites”


With several years in the making, “Rites” is the remake/remodel manifestation of the now gone Estonian indie punk band lack of Eoins, known these days as just “eoins”, a fastidious solo project of Madis Järvekülg. Rites” is the culmination of his singular vision of songwriting, combining influences from post-punk, folk, alternative rock and electronic music, characterized by restless rhythmic and harmonic convolution. It’s an album which isn’t content with settling down and is pushing forward with ceaseless restlessness. The multilayered vocals add a tinge of psychedelia into the mix as well as the listener is taken from one song to the next. It’s disorienting and you’ll like it.

“Rites” is a contemplative record which isn’t necessarily trying to please the listener with a certain groove or a guitar riff or a catchy chorus. These individual elements might be there in select places, but not at the same time in every song. It’s a carefully orchestrated labour of love, and it shows in the details. Definitely one of those “growers” requiring repeated listens with the promise of rewarding you for it as time goes by.

♪♫ Album stream

eoins on Facebook.

Ewert and The Two Dragons <BR>“Hands Around the Moon”

Ewert and The Two Dragons
“Hands Around the Moon”

One of the most successful Estonian bands ever, Ewert and The Two Dragons are back and better than ever with their fourth studio album “Hands Around the Moon“. It’s quite a departure from the mid-00s indie-folk matrix that once propelled them to stardom.

The new recording is full of fresh ideas and new approaches, brought to life with talented producer Sander Mölder. The melodies are airy, crisp and fresh like spring morning. “It’s still a Dragons record, but we were searching for a new approach and a way to step out of our comfort zone“, says the band’s vocalist Ewert Sundja.

From hypnotic downtempo to electronic pulsating and from psychedelic grooves to funky bass disco – this time the Dragons really seem to “own” their sound. Like they used to say in old-school music press – this is a welcome return to form.

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Ewert and The Two Dragons on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, www.

Holy Motors <BR>“Slow Sundown”

Holy Motors
“Slow Sundown”

Whilst Estonian dreamcatchers Holy Motors took their name from a rather plotless French movie then their debut album “Slow Sundown” manages to sound pretty logically woozy, doing exactly what its title hints on. It’s like a long, lonely drive towards the dusk on an empty highway, filled with the desolate, country-tinged shimmery twang, heavy reverb and some unwritten Morricone scores. Those who will join the band on their ride, will be wrapped in the hazy, narcoleptic feel reminiscent of Mazzy Star and the languid melancholy not unlike Mojave 3.

Slow Sundown’s saturated sounds of existential isolation are produced by Carson Cox, of Merchandise and Priests, and released under US indie label Wharf Cat Records.

♪♫ Album stream

Holy Motors on Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud.

James Wolfgang Rassakas <BR>“Lõuna-Rakvere Underground Volume 1”

James Wolfgang Rassakas
“Lõuna-Rakvere Underground Volume 1”

“Lõuna-Rakvere Underground Vol. 1”, the third album by producer and occasional emcee Rassakas, who assumed the moniker James Wolfgang Rassakas this time around, sounds like the first part of a chronicle. It might be this even without a sequel, for as with all of his output, it assumes an observant character.

The tracks revolve around existential themes, chavvy mayhem and various exploits of various people, functioning a bit like Notes from the Underground, but with irony sprinkled on, rather than vicious. This time around, the verses are fewer and sparser, with the music – mostly house with moody, atmospheric chords setting a fittingly nocturnal tone – playing first fiddle.

All in all, it’s a record that might look unassuming at first sight, but oozes craftsmanship underneath.

♪♫ Album stream

James Wolfgang Rassakas on Facebook, Soundcloud.

Maarja Nuut & Ruum <BR>“Muunduja”

Maarja Nuut & Ruum

The collaboration album by violinist Maarja Nuut and sound artist Ruum (Hendrik Kaljujärv), “Muunduja” (“Shifter”) was produced by Howie B (Björk, Brian Eno, Tricky etc.) and released under British Fat Cat Records’ 130701 imprint. It’s a delicate album of intricate melodies and mindful use of space. Firmly grounded in Estonian folk music, Nuut deconstructs the tropes of traditional music and lays them on a bed of modern electronic soundscapes.

Kaljujärv’s years of experience as a sound designer for theatre plays provides a strong foundation for this collaboration which according to Nuut is “essentially the recording of two musicians’ inner travels”. You can hear that nothing here is excessive and nothing is left purposefully minimalistic – everything plays its part with a singular focus. Nuut’s voice is just gorgeous and fills the empty space with just enough colour to not let the music sound too distant.

“Muunduja” succeeds because it offers something for both the brain and the heart. It doesn’t sound like the past and the future were put together, it sounds like it was already born this way.

♪♫ Album stream

Maarja Nuut on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. Ruum on Facebook.

Maria Faust <BR>“Machina”

Maria Faust

A Denmark-based saxophone player and composer, originally from Saaremaa, an island in Estonia, Maria Faust doesn’t conform. Her latest album “Machina” is “a chamber music universe without drums, but with horns, two basses, cello, and piano, all in a fascinating interaction with the engines of fishing boats sputtering their way through the fog, the creaks of old rusty hulls, the hum of the breeze and the call of the birds out at sea.”

It’s an instrumental journey full of melancholy melodies, bursts of rhythm, joy and contemplation. There’s freedom and constraint, resulting in periods of free-jazz atmosphere as well as dissonance reminiscent of Penderecki on “Undine”. The nautical theme of the album, reached by Faust through her “memory analysis”, is “the water as a symbol of a natural and unpredictable force of oppressed feelings like anger and sorrow”.

It’s a beautiful record of multitude of influences and techniques coming together to form a whole which transcends the categories of modern chamber music.

♪♫ Album stream

Maria Faust on Facebook, Soundcloud, www.

Mart Avi <BR>“OtherWorld”

Mart Avi

If someone would invent a direct Thoughts-to-Music interface, then Mart Avi would probably be able to craft a song that would cause a tsunami from Yokohama to Nevada – so intense and inventive are his high-end concepts of 21st century pop.

The fourth solo full-length record “OtherWorld” by Estonia’s acclaimed “Bowie meets Burial” singer and electronic producer Avi is the soundtrack of a parallel world; one of strange riches, of snortingly beautiful music displaying a Mycenaean loucheness. It is a record which goes beyond feeling like a film soundtrack or music for a virtual reality designed by the ghost of JG Ballard for those with a wandering ear.

It’s radioactive quant-soul for DNA hackers,“ says Mart Avi himself about his “inner-pop” masterpiece. “Bleed a different quality… Surrender to it.”

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Mart Avi on Facebook.

Ratkiller <BR>“Threnody to Smaug”

“Threnody to Smaug”

An idiosyncratic producer and sound-collagist Mihkel Kleis has been releasing music to and from the Estonian underground experimental music scene under several monikers already since the late 90s. “Threnody to Smaug”, released under one of his more productive aliases Ratkiller is an odyssey of noisy psychedelic electronica which knows no boundaries. Part sound collage, part musique concrète, part synthesizer torture – “Threnody to Smaug” is pure aural pleasure.

Albums like these rely greatly on the ambiance they create to get the repeated listens. “Smaug’s” atmosphere isn’t discomforting like with many noise records. Rather it’s more curious and inviting. It makes you wonder what’s going on in there. Who’s living there? What are they doing? Kleis has created a miniature world where factories are churning out something and someone is quite annoyed by it. Go have a listen and hear what they’re saying.

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Ratkiller on Facebook.

San Hani x Luurel Varas <BR>“Autorollo”

San Hani x Luurel Varas

San Han (Sun Honey) is known as a quirky art-hop personality who deflects the existing reality through the prism of textual and visual objects, displaying his very own sense of post-genre/ post-Yeezus world. Teaming up with the master of hazy beats Luurel Varas on “Autorollo” mixtape, he demonstrates a twisted kind of “back to the roots” approach.

Of course no trace of boom-bap of the 80s or the grittiness of the ’90s can be found there, but the lyrics seem somewhat more transparent, conveying observational engagement with “real” social issues, albeit garnering them with absurdist metaphors about the sadcore world around gas stations and dormitories, and dousing with a spiked beverage of artschool cool.

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San Hani on Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud.
Luurel Varas on Bandcamp, Instagram, Facebook.

Talbot <BR>“Magnetism”


After a five-year break, the doom metal duo Talbot has released their third album “Magnetism”, which is also their first album to feature their new drummer Evgeny Mikhailov, who joined the band in late 2013. Comprised of seven sludgy gems, “Magnetism” is Talbot’s strongest and most versatile offering yet. Magnus Andre’s varied instrumentation is one of the reasons Talbot stands apart from other modern doom metal axe-wielders. With no electric guitars in the mix, the middle end can be filled with synthesizers, which for some songs also yield more psychedelic results and help avoid falling into the tired old tropes of doom.

That said, “Magnetism” still seems like the heaviest record they’ve made to date. The songs are heavy yet melodic enough to stick with you for a long time. They’re complex and long, but become familiar as you traverse their corridors again and again. It’s a record that reveals more of itself with repeated listens as the layers peel off.

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Talbot on Facebook, www.

Tommy Cash <BR>“¥€$”

Tommy Cash

“¥€$” is Tommy Cash shuffling his cards and serves maniacal cackles; as he finally reaches Act II of his journey.

The sophomore album is his first to drop after a considerable international breakthrough, and while the man from “Euroz Dollaz Yeniz” (or “€$¥”), his 2014 debut, is is recognizable in both character and voice, he’s wrapped in a completely different sonic linen this time around.

The trap-tinged backdrops are replaced by more experimental, jarring soundscapes, mainly courtesy of Boys Noize and PC Music head honcho A.G. Cook. Features Brazilian emcee MC Bin Laden and famed designer Rick Owens. Join the Cult of Cash!

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Tommy Cash on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Zahir <BR>“What Noise?”

“What Noise?”

After a quarter of a century on the scene, Estonian noise rock veterans Zahir have released the most realized vision of their craft. “What Noise?” perfectly combines Zahir’s limitless power and mature songwriting into an incredibly tight record. According to the drummer Margo Pajula the overall aim of the album was to capture the energy of their (famously ferocious) live performances. Having recorded the songs live, “What Noise?” also features the freewheeling and bitingly witty lyricism of singer-guitarist Tambet Jurno. Known for his often-hilarious stage banter and guitar antics, it really sounds like the whole band is in its own element.

Combining noise rock, punk and blues while taking cues from the playbooks of The Jesus Lizard, The Fall and The Jesus and Mary Chain, Zahir is a beast of its own making. With a firm hand they’ve always done their own thing and having just topped nearly all the prominent local critics’ year-end lists, it’s safe to say they’ve created something of lasting value to the rock canon of Estonian music.

♪♫ Album stream

Zahir on Facebook.