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Maarja Nuut and Ruum

130701 / Fat Cat
Review by Tyran Grillo

Violinist/singer Maarja Nuut and electronic artist Hendrik Kaljujärv (a.k.a. Ruum) liberate their first studio collaboration, muunduja in quiet ceremony. The title, meaning “shifter” or “transformer” in Estonian, is an apt description of a sound that’s constantly in motion, changing form more often than an identity thief. That said, there’s nothing deceptive about the music of this liquescent duo. If anything, theirs is a drift of invitation through which the open-eared listener can float at will.

Nuut offers two voices upon the listener’s altar: one internal and the other external. In “Haned kadunud,” we encounter both. Her singing infuses a whispering drone and shelters a fetal heartbeat, giving way to a violin that transcends the womb to reveal another. Ruum’s environments are organic, as if grown over time and allowed to ripen before being transplanted into the album’s fertile soil. These dynamics set the tone for a journey trail-marked by checks and balances of ethereal design.

Other vocally centered tracks such as “Kuud kuulama” and “Kurb laulik” feel like runic songs from the future rather than the past, unlinked from time to ride pizzicato currents, while the landscape of “Mahe” seems forged in persuasions of wind, rock, and rain. Nuut’s soul is even starker in the instrumentals. Between the industrial touches of “Käed-mäed,” a graven image of beats and scrapings of bow, and the gentler “Muutuja,” wherein memories get tangled in her violin’s adhesive strings, harmonics take the place of singers whose words might otherwise upset a primal order. Whether along the cosmic pathways of “Takisan” or the Tim Hecker-esque snow blindness of “Miniature C,” Nuut and Ruum traverse rugged terrains toward “Une meeles,” a psychological farewell that cherishes life by its resignation unto death.

As a whole, muunduja is suffused with blushes of trauma and healing in equal measure, each a mutually exclusive state of being that feeds the other from a distance. There’s a sense of having sailed the ocean between them, even as the music dances along uncharted shores on either side. - Tyran Grillo

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