What was one an Anglo American stranglehold on pop culture has gradually been removed and it’s no surprise to not only find a vibrant and thrilling music conference in a country like Estonia but also whole clutch of great home grown bands playing there says John Robb.
The furthest corner of Europe Estonia is perched at the top of the Baltic states with one eye on the future and one eye glancing nervously back at the neighbouring Russia. Independent now for a couple of decades one of the three Baltic States is experiencing an economic boom led by Skype and many other tech industries.
This new found confidence pervades the music scene and the surprisingly vibrant annual Tallinn Music conference is packed full of interesting bands from all genres and a real reflection of the cultural speed of the country.
Playing in venues all around the beautiful old town of Tallinn the bands take full advantage of the atmospheric back streets and and ancient squares and a 21st century beat resounds around the cobbles and mini turrets of the city. As ever we tried out best to get to everything but time and geography meant that we must have missed a bunch of good stuff but from what we saw here is out top 5.
If there is one band that looks set to break out of Estonia and onto the international stage it is I Wear* Experiment are the cream of the current crop of post rock electro pop bands that dominate the local music scene. With their polyrythmic drummer and ice cold harmonies the band are steers ahead of most of their international comeption and their well thought out songs that are built around great dynamics they are very much international contenders.
Every song has a character of its own and a unique homegrown atmosphere and a brooding innate power that is perfect 21st century pop and a real command of the huge and emotional dynamics that is more than hypnotic and held together by Johanna’s superb and haunting vocals. Not only the best young band in Estonia but one of the best young bands waiting to be signed up anywhere- I Wear* Experiment will be an international big hitter is someone is smart enough to sign them up now.
2. Winnie Puhh
Like everywhere in the world there is a lot of rock in Estonia- it’s the modern folk and Winnie Puhh trade on a ridiculous over top gonzoid lycra take on energised end of metal. They crush madcap beats and a furious sense of humour of an early Chili peppers into a 21st century speed and added intense madness and their over the top antics and sense of manic hyper fun will probably grate with some duller people but make for an entertaining and fantastically ridiculous spectacle that would work perfectly on the international festival circuit.
From Helsinki Damn Seagulls take the short trip over to the sea to bond with their similar language speaking cousins in Estonia and their neo Afghan Whigs take on the crossover between good time rock n soul with a punkish edge is all about classic songs and classic chords with sharp guitars and tight harmonies that have a polished almost BBC 6 music idea of alternative music to them.
The local darker metal scene is well represented at Tallinn Music weeks- it’s very much a big feature of these baltic events and a positive addition to the music programming compared to their British counterparts which ignore the local rock scenes with a vengeance. Hukkunud Hinged cross a classic dark and feral melancholic metal with a desert blues almost psych trip and feature some really powerful and lamenting female vocals.
5. Albert Swarm
There is a lot of melancholy in the music in Estonia and Albert Swarm from Helsinki hook into this with their brooding electronic music that sounds like the swirling rain and the endless dark winter nights but also has a big spacious sound to it and an addictive darkness in its instrumental spaces.