Maarja Nuut - Hinged (Independent)

Maarja Nuut – Hinged (Independent)

Classically trained Estonian singer, violinist and musical polymath Maarja Nuut makes sounds that transcend the physical limitations of space and time. Nuut has mostly lent her talents on collaborations, for example with Ruum (aka Hendrik Kaljujarv) on 2018’s sublime Muundaja, but the new album Hinged, being entirely self-produced, feels even more liberating and alchemic.

Written in Nuut’s seaside studio in the margins of clearing and repairing her grandmother’s old farm (inherited during the pandemic), Hinged reflects on the layers of family history and her place within it, unravelling through abstract and spontaneous soundscapes using organic and inorganic instruments. The word Hinged itself holds two meanings: a mechanism that enables a door to open also happens to be Estonian for ‘departed souls’. An idea that binds this album beautifully, uniting the spiritual and material influences in a single word.

‘Hinged’ opens the portal to this other world with playful glimpses into Nuut’s openhearted creative process, as de-tuned vocal samples dance frantically en-point around percussive sounds provided by Nicolas Stocker.  ‘On Vaja’ (‘In Need’) resonates with deep bass, providing a steady and solid container for Nuut’s voice whose siren call fills the sound stage before gradually fading away. This is the language of a lost soul searching, its barely audible vibrations of yearning captured in Nuut’s improvised modular machinery. A flirtatious, ghostly presence is also heard on ‘Kutse Tantsule’ (A Call For Dance). Looped and fractured amidst pulsing rhythms, the eerie spirit repeats its single plea “will you come dance with me too?” ‘Mees, Kes Aina Igatses’ (‘A Man Who Ever Yearned’) is perhaps most like Nuut’s previous albums, more in the village-style of traditional Estonian songs but with a looser harmonic structure that spins in and around itself.

A pivotal track on Hinged, ‘Vaheala Valgus’ (‘I Hear Behind the Moon’) probes the border of life and death through melancholy vocals and sombre timbres of an old Vermona analogue synth organ. Conjuring images of thick black clouds passing over moonlit skies its enchantment ends abruptly as the organ drones transform into buzzing flies, revealing its darker intent. Elsewhere, Nuut teases us with an almost perfect marriage between sampled electronica and jazzy, off-kilter earthy beats. ‘Subota’, leaning heavily on treated, brassy distorted fuzz, jockeys for a sense of balance in itself, buffeted in doing so by rushes of air, woody synths and sneering, dislocated voices. Next, summoning forgotten spirits to a moment of dancing and celebration, ‘A Feast’ (below), fills its surrounding space with syrupy, spectral echoes, almost like ectoplasm dripping down bright whitewash walls.

The final phase of ‘Hinged’ wanes like the gradual awakening from a dream.  ‘Jojobell’ once again features manipulate natural sounds, with something like a Tibetan singing bowl and other percussion provided by Nicolas Stocker melting and congealing into a shifting, sticky dance. ‘A Scene’ (‘Merevees’) slowly and carefully pulls us back from the chaotic edges of Hinged, into a simpler framework of pulsing arpeggios and abstract, light-filled vocals cryptically recanting its question in English and Estonian, “what’s hidden inside the scene of the sea before us?” We have a few beats to draw breath and savour its trailing melody before the closing song ‘Moment’ unfolds. An epiphany almost smothered by bittersweet nostalgia, ‘Moment’ glows quietly amid the noise of life going on as usual. In a fitting departure, the electric reverie of Hinged is grounded by the sounds of passing traffic and Nuut’s final words: “Moment of clarity”.

It’s hard to express here how Nuut’s curious eclectic vision, one based on a profound desire to push to the outer limits of classical, traditional folk, electronica, or world music, comes across in the essence of these tracks. It’s simply inspiring to listen to. While musically set apart, Hinged demonstrates she perhaps has the same uncanny creative instincts as the likes of Lido Pimienta, Bjork or Moses Sumney. A depth of sensitivity that gives Nuut access to those out-of-phase planes of existence; the obscure spaces that we choose not to feel or to see, but are our vital unconscious connection to a truth we have forgotten.

‘Hinged’ is released independently on 20th August. If you like what you hear, you can support Maarja Nuut by purchasing the album via Bandcamp


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