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CD: Mari Kalkun - Ilmamõtsan | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Mari Kalkun - Ilmamõtsan

CD: Mari Kalkun - Ilmamõtsan

Exquisite third album from the Estonian folk-based singer-songwriter

'Ilmamõtsan': reflecting an acute sense of context and place

Ilmamõtsan’s centrepiece is “Linnaitk”, a disconcerting vocal-only composition playing distress-permeated chants off against a keening wordless melody line sounding as much an expression of grief as a call for support. The language is Estonian and “Linnaitk” translates as “City Lament”. It is written to capture the feelings of a mother whose daughter has left the village for the big city. As urban populations grow, rural settlements shrink, and personal losses are accompanied by irreversible changes in the fabric of society.

While not all of Ilmamõtsan is this overtly affecting, the album reflects an acute sense of context and place. “Ngadei!” sets to music a poem by the Siberian writer Yuri Vella (1948-2013) who worked to organise opposition to gas and oil companies destroying environments, killing reindeer and persecuting indigenous peoples. Ilmamõtsan – meaning “In the Wood of the World” – is political. It also beautiful, and features 12 songs with haunting, unforgettable melodies sung in a crystalline yet forceful voice.

Mari Kalkun is an Estonian folk-based singer-songwriter who reconfigures the traditional to fit a vision of music which reflects its milieu. She plays the accordion, harmonium, kannel (the Estonian zither), chimes, bells and the luuvuur – the bone spinner. Her third solo album, Ilmamõtsan follows 2015’s Tii Ilo, recorded with her band Runorun. Despite the lack of an ensemble, cohesion and warmth bring the feel of a collaborative recording. There is also a meditative, practically psychedelic, mood induced by the drone of open strings and the local penchant for repetition.

An inherent tenderness is most apparent with the final track “Linda, Linda! Fly, Linda”, which is dedicated to her own daughter. With the accompaniment of a local brass band, the song expresses the hope that her life will be supported by strong wings. Ilmamõtsan is an exquisite, heartfelt album. Language is no barrier to being won over by its particular magic.

Overleaf: Watch the video for “Mõtsavele Mäng” from Mari Kalkun’s Ilmamõtsan - the song draws from the experiences of The Forest Brothers, who resisted the Soviet occupation of Estonia during and after World War Two

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