Photo: Taavi Arus
Friday, 12 November 2021 19:00
Estonian Life No. 45 2021 - Vincent Teetsov
Two years ago, in November 2019, “Neozombiepostfolk” duo Puuluup twirled around Estonian Music Week listeners at Artscape Sandbox like they do with the very bows they play their instruments with.
They took the audience to a mischievous, pastoral realm. With on-stage musical backup from The Tiki Collective, and the jazzy counterpoint of Mari Sild Band and Kaili Kinnon who were also on the bill, it was an eclectic Friday night.
On that same weekend, Puuluup played at The Cotton Factory, in Hamilton's north end, and a set at DROM Taberna on Queen Street in Toronto, pointing to their curiosity for all kinds of music, venues, and audiences.
Their songs are difficult to categorize. Hence the aforementioned, chimera-like genre name. The duo list punk, klezmer, gospel, hip hop, and music from Africa's Sahel region as influences.
And if you concertedly listen for these influences, you can detect each for a few seconds at a time. For one, hip hop is found in their occasional experimental use of AutoTune and clattering rhythms. Low register singing is used instead of other bass instruments, like in a choir. The result is spooky.
Both halves of the duo—Ramo Teder (whose stage name is Pastacas) and Marko Veisson—play the Hiiu kannel
), made by Finnish instrument builder Rauno Nieminen. They also share singing and pedal effects duties. These are the connecting ligaments of their songs, while Teder is in charge of operating the looping gadgets.
The overall flavour of Puuluup's music is Vaudevillian, akin to a comedic folk tale or the soundtrack to an arthouse film: an approach that our continent isn't exposed to frequently. But then their compositions have an academic foundation, too. They often speak in detail about their methodology, such as at TEDx Toompea in 2016 and with the University of Pennsylvania in 2021. Veisson himself is an anthropologist at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy and has conducted research in Ghana.
At their shows, they will make you stroke your chin and think laterally.
Even lyrically, Estonian is blended into a linguistic stir fry of jocular Russian chastushka poetry, Finnish, and “made-up languages.” Teder and Veisson say, “The lyrics set the mood. Mostly they are rather abstract and are open to different interpretations.”
For instance, in their song “Paala järve vaala baar
” (“Paala Lake Whale Bar”), the lyrics start with a reference to the game of rock-paper-scissors (“Kivi paberid siis käärid / Kivi all on rukki staarid
”) before singing about a whale that lives in the said lake and who owns a bar.
To give their own interpretation of their sound, the duo say, “This is what happens, when two smart men in midlife crises decide to start living the rock & roll lifestyle... And they succeed!”
To start their short North American tour, the duo will play at the 10th edition of Mundial Montréal festival. But then they will be coming to our neck of the woods.
Puuluup will be returning to The Cotton Factory on November 19th at 8:00 PM. Then they will head to the Paradise Theatre in Toronto on November 20th for a 3:00 PM matinée show. Tickets for each event cost $20.
Toronto readers will be familiar with the stylish art deco Paradise Theatre from night one of this year's Estonian Music Week festival. The Cotton Factory, meanwhile, was once known as the Imperial Cotton Company Limited, in the year 1900. Now it is a transformed arts centre that has hosted many Estonian artists in the past as part of The Hamilton Arts Council Artist Residency Program, live concerts, and more.
If you get to see them, Puuluup will play songs from their recently released album <i>Viimane suusataja (The Last Skier
). The title is emblematic of their sardonic, elusive sense of humour. Who is that last skier? What on earth happened to them?
You'll have to go and watch them closely to find out.Get your tickets for their performance in Hamilton and their performance in Toronto through Eventbrite. Note: at these events, all Health Canada, Public Health Ontario, and Toronto Public Health guidelines will be implemented (i.e. proof of vaccination/ID, wearing of masks, and hand sanitizer provision).
Written by Vincent Teetsov