Friday, 02 September 2022 19:00
Estonian Life No. 35 2022 - Natalie Jenkins
The essence of art/avant-garde pop is to deviate from the norm. What is false becomes true; dreams turn to reality. Artists in this loose subgenre take inspiration from other media—including film, art, and poetry—and weave them into pop’s more structured and accessible rhythms. The result: strange, imaginative lyrics that, for the most part, engage in fruitful conversation with instrumentals that are extracted from other genres.
Estonia’s art-pop scene is diverse and teeming with talent, both old and new. One prominent artist that has made a name for himself in the scene is Mart Avi. Born in a small village in Tartu County, Avi released his first album Humanista
in 2015. Since then, he’s made four studio albums, as well as seven singles and EPs.
Listening to Avi’s sound, which has mostly remained consistent across his projects, is like taking a trip to the future that, curiously, is still firmly grounded in the past. Atmospheric, electronic instrumentals, much like the clangs of a computer’s hardware operating in the background, play seamlessly while Avi’s rich, versatile voice playfully bounces on top (almost similar to Kate Bush’s intonation). The effect: comprehensively resonant records that merge together the known and the unknown, the yes and the no, the black and the white… In other words, Avi’s records have range.
He’s proven this once again with his latest studio album, Blade
, released in April 2022. Remaining faithful to his art-pop style, the record fuses ambient electronic soundscapes with more upbeat rhythms true to the pop genre. This combination, which at first glance seems like an odd combination, keeps you on your toes. Its motions are unpredictable but are reigned in by the leashes of pop’s steady rhythms and added percussion.
If Blade is a cake, its first track “FELINE” is but a small morsel; a careful bite that will tempt ravenous indulgence for the rest of the sugary goodness Avi has created. It's slow and steady, but wistfully so. There’s no beat drop, significant time change, or anything that would indicate where you are in the song at any given time, until the next track, “LOST WEEKEND,” hits you in the face like a truck.
This is where the fun begins. From the get-go, “LOST WEEKEND” invites listeners into Avi’s art-pop fantasy with a faster tempo, danceable rhythms, quirky lyricism and (sometimes unexpected) adlibs. It's clear that the production on this track leans more heavily on the pop side of the art-pop spectrum, but the excitement that comes along with this breathes life into the abstract and sometimes unintelligible lyricism that Avi is so familiar with.
The mellow, ambient tempo of the next four tracks (“LIFE 4 SALE,” “DEMON WITH A GLASS HAND,” “BIG SLEEP,” and “UNTRACEABLE”) pose questions similar to those raised by “FELINE.” What's next? Where are we? Are we there yet?
This isn’t to say that they muddle together or are boring in any sense of the term; rather, their elemental nature allows you to direct your attention to the happenings of your day-to-day life. It's a soundtrack for the mundane – a play on life in the modern world – examining how so many people are inclined to simply exist instead of live.
Here we start to see Blade's ultimate pattern emerge. Ambient soundscapes stand in strict juxtaposition to the more lively, untamed melodies sprinkled throughout the record. This contrast is intentional: it keeps you engaged throughout. High energy reels you back in after the subtle differences in the calmer, more subdued tracks mesh together. While the latter may lull you to doze off on the bus after a long, tiring day, the former demands your attention, jolting you awake when you’ve finally reached your stop. Blade is available to listen to on Spotify!
Written by Natalie Jenkins
, LJI Reporter