Estonian fiddler and vocalist Maarja Nuut’s 12-track full-length album In the Hold of a Dream arrives June 3, 2016, leading listeners into an ambient, looping electronic retelling of the village musical traditions of pre-war Europe. Nuut’s spellbinding storytelling is an extension of a hushed, minimalistic technique that creates a 21st century intersection of fiddle, vocal etherealism, and a looping pedal re-rendering of the artist’s lucid dreams as they meet reconstructions of Estonian folk traditions.
In the Hold of a Dream proposes a melancholic, haunting evocation of Nuut’s dreamworld, offering the listener the ability to fluidly travel between the artist’s realities, whether rooted in resurfaced Estonian mysticism, experimental soundscapes, or classic storytelling bent to electronic, looping currents. Her latest offering directly builds off of motifs from her previous album Soolo (2013), which culled inspiration from her research into early 20th century field recordings, and their interplay with contemporary vocal harmonies.
Soolo garnered favorable comparisons to Czech avant-garde violinist Iva Bittová, as well as feedback from Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon, who commented that Nuut’s original compositions are “…what it sounds like when the snow sings.” As observed by fRoots’ Andrew Cronshaw upon hearing Nuut’s debut material, the artist’s compositions evoke “a feeling of being sung and played to in a quiet wooden house among the wide skies, marshes, silver-birch and dark pine forest of the Estonian countryside, and, as on a walk in a special place, each time round brings a new perception.”
On In the Hold of a Dream, “Sammud” (“Footsteps”) links a delicate waltz with Nuut’s signature fiddle plucks to explore the parallel joining of bodies’ natural movement to the rhythm of the track; “Kuradipolka” (“The Devil’s Polka”) imagines the soundtrack to a pack of devils dancing around a rock hidden in the forest late at night; “Hobusemäng” (“The Horse Game”) revisits a generations-old ritual singing game that casts a protective spell through the power of superstitious thinking.
The album also invited a number of collaborative efforts, with the drony track “Kiik tahab kindaid” (“The Swing Wants Mittens”) combining Nuut’s vocals with excerpts from Patrick McGinley’s field recording of cell phone tower cables in Southern Estonia. “Eeva & Maarja Iabajalg” invites fiddler Eeva Talsi into an improvised song that leans most closely to traditional-sounding aesthetics based on the region’s dance rhythms, while the spacious, imagined desert soundscape “Kargus” was directly influenced by Nuut’s collaborative project with Tuareg singer and guitarist Alhousseini Anivolla.
Written and recorded in 2015 in a woodlands-nestled studio in the center of Tallinn near Nuut’s home, In the Hold of a Dream is the result of disciplined studio practice. Nuut’s technique teeters between a hypnotic trance of click track live-looping while creating room for an almost psychedelic, improvised spontaneity within each track. All tracks were authored and recorded by Nuut, while audio engineer Kaur Kenk mastered the project, and also contributed to building out the technical setup and the live stage translation of the studio concept.
Hailing from Rakvere, Estonia, a small town near the Baltic coast, Nuut’s immersion in music has been consistent throughout her life, beginning with being raised by her mother, a choir conductor that introduced her to studying violin at the age of seven. At age twelve, Nuut left her small town to study at Tallinn Music High School, and eventually at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. After a seven-month stay in New Delhi where Nuut honed her studies on northern Indian musical traditions, she returned home to focus exclusively on traditional Estonian music at the University of Tartu Viljandi Culture Academy, and eventually on her Masters degree in Stockholm.
Nuut has toured extensively throughout the United States, Canada, the UK, and Europe, having recently showcased as an official performer at WOMEX’s edition in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, at the prestigious Mundial Montreal conference, Eurosonic Noorderslag, APAP, Folk Alliance International, MENT Ljubljana, and Tallinn Music Week.