by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


[this is the fourth in a continuing series, exploring the music i discovered when travelling in europe last fall]

You take a ferry from Finland to Estonia. We took it twice, because we forgot things in Finland. This sort of forgetfulness is not recommended.

Tallinn, capital of Estonia, lies on the tense border between picturesque medieval town and sprawling, coughing post-communist city. The Old Town is beautifully preserved, lovely for walking, but when we ventured out into the greyness of urban Tallinn, we were not very charmed.

I bought a record by Urmas Alender at a supermarket in a shopping mall. I bought it based on the artwork, and by how many other Urmas Alender records were on the wall. And although I don't entirely regret my purchase, I kinda do, because it's not really to my taste.

He started as a member of Ruja, one of the country's most important bands, playing guitar and then later leading the prog group. Their career spanned decades, lasting through perestroika and into the early 1990s. In 1994, however, Urmas Alender was among those who died when a ferry sank en route from Stockholm to Tallinn.

Although I didn't know it at the time, Kohtumine Albertiga is a (clearly) posthumous release, gathering songs from Alender's other early groups - Andromeeda, Varjud, Teravik, and DATA. This is the opening track -

Urmas Alender - "Varjude revolutsioon". The repeated guitar strains at the beginning of the song remind me most of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail theme, but that feeling soon diminishes. Alender sings amid a rising wail, joined by trumpet and psych organ, a brew of sound. I can hear traces of Genesis, but it's folkier than that (Yes? This really isn't my genre.). The most important thing is the lazy power of the track, the way these chill hippie elements coalesce into a folsky potency, a revolutionary fervour. [I can't find a website for ordering this CD, but if anyone does, please let me know in the comments and I'll update accordingly.]

From Tallinn we traveled to Riga, the beautiful capital of Latvia. It's a wonderful city, rising organically out of the water and the stone of the old town, parks in strips that run toward the Liberty monument. The market is astonishing, four airplane hangars full of fish, grains, meat, vegetables, surrounded by hundreds of stalls that sell everything from pet food to bootleg CDs. Julian bought an mp3-cd with every Leonard Cohen album. I bought dumplings.

Later, though, I bought a CD by Prãta Vetra. When they try to crossover to the anglo market, they call themselves Brain Storm. (I know.) They are essentially the Coldplay of Latvia, the Radiohead of Latvia, the winner of Latvian Grammies, the commercial radio superstars.

In the CD liner notes, it reads:
"Paldies: (thanks) ... No Doubt, Oceanfall, Bob Marley un Dave Matthews Band par inspiraciju." So there you go.

More importantly, though, they write pretty catchy tunes.

Prãta Vetra - "Pa Pareizãm". I look forward, I really do, to the day when a computer can generate songs like this. Because in the meantime I'm forced to wait for bands to get their shit together, to find a studio with appropriate resources, and to get their music to my ears. There's some surf guitar in "Pa Pareizãm," but it's been neutralized, sugar-coated, tag-teamed with a good-natured synth-line. Renars Kaupers (uh, Reynard Cowper) plays it coy till the chorus zing, then taking every pleasure at the roll of an R, the zooming silly buzz of the hook. [buy 2003's Dienās, kad lidlauks pārāk tāls]

Oh - and a needless caveat about all this music (and what follows). I speak english, french, and some latin. I don't know latvian, polish or hungarian. I have no idea what the vast bulk of these lyrics mean - if any of it's hateful, or just mind-numbingly inane, I apologize. I'm just a naif.

Elsewhere -

Whether or not you read french (and especially if you do), listen to Alex's fine "Easy Like Sunday Morning" mix at ORTF. Rare tracks by Four Tet, Mum, Chet Baker, and more. (Max de Wardener, too!)

Posted by Sean at April 5, 2005 9:27 AM

What a great post - if only all music blogging was so well written, unusual and interested in directing me to new sounds.

That's a corny comment but it's true. At least I steered clear of 'you guys rock!'

Oh, and I wish they sold those MP3 CDs over here (which is London)

Posted by D. at April 5, 2005 5:31 PM

the baltics are it. no where more beautiful and affordable.

check out my blog for a small feature on Fonal from Tampere.

Posted by Robin Simpson at April 6, 2005 12:33 PM

never mind, just read your previous post.
you must have flown ryan air.
good on ya.

Posted by Robin Simpson at April 6, 2005 12:35 PM

hey, i know what the lyrics in Pa Pareizam is like. The title goes "For Right" and the song is about... well nothing actually.. for something that is right, but is no right allways... something like that.

i know it becouse i'm from latvia, and don't ever ask me the question what am i doin here.

ryan is very cheap to latvia, so all of welcome. and thers realy much to see. and if go to riga, you must go to Depo, which is only one alternative rock club in city. i'm sometimes play dj sets these so...

Posted by karlis at April 9, 2005 3:23 AM

If you have already bought one you just might be curious enoungh to listen others. better compilation. 4CD-s



Posted by p. at April 9, 2005 7:58 AM

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about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

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our favourite blogs
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Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
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The Clear-Minded Creative
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Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
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WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
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st-viateur bagel
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drawn + quarterly
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casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
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