Toomas Rull. Eesti hääled. Hitivabrik & Toomas Rull, RR-002, 2005, 59:02
Every new recording from percussionist and composer Toomas Rull assures his position as perhaps the most innovative, genre-defying, hard-to-categorize Estonian musician today working outside the classical realm. First rising to prominence and attention as drummer in the definitive Estonian progrock band Ruja (the 4th, and so-called classic line-up), Rull's musical excursions since then have all been marked by a willingness to stretch boundaries. One example was his leading involvement in the 2000 effort "Tulli lumi" (hot snow), Livonian tunes arranged and performed by noted Baltic musicians. Two years later Rull released the progressive jazz CD "Rulls Royce: Rull's Choice" of 2002, which brought Nordic luminaries Frode Barth and Per Willy Aaserud on board, with stellar results.
Now we have last year's "Eesti hääled", another recording that defies pigeonholing. The inspiration here is naturalist, writer and photographer Fred Jüssi, whose texts provide the inspiration for Rull's compositions. Half of the 10 cuts here feature the spoken rather than vocal voice - actors and multi-talented performers Aarne Üksküla, Marko Matvere, Anu Lamp, Jaan Tätte and the author himself read selected texts from Jüssi's books "Jäälõhkuja" and "Maailma mõte". Not so surprisingly, perhaps, Jüssi's reading stands out as the best of a splendid lot. Jüssi's photo of a spider web was chosen for the cover art - most appropriate, to draw the listener ever closer to the core of Jüssi's world.
Riho Sibul, Maarja, Maian Anna Kärmas, Evert Sundja and the KiigeLauluKuuik are the melodic voices, singing on the other five selections. Barth, Aaserud and the rest of Rulls Royce provide the instrumental backing, in the background or in the forefront as determined by Rull's vision.
This CD demands attention, but not in any of the ways that popular music does. It is not something that you'd hear on the radio, or put on as mere background music. After a number of listens "Eesti hääled" becomes almost participatory - anticipating the comfortable synthesizers, flutes, saxophones, electric violins and guitars filling in the pauses of the spoken voice is a delight that needs to be experienced and is rather difficult to convey in mere words. Mellow, sonorous, placid, soothing, at times invigorating, each composition is a reflection of the sounds within the silences of the soul.
That is Rull's intent - experimenting with nature themes in music, providing voice to something that is modern Estonian while still keeping that ethnic identity forged by generations, kept alive by countless voices over the centuries. Like the spider's gossamer web, this is a work of beauty to be returned to time and again, for deep and pleasurable listening. Rull, Jüssi and the wonderful ensemble cast a spell from which one is truly loath to awaken.
Eesti hääled is available on the internet through www.lasering.ee Alternatively, consider contacting the composer directly through his website www.toomasrull.com or as indicated on the sleeve through email, Though this CD is certainly not for all audiences, it provides great pleasure for some discerning ears.
Stretching the sounds barrier