tue 15/10/2019

Albums of the Year 2018: Mari Kalkun - Ilmamõtsan | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2018: Mari Kalkun - Ilmamõtsan

Albums of the Year 2018: Mari Kalkun - Ilmamõtsan

Estonian singer-songwriter unites beauty and an understated power

Mari Kalkun’s 'Ilmamõtsan': timeless

Any of the individual elements making up Ilmamõtsan would be enough. Unified, they imbue Ilmamõtsan with beauty and an understated power. That questing Estonian singer-songwriter Mari Kalkun does not sing in English is no barrier to being affected.

The most immediate component is the pure, though commanding, voice. The melodies Kalkun sings are carried with apparent ease, yet they are sinuously unpredictable while instantly memorable. The arrangements seem spare but her accordion, harmonium, kannel (the Estonian zither), chimes, bells and sound-colour from a bone spinner lock together in a balanced latticework without becoming dense, even with some subtle multi-tracking and a contribution from brass instruments. The subject matter of her songs can draw from collective issues – rural depopulation, environmental destruction undertaken by the corporately greedy. And with reflections on the nature of the bonds within family, they are also intimate.

Mari Kalkun is typically categorised as a folk singer but by building from the traditional she breaches boundaries: she is “folk-based”, as theartsdesk’s review of Ilmamõtsan put it. In balancing a respect for genre with a realisation that the familiar can be reconfigured, she slots-in alongside Bridget St. John, the Nico of Desert Shore, Anne Briggs when she was digging into contemporary song, the Judee Sill of “The Donor” and the Sandy Denny of “Autopsy”. What’s most important is that Ilmamõtsan is a great, pleasure-inducing listen.

This could all be why it has been chosen as an album of the year. However, the core reason is that is it repeatedly asks to be returned to. While manifestly remarkable, it neither proclaims “me” or overtly embraces temporally specific and on-trend musical markers. Instead, by taking a deep breath, it gradually asserts a timelessness. If it had been issued next year, in ten years or ten years ago, Mari Kalkun’s Ilmamõtsan would still be an album of the year.

Another Essential Album from 2018

BC Camplight Deportation Blues (Bella Union)

Gigs of the Year

Lucidvox, 1000 Fryd, Aalborg, 27 January 2018; Katarína Máliková, Futurum Music Bar, Prague, 2 November 2018; Motorpsycho, Victoria, Oslo, 30 November 2018

Track of the Year

Jim James “Throwback” (from Uniform Distortion [ATO Records])

If it had been issued in ten years or ten years ago, 'Ilmamõtsan' would still be an album of the year

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.