To label Maarja Nuut an Estonian folk singer and fiddler would be to hugely understate what she does and might even miss the point entirely. There’s no doubt the tunes and bluntly dark folk tales of her homeland are at the heart of her performance but there’s all manner of other musical layers, especially when accompanied compatriot, electronic sound artist Hendrik Kaljujärv.
Nuut uses loop pedals with real skill to layer her precise and beautiful vocals with a range of sounds and snippets of folk melody from her violin to build hypnotic, transfixing soundscapes. At a previous London gig, out in the open air on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on a bright summer’s evening, the elfin beauty of her soundscapes really came through, but Kaljujärv’s accompaniment got lost a little. Cloistered away in a Shoreditch art space, there’s still the spare beauty when the electronic additions are kept subtle. But Kaljujärv also gets a chance to showcase his abstract electronics soundscapes as the principal backing. And on a few of the songs the two build and build on each other to create a powerful repeating dronemusik that ebbs away again just before it starts to get properly threatening. Which is all to the good.
Over an hour or so the whole performance moves from engaging to entrancing and is never less than delightful. Catch her if you can.