Whispers on the ground in Tallinn first led us to the magical sounds of Estonian natives Maarja Nuut and Hendrik Kaljujärv (AKA Ruum). The contrast between Nuut’s traditional folk leanings and Ruum’s rich electronic textures were immediately captivating, creating a mystical sound that all at once put you at ease and put you on edge.
Returning with their second full-length collaboration, World Inverted, (the follow up to 2018’s Muunduja) the pair deliver the same tense shifting pattern of bubbling synths, caustic electronic shrieks and swirling siren calls but with greater focus and bolder contradictions. In this way, each track is its own odyssey.
Album opener “We Get Older” begins with a gentle celestial whir of synths and crackling satellite blips but by the end, it’s a pulsating dance track with momentous bass swells and pounding rhythms - all held together by the hum of Nuut’s vocals. Continuing this bright, powerful and hopeful momentum, the title track sets a new spark underneath the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and takes us on a journey through distorted, hypnagogic, other-worldly vocals.
Nuut’s voice becomes more grounded in “Cloths of Heven”, a gentle ambient wash supporting her beautiful delivery of WB Yeats poem "The Cloths of Heaven". It’s a rare relaxed moment on an album dominated by fervid, driving rhythms - it allows you to languish, much like the end of album highlight “Circles” which begins on a high octane note and slowly blends into a beautiful violin string led denouement. Elsewhere “Candy Street” finds the pair at their most playful and most sinister, with protracted gentle child-like hums that morph into shorter notes against a blur of white noise and eerie creaking, conjuring imagery of placed long abandoned.
World Inverted is a rich tapestry of textures and moods, all at once haunting and hopeful, innocent and ominous. It’s in the friction and contradictions and the combined energy of two distinct creative forces that the record finds its unique tension and strength.