Crooner-songwriter Mart Avi stands out from Estonia’s rich and diverse music scene as a pop artist in the making, and on his new album OtherWorld, he’s inviting us to join in with his vision of what that might involve very much on his own terms. As fellow producers SOPHIE and Björk do with their own work, Mart Avi creates an accessible, fully immersive environment that welcomes you in with its underlying hooky quality. This is a record which goes beyond feeling like a film soundtrack; OtherWorld music for a virtual reality, a frozen-over Eastern European city with neon fittings designed by JG Ballard. It’s not hostile exactly, but it’s certainly an eerie place to be.
If you’ve ever been to Tallinn Music Week, you’ll have seen firsthand how energised the Estonian music scene currently is. This year we experienced everything from satanic raves to dream pop to “slavic gangsta geisha pop”, all within the city’s eclectic mix of gothic side-streets and more unconventional outskirts. Mart Avi has absorbed all of the city’s unusual reference points (including Estonia’s huge SoundCloud rap scene) and shines it out through a disorientating kaleidoscopic lens.
Mart Avi himself describes his music as ‘quant-soul’, which sounds like an amalgam of ‘quantum’ and ‘soul’. The genre tag ‘future soul’ doesn’t quite cut it somehow, and Avi’s OtherWorld certainly doesn’t sound like it’s from any future our world could offer us. Here’s our track-by-track overview to help you find a path through it.
Here Future Smells Like Perfume
While typing this, I can feel the weight of keys under my fingertips (touch), I can see the pixelated surface of the screen (sight), I can hear the satiny hum of the fan blowers (sound), but it all smells like… nothing. What would have happened if Alan Turing had based his his cryptosystems on a palette of various scents & odors? Imagine algorithms based on aromas and fragrant oils. One could spray a language from a bottle. I’m going to compose one at this moment. A = aniseed, V = vanilla, I = ink. Mmm.. I can finally smell my name now.
(The father of modern computing, Alan Turing, lost his life due cyanide poisoning. If only he would have felt its bitter smell.)
Let Me Be Me
Who owns the future? The institutionalized networks that define our world are changing our personalities. What if it all boils down to the fact that maybe we’re an evolutionarily advanced swarm/flock/shoal after all (using artificial means to form the critical connections)? Take that for data.
For a start I can hear the organic bubbling of first multicellular organisms in deep volcanic vents. That leads us to the primal figure of this song’s multiverse - The Nameless One. The Nameless One is a human figure who long ago found a way to cease the aging process and become immortal. However, when it is killed in an especially thorough manner (2:36?), although it does come back to life (the outro?), when it awakens it will have lost all it’s memories, and often developed an entirely different personality from the one it had before. It's as if a butterfly suddenly reverted back into a caterpillar (can you can hear it flapping, e.g. 0:29?).
Back 2 Light :Okeanos
It sounds like a subaquatic exploration in an infinite procedurally generated galaxy. Whether a deep ocean or a planet hanging low on the horizon, it flies seamlessly from one surface to another and occasionally turns into a submarine like some sort of mecha titan transformer for a deep dive. But at the same time there’s something rather ancient about it that I can’t quite put my finger on.
****, this vortex twirls FAST. Technically, the actual tempo of the song is fairly slow, but that again is part of the illusion. It reminds me a story of a sprinter who once ran so FAST that he broke out from this reality as his muscles burst. Like artists, athletes break barriers and strive for irrational gains in a sandboxian realm. LeBron James spends ~2.000.000 per year on his body using cryotherapy, hyperbaric chambers and other things we’re not even supposed to know of. A true cyborg.
Radioactive quant-soul for DNA hackers, “Bleed a different quality... Surrender it.” Maybe LeBron fell asleep in his hyperbaric oxygen chamber and is now semiconsciously attempting smooth layups against the basketball noids from Planet Mercury.
Stuck In An Attosecond
An Attosecond is the time it takes for the light to travel the length of three hydrogen atoms.
So it is something, but ultimately nothing.
The Silent Trespasser
This is a good spot for one real life story. Back in my home county there was a mysterious man who aimlessly drifted on the roadsides for weeks and slept in abandoned farmsteads or granaries. He covered his face with a plastic bag every time someone passed by. We called him the “plastic bag man”. Also, he was mute or non-communicative. After about a decade, the local council decided to buy him a reflective vest and at some point he dropped his iconic disguise and settled for an eye-obscuring cap instead.I hadn't seen him for at least two summers when some sort of a car chase from the region was shown on TV that featured a poltergeistian figure flitting through the frame for a few seconds.
In other news, Mart Avi is performing the Gigwise stage at LUCfest in Tainan, Taiwan (30 November - 2 December) alongside Latvia's Elizabete Balcus and Head Composer. More info coming soon.