Ergodos is a record label and music production company based in Dublin. They specialise in site-specific concerts and their series of events at the Little Museum of Dublin is really quite wonderful. First of all there is the location – a quirky award-winning museum on St Stephen's Green. Numbers are limited, so the audience can get close to the action and the setting guarantees chatter-free listening.
Then there is the format. Attendees gather in an upstairs room, where there is complimentary wine from the sponsors, Santa Rita. Prior to the show there is an interview with the performer in front of a fireplace. The Ergodos guys are really enthusiastic and knowledgeable, hence great questions and very interesting conversations. The concert itself takes place in a room at entry level, with the performers in the middle of the room and guests sitting on either side.
Earlier this year I saw Lankum side project Rue at the Museum, and this week there was the rare opportunity to see Estonian fiddler/singer/soundscapist Maarja Nuut in Dublin. I have been aware of Maarja's music for some time and I once saw her at Womad, where she collaborated with Alhousseini Anivolla from Etran Finatawa, a desert blues band from Niger. Desert blues is a well-established genre these days and I remember thinking at the time that Maarja was the exotic and otherworldly-sounding component of that collaboration.
At the Museum Maarja performed solo: Singing, telling stories, playing fiddle and operating an electronic box of tricks. I used to reject anybody who used what I called a K.T.Tunstall machine (a loop pedal) but have long since come to accept that the device is here to stay and if used imaginatively I no longer have a problem with it. Maarja used it to wonderful effect, layering sounds and then singing and playing over them. Her music evokes images of cold weather, snow and ice. There is a lot of repetition which has an hypnotic effect. In the interview Maarja had said that as a child she listened to Abba and Led Zeppelin. During one of the heavier numbers I could hear the Led Zeppelin influence.
The first album Maarja owned apparently was by Björk and that figures. If unconventional Nordic vocalists such as Björk, Tanya Tagaq and Mari Boine are you thing, then check out Maarja's album 'Une Meeles' (In the hold of a dream). Maarja sings in Estonian, which is good. There is already so much going on in her music that having to listen to lyrics would almost be an unwelcome distraction. When sung the Estonian language is easy on the ear - unlike the spoken equivalent. There were quite a number Estonians at the concert; indeed I sat next to the Estonian ambassador to Ireland, who was welcomed specifically.
Highlight of the concert for me was a piece called 'Valls'. This was a literally dizzying performance, where the sound of Maarja's shoes on the floorboard was looped to become part of the instrumentation. I managed to find a video although. I must add that it looked even better at my gig since Maarja was performing in the centre of the room.
Maarja is working on a new album, which is going to be a collaboration with an Estonian electronic musician.
Concert series hosted by Ergodos