Tolmunud Mesipuu – Puusse Panen and Koger ja Panter …   Leave a comment

I had written about this band at the Swamp back in April, but this band is so good that I feel that there may be people able to appreciate it in a place like Doommantia as well.

Estonia is a small and (some friends told me) very charming and attractive nation stuck between Finland, Sweden, Latvia and Russia in the Baltic region.

This small nation has a growing, lively heavy music scene which is definitely dominated by black and death metal, probably ought to the inspiration of the nordic landscapes (taiga and marshlands) and of the influence of the neighbouring Finnish blacksters.

However there are several less extreme but equally powerful and, defintely, highly endowed bands that have been and are building up a noteworthy parallel scene as far as the doom-stoner-psych genres are concerned: there as well marshlands can be taken as swamps in terms of musical inspiration!

A well known band from those latitudes is Talbot, the killer heavy doom band from Tallin.

Well, Estonia is also the craddle to another, let’s say, emerging cool band absolutely worth to check out, Tolmunud Mesipuu.

Tolmunud Mesipuu (translated as “dusty beehive”) are a creative trio from the town of Tartu, Ander Roots on guitar, Lauri Pajos on drums and Heiki Lepist on bass. The band is actually not so “emerging” as these three friends have been around for a little while and, after demos, they have released two full-length albums sofar, Puusse Panen (2009) and Koger ja Panter (2010).

The Tallin press nicely depicted Tolmunud Mesipuu’s style as a “hypnotic, dissonant and manic landscape – it might as well be forgotten 70’s cult trash movie, which people watch just for the soundtrack.”

This last particular also reflects the fact that these guys’ sources of inspiration include non only heavy underground music of the 80’s, 90’s, modern desert, doom, post-rock and drone, but also seasoned hard and psych rock and funk music from the 60’s and 70’s.

We already know that heavy music is able to overcome distances and language boundaries, and the Estonian language, so similar to Finnish, does not seem too easy to handle. In the case of Tolmunud Mesipuu, however, the language issue is not a problem as the band plays instrumental music, or, as they say on Myspace, “simply mental”, and very well done …

The band spread the charming début Puusse Panen album around as free download and did much live activity. The promotional and live activity must have been appreciated by the people. As a matter of fact, many enthusiastic comments by fans from all over the world can be read on the band’s page on Last.fm. Also the solid copies of the Puusse Panen album went sold out!

The new beautiful album Koger ja Panter, released in early Autumn 2010, confirms that these dudes are a band that cannot absolutely be ignored.

But I want to start with the exploration of their amazing début album, Puusse Panen, in order to outline Tolmunud Mesipuu’s style.

Album Puusse Panen (2009) includes 10 tracks for about one hour of tunes. So the album is quite longish.

Since from the début full-length album, Tolmunud Mesipuu clearly define their style which masterfully blend various genres, like “classic” psychedelia, acid to spacey desert stoner rock, classic doom, drone, a bit of dissonant post-rock, some jazz and blues and hints of folk/traditional music.

For this reason the band has been compared to several great acts such Earth, Om and many many others, among which cool trippy bands such as Naam, The Grand Astoria, and Sungrazer. If you check the band out on last.fm you will see a very long list of bands with which Tolmunud Mesipuu share substantial similarities according to the listeners. One of the nicest and pin-pointing comments I read about this band was “Earth meets Kyuss meets Ufomammut”. But, in spite of more or less striking similarities with other bands, Tolmunud Mesipuu are quite original.

More than one time I had expressed my instinctive preference for bands that also employ vocal parts. However I am ready to admit there are so many cool bands practising instrumetal-only music with excellent results.

In bands like Tolmunud Mesipuu the sounds and the changing effects of the guitars and the vibrating bass turn into words, string instruments “speak” to drums and percussions in so many ways and shades that you can’t but be admired by both musicians and mixers/producers for the balance of the sounds.

The songs are made up by rather simple, basic melodic structures over which instruments create their apparently independent, intriguing and highly groovy jammings. This apparent degree of freedom gives a somewhat jazzy, dynamic flavour to the compositions. These relatively simple melodic lines just hook you because they stem from some clever, curious, unexpected, fresh, addictive combinations of riffs and percussions, some of which may sound almost “ancestral”. This ancestral feeling is particularly well expressed via the obsessive, almost tribal rhythms in track Seitsmetolline, for example.

With their first album Tolmunud Mesipuu take you into a relaxing, colourful psychedelic sonic trip which is far from being numbing: the colours are often bright and “chemically”happy but not always, atmospheres can vary from light to dark, the trip is dynamic and stimulating and the sensations are varied because of the masterful, clever and passionate effort done in blending music genres. As I mentioned, the album is rather long but you never get bored. On the contrary, you wouldn’t mind the jamming, the dialogue among instruments, to go on …

And it has been actually going on …

In the second album by Tolmunud Mesipuu, Koger ja Panter (2010), the band’s guys have outdone themselves as the album is very long, 14 tracks for over 75 minutes. But this length makes sense because these three Estonian rockers have again a lot to say.

The new album has further pleased and also surprised me because it shows that this “experimental” band hasn’t yet finished of experimenting.

The very first time I heard Koger ja Panter in its entirety was during the flight back from the Roadburn Festival last April. At Roadburn I had met Harri, owner of the Estonian blog Transkontinentaalne Kiirtee and friend with the band’s guys, and I had received the new album from him. After four exhausting days of sonic heaven and delirium I thought I would have enough of tunes and nothing else could surprise me, at least for a while. But I was wrong.

My impression is that in Koger ja Panter Tolmunud Mesipuu’s sound is definitely heavier and more doom oriented than in the previous album. But, again, any single tag is too restrictive for this band.

Again the band’s style smoothly blends quite different genres and generates a hybrid encompassing doom, desert/stoner rock, psychedelia, post-rock and jazz. But in the new album there are some new elements, like, for example, a stronger accent on heavy rock and doom and occasional outbursts of refreshing, almost punkish sleaziness, side by side with the beautiful acoustic waves which were characterizing also the previous album. A special mention also goes to the stronger role for some folk/traditional elements which further contribute to an overly charming, lively, multifaceted and multilayered style which always brings surprises to the listener.

The first part of the album is broadly heavier and maybe faster than the second part, where droney doom and psychedelic sounds, delicate and melancholic acoustic intervals and post-rock dissonance prevail. But either in mid-tempo or in the down-tempo parts, dynamics and great atmospheres are what counts.

Again Tolmunud Mesipuu’s sound is multi-layered, with two superposed melodies which seem to progress independently and occasionally merge, in a way that recalls jazz. Again one of the melodies is lead by Heiki’s full-bodied pulsating bass and the other is lead by Ander with his distorted, fuzzy guitar and his pedals.

The spectacular performance of drummer Lauri is the “trait-d’union” between these two parallel, meandering melodic lines where each musician is jamming. To me in this album, even more than before, drumming and percussions are incredibly varied and relentless, as turbulent as the waters of a flooding mountain stream or as soft and delicate as the breath of the wind.

When present, the ritual to tribal sounds of the percussions are so well coupled with the sounds of the unconventional, traditional instruments (in the form of a particular kind of traditional cello) employed by the band. The latter are often employed in addition to the other “classic” rock/metal instruments in both mid- and down-tempo sections, and only occasionally they lead some acoustic, almost solo parts. The use of unconventional and traditional instruments in rock, heavy and even extreme metal is surely not a novelty, but when it is done cleverly it adds special flavours and atmospheres. For example, just listen to the magic, melancholic effects of cello in Biography Obscene, the last, 2007 album by Norwegian black metal Tulus, or else the impressive Wardruna project where the musician involved did build up their own instruments according to the Norse tradition …

Well, like Wardruna, Tolmunud Mesipuu are involved in such cultural research and operation of recovering and building own traditional instruments from the scratch.

So jazzy jamming, heavy fuzzy doom riffs and desert-session stoner raaaawk outbursts, mind-warping drony psychedelia, whiffs of post-rock dissonance à-la-Pelican and melancholic traditional sounds (telling about far-off lands and times), harmonically mix in a unpredicatable way with the progression of this very long album. This album never saturates the listener and never makes you feel the need of having a singer.

The production of album Koger ja Panter is another outstanding feature. Production was high quality also in the previous album, but I felt that here it is even better. Any shade of this rich sound, any vibration, distortion or pedal effects affecting the chords, any touch, even the slightest, of the skins and the cymbals, everything is balanced and perfectly audible without being suffocated by the other sounds. Even the utters of the Estonian cello are not overwhelmed by the charge of the other instruments and “metal” sounds.

In the first as well as in the second album Tolmunud Mesipuu’s songs are not typical easy-listening tunes, although they are drenched with much genuine rock groove. These often long songs are lead by apparently simple melodies but are also clever and complex in their construction and development. However these songs get into you naturally, like the water of the above mountain stream or like in general, the maximum inspiration for the band, Mother Nature.

The only criticism I have to move is about the cover art of the second album. Puusse Panen is adorned by an intricate, geometric drawing in black and white looking maybe a bit cold but all in all pleasant and catchy. The cover art of Koger ja Panter is far too poor for what is behind it. I know that music is what counts. But more than one discussion thread in music webzines have revealed how an attractive cover art can give a useful help in the very first, instinctive attraction of attention towards releases from emerging bands who want and deserve to be known and appreciated for their actual skills.

This pitfall, though, doesn’t lower my enthusiasm for the artistic production of this excellent band of jolly experimenters.

Tolmunud Mesipuu’s albums can be obtained via Bandcamp: Puusse Panen is for free download and Koger ja Panter is sold for a few bucks.

You can also contact the band (for example on Facebook) for the CD version of the Koger ja Panter album (the CDs of the Puusse Panen album are sold out). Seen the richness of the sound in this band, the CD version of Koger ja Panter is magic.

As I have to give an evaluation via a number for each album, to me Puusse Panen is 8.5/10 and Koger ja Panter is no less than 9.5/10

Review by Marilena Moroni

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Posted June 12, 2011 by doommantia in Tolmunud Mesipuu

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