One of the most exciting new albums, from what will inevitably become your new favourite refreshing folk band - with songs that will demand your return to the album, time and time, and time again. Since the release of the first two singles from the album, anticipation has mounted globally for this release. A humorous, unique, and genius album.
I present to you the exciting and versatile, funky, groovy, and yet traditional and somewhat ancient sounds of ‘Viimane Suusataja’ a dramatically enticing album from Estonian/Finnish ‘zombie folk’ duo, Puuluup. Whilst the album title translates to ‘The Last Cross Country Skiier’, their name: ’Puu’ - means tree in Estonian, and ‘Luup’, refers to the looping methods that Puuluup feature in all their music.
Puuluup’s sound is centre around centuries old, and, at one time, extinct, Swedish/Estonian musical instrument: the tal harper, a small wooden box lyre with strings, played with a bow and finger plucking. Puuluups prowess on the instrument allows them to bend the norms of its playing techniques. It’s sound is exemplified throughout the album in the juxtaposition of finger plucking with its sharper, snappier notes - often paired with the more upbeat, dancer moments of the album, compared to the more melodic, huskier and warmer use of the bow, that exemplify the lyrical and emotional elements of the album.
Using only their two voices, which often act in very (very) low and high harmony, two ancient tal harpers, and an electric loop pedal - they together create a style of music they self-refer to as ‘zombie folk’ which they humorously state means: “the instrument is made of dead wood, we are inspired by a dead tradition, and we also, are on our way to death”.
Humour cannot be missed in this album, from songs describing a whale’s favourite drinking bar in ‘Paala Järve Vaala Baar’ (their second single from the album), to ‘TV on a Street’ (take from that what you will), and ‘The Last Cross Country Skiier’, which describes the disappointment of arriving (via skies) at the local shop early, only to find they have not yet brought the fish!
Alas “Liigutage Vastu" (Move Against), the first single from the album, alongside another fantastically aesthetic and humorous video created by the duo and longtime artistic collaborator 'Taavi Arus’ aka ‘Zbanski Kino’ draws attention to their alternate, more serious characters, shining a light on the plight of separated loved ones, musicians and passionate folk alike - separated by the global COVID pandemic.
A highlight of the album has to be the swinging chanting energy of ‘Lambad ei Joo’ - just as a reggae song on a sunny beach might catch you swinging in the sunshine ‘Lamdad ei Joo’, which is melodically and rhythmically so simple carries the same infectious movements and connected groove.
There are three things fundamental to Puuluups likability. Firstly, they are the only performing band that feature the tal harper as its central instrument (aside from a dedicated touring tal harper orchestra). Having originated in the Swedish populated parts of Estonia centuries ago, the tal harper, known by three names depending on your location, became extinct after a ‘religious awakening’ had the majority of the instruments burned. Only thirty years ago Estonia and Finland discovered a tal harper revival.
Secondly is their unique and alluring creative direction that is prevalent throughout all their creations. From manipulating an ancient sound, electrifying it, looping it, and re-appropriating it to their context. To the various music videos directed and created by the duo themselves which visually invoke Wes Anderson’s approach to style. To their personally created and designed album covers - their art, music and creative vision seamlessly become one in everything they do.
Lastly, has to be their unavoidable humour, from the first second of every video they produce, their first speeches on stage, and even the lyrics and meanings to their songs. Their wit and humour, unfitting for what might on the cover appear to be a classical ancient instrument duo, transcends all expectations, and will capture the laughter of any listener/watcher making them an extremely captivating act.
Enjoy this stunning groovy and memorable album, with a strong side serving of visual satire in their accompanying videos for, ‘Viimane Suusataja’, once again meaning ‘The Last Cross Country Skiier’, of which the album title shouldn’t be a surprise to their hardcore fans who understand that the duo name many of their compositions after their love of sports.
Photo Credits: (1)-(3) Puuluup (unknown/website).