Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
In Spe — Erkki-Sven Tüür & In Spe (1979-1983)
(Vaigaviuul W014, 2020, 2CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2023-02-13
One of the finest bands that the old Soviet Bloc had to offer was In Spe from Estonia, but in their time their music wasn’t easy to find. The group existed in one form or another from 1979 until 1990, and then reunited briefly in 2009, but there were two very distinct phases of the band’s existence. The first, from 1979-1983 (and the subject of the two disc set reviewed here) was an eight-piece group led by composer, keyboardist, flutist, and singer Erkki-Sven Tüür, at its peak point playing something of a mostly instrumental symphonic rock, which after 1983 morphed into an eight-piece instrumental chamber-jazz-rock unit led by composer Alo Mattiisen (electric piano, synthesizer), with only a few members carrying on from the first group to the second. This continued on until around 1990. The first group released a self-titled LP in 1983, and the second group released an album, also self-titled, in 1985, which led to more than a little confusion for those trying to hunt down their records back in the day, to the point where the first was nicknamed Antidolorosum (after the album’s only vocal track) and the second was nicknamed Girl on Beach (for the cover photo) or Typewriter Concerto (for the four-part epic that occupied all of the album’s first side, which Musea made official when they reissued it in 1994).
What the two disc set at hand contains is a remastered version of the Erkki-Sven Tüür version of the band’s only LP (which was also reissued in 1999), and a second disc of seven earlier recordings from 1979-83, including three live cuts. Old-schoolers may be interested that this was also made available as a double LP set. The highlight of the first disc is the lush and beautul three-part “Symphony for Seven Performers,” which occupied the entirety of the first side of the original 1983 LP; the band at that point consisted of Tüür on keyboards and flute with other players on drums, bass, two other keyboardists, another flutist, and a guitarist — none other than the late Riho Sibul. The second half of the original album kicks off with the vocal tune “Antidolorosum,” a heavy progressive rocker for sure, sung in Estonian. That’s followed by two more instrumental cuts, “Logboat of the Sun” and “Flight of the Spheres,” totaling seventeen minutes, and more in line with the symphonic first side of the LP, the first disc being nothing short of a masterpiece. The second disc contains all the archival material that was all previously unreleased, seven tracks, four of which feature vocals and lyrics. The opener, “Evening Song,” is a beautiful instrumental that is in some ways reminiscent of the early sound of King Crimson, with a very strong guitar presence. While there are no clues in the liner notes as to when exactly any of the archival tunes were recorded, but the second cut, “Kellad / Bells,” is a live vocal number and sounds like it could be from one of their early concerts. “Loomine / Creation” is another instrumental that is powerful and intense, while remaining in symphonic territory across its nine minutes. For a little over two minutes, In Spe proves they can rock with the best of them on “Isamaa / Fatherland,” an aggressive hard-driving slab of raw power. With “Vahid / Crayfish” they deliver an interesting and quirky progressive rock number that really compares to nothing else, perhaps a bit of Van der Graaf Generator. On the archive disc, the sound and instrumentation vary from track to track, what one might expect from a disparate collection of early material, showing a band in its earliest stages still finding its way. That previously mentioned 2009 reunion was the Tüür version of In Spe (photos included in the liner notes), one has to wonder if any of the live performances were recorded. “Uus Ja Vana / New and Old” is a cool bluesy number that’s a bit reminiscent of Procol Harum, and closes the archival disc nicely. All said, this is a great look back into the band’s beginnings, along with a remaster of their triumphant 1983 album.
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