In Spe

In Spe

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On the face of it, a reissue of an obscure Estonian prog/classical group's sole album from the early '80s -- which itself somehow slipped out on the old Soviet Melodiya label -- would seem like a bit of a non-starter. There is a reason to at least give an ear, however -- namely, the presence of Erkki-Sven Tüür, who later gained greater fame with his work on the ECM label. In Spe was Tüür's band to lead, as he not only sang briefly, but played a variety of keyboards, as well as flute and a recorder. The full ensemble totaled eight people, while the recordings were done at a stint in the city of Tallinn's city hall. There are certainly more than a few tinges of what, in the West, would have been seen as slightly out of time/out of place work, but thankfully, Tüür isn't trying to be Rick Wakeman or anything. Songs like the beautiful opener "Ostium," and the starting minutes of "The Flight of the Spheres" reflect a careful, fragile beauty, something which actually calls up a mystic never-never-land a little more effectively than many of Tüür's more well-known influences. Even if it's not as high a priority, the band can rock out when they want to -- when they turn it up in "Mare Vitreum" it's a just dramatic enough punch, though "Antidolorosum" is a bit plodding in contrast. While not the only flute and recorder player, Tüür's melodies on the instrument sound fine in whatever hands they're given to -- "Illuminatio," in particular, makes a great case for piped instruments in prog, and doesn't sound like Jethro Tull. If the relative limitations of the technology and the general sound may make one think of strange documentaries and commercial presentations from an endless 1978, that's more contextual than anything else, and those with a soft spot for mid-'70s Pink Floyd, later Ash Ra Tempel, and pre-Chariots of Fire Vangelis, could find much to like here.