Mirjam Tally's self-titled debut, collecting pieces composed over the previous seven years, reflects both a striking confidence in the 27-year-old's compositional abilities and an attractively broad range of influences. The Estonian composer both plays and sings on her album along with a host of other older and younger performers from her country -- including the well-respected Weekend Guitar Trio, which appears on "Kui Puud Jaavad Raagu, Tulbe Nahtavale Aasta" -- but this is very much her own show aside from a few lyrical contributions. Her stated interests include electronic and worldwide instruments along with more traditional jazz and orchestral elements, combined with her own classical training and influences old and new in the Baltic. Thus, a song like the opening "Pihlakate Meri" can contain the same sense of space and minimal approach as Arvo Pärt's "Fratres," but the combination of bass clarinet and various percussive sounds puts the work even more squarely away from a traditional format. Space, echo, and gentle reverb are hallmarks of the album and are emphasized by the arrangements throughout; specific passages for each instrument are usually abbreviated or consist of little more than a bar or two, passing off one to another. A more fully textured piece like "Air," with accordion and electronics, still sounds like a cryptic transmission (Tally's ear for combining the tones of the two here is quite striking). When an electric guitar suddenly fires up in "Swinburne," in context it's so unexpected as to seem apocalyptic. What singing does appear can suggest the haunting, strange folk musics of the eastern Baltic in general, as made familiar through such bands as Värttinä, but the subtle breakdowns and collages of "Iha Ongi Ois" are Tally's own -- even something as seemingly simple as a Jew's harp can sound alien.
Mirjam Tally Review
by Ned Raggett