The opening title track on Koik Saab Korda, the debut album by Estonian septet Wrupk Urei distributed by AltrOck in early 2014, begins with an intermittent deep staticky rumble that builds into a pulsing buzzsaw throb. Listeners familiar with the Milan, Italy-based imprint might expect an album's worth of knotty, complex avant-prog to follow, but Koik Saab Korda (Everything Will Be OK) instead provides some of the most grooving, rocking, and hooky music released to date under AltrOck's auspices. The album's sound suggests Can and the funked-up side of Talking Heads in a retro-futuristic meld with space and prog rock, psychedelia, jazz-rock, and contemporary electronica -- the label itself cites Norway's Jaga Jazzist and earlier Estonian outfits Phlox and Kaseke as influences on the band. But the album cover's cartoony artwork -- featuring (among many other things) a skateboarding dog, tentacles emerging from a crevice in a pyramid, a giant mushroom sprouting TV antennae, a blaxploitation-era tornado-shaped pole dancer, and a bug-eyed, lobster-clawed critter sitting at the bar -- perhaps best represents the album's crazy spirit. "Koik Saab Korda" is actually one of the heaviest tunes here, beginning with three emphatic chords and adding layer upon layer of instrumentation -- arpeggiated keys, surging electro noise oscillations, a huge marimba-like melody, and dramatic deep brass -- to create the album's massive and powerful introduction. Then the fun begins.
In two minutes and change, "Termiitide Tervitus" finds Siim Randveer cranking out a heavily treated guitar line over a skewed full-band vamp approaching a Soft Machine "We Did It Again" level of maddening repetition; bassist Lauri Randveer and drummer Martin Tamm lock into the infectious dance groove fueling "Veenuse Koopas," as Siim Randveer's licks distill the essence of funk-rock and Jane Povvat's bari sax, Henri Aruküla's trombone, and Mihkel Viirsalu's trumpet are layered beneath Kaspar Aus' swarms of echoing keyboards. Aus rocks it up with Farfisa sounds to begin "Kriminaalne Venemaa," then seemingly beams in a melody from an orbiting satellite as the band jams out on a four-chord vamp, soon joined by the horns and a "Sympathy for the Devil"-styled "woo woo" vocal chorus. More insistent grooving, layered riffs and melodies, and spacy embellishments fill "Tagasi Tulevikku... Ja Tagasi," and by now the party is in full swing, but there is much more to come: the hard guitar crunch and Krautrock-on-steroids chorus of "Sai Ju Räägitud!"; the Bobby Previte Coalition of the Willing-style ascending staircase structure of "Valteri Ohtlik Elu"; the stunning 5/4 Middle Eastern space jam of "Algiers - New York - Luunja," which resolves into a lyrical homecoming; the interplanetary anthemic gospel finale of "Spirituaal." The album's quirky sonic panoply favors simulated dog barks, sirens, and whistles over indulgent soloing, and while Wrupk Urei's disorienting sounds represent a truly collaborative effort, keyboard wizard Aus and hotshot guitarist Siim Randveer deserve special mention, the latter's Phil Manzanera/Michael Karoli stylings cutting through the mix with focus, incisiveness, and melodicism even when slathered with wild effects. ~ Dave Lynch