Mart Avi on new music, personal shifts and lockdown tips
- Arusa Qureshi
- 23 April 2020
Estonian pop-provocateur chats to us ahead of the release of his fifth solo album Vega Never Sets
In these strange and uncertain times, music has become the ultimate comfort for many, keeping us somewhat sane and providing much needed company during expected bouts of loneliness. With lockdown in full force and consequently, now being as good a time as any to discover new music, we've all found ourselves coming across all kinds of exciting, innovative and intriguing projects. Enter enigmatic Estonian pop producer Mart Avi.
Though Avi has been working hard for years in Estonia, with each of his albums deservedly receiving high acclaim from critics and accolades at the Estonian Music Awards, he perhaps undeservedly remains a hidden gem beyond his native homeland. His last album, 2018's OtherWorld, was a glorious, soulful release, perfectly exhibiting his niche at creating often unsettling yet mesmerising sonic soundscapes. With a new album on the horizon, the pop provocateur recently released the similarly beguiling lead double single 'Spark / Soul ReaVer'.
'There was a time when I was exclusively working on just these two tracks as dual entities,' he says of his choice to release the tracks as a dual single. '"Spark" and "Soul ReaVer" were like two synchronised tunnels under the same channel going in opposite directions, being dug at the same time. The two started to feel like a loop that shouldn't be broken, hence the double single.'
The two videos that accompany the singles, directed by Ivar Murd, are disorientating with their Super 8 fisheye lens view and sprawling industrial setting. But working in sync, the videos and the tracks themselves are complementary, offering a strange and surreal narrative that evokes a sense of dystopian emptiness.
'The accompanying videos expound this by directly linking both realities – it's like folding a sheet of paper to create two opposite realms, then poking a threaded needle through it. While "Spark" stomps towards extricating the preceding, then "Soul ReaVer" has a sense of ever-going amnesia. There's one Ian Penman quote that sums it up just perfectly, "Electricity has made us all angels. Technology has made us all ghosts."'
The dual single provides a decent introduction to Avi's ability to play with pop and electronic tropes, but it also looks ahead to his fifth solo album Vega Never Sets, due in late 2020.
'The boldest way to put it is that I might be aiming for something ecstatic and rapturous, because I don't want to give up, on anything or on anyone,' he explains about his hopes for the album. 'Sure, I'm also having bleak thoughts about the world and its state, but the use of these meanderings is rather questionable. I'm not planning to plunk this weight on my music. The gush of Vega Never Sets shall be lucent and alluring.'
Of the link between Vega Never Sets and OtherWorld, Avi notes that there have been various changes for him in the period between the two records that may translate both thematically and musically.
'During the past year I got to perform under the pacific currents of Taiwan and the low atmospheric pressure of Netherlands, in maddening steppes of Central Russia etc. There has been so much contrasting newness to absorb that it felt like hitting puberty again. I also happened to discover that I'm much taller in height than I thought I was. Perhaps there's been a personal shift towards reliable extroversion. So I've grown in each and every way.'
For artists that are releasing music in the current climate, it's certainly not an easy time to be putting new work out into the world, but like many of us, Avi has been finding comfort in his own musical discoveries.
'Besides releasing and promoting my double-single and accompanying videos, I've spent the first month of lockdown processing all kinds of pop-culture clutter. I've had meticulous forays into extreme micro-genres and cultural movements such as bit-crushed breaks of the New '20s or early '90s hardcore.'
'My lockdown tip for others,' he continues, 'treat this like a massive role-playing game, where the survival process can be playful. In the future, those who collectively went through this are going to experience a sort of nostalgia for the pandemic season. You will forever remember what you did in the spring of 2020 because the surrounding context has been unprecedented – no need to cloud it with too much impractical worry or sleepwalk it.'
And what is he most looking forward to doing once restrictions are lifted?
'I hope to watch NBA finals during the wee hours after a proper night out.'