Estonia is the smallest of the newly independent Baltic states, now able to boast its lengthy cultural heritage free of the confines of Soviet constraint. Violinist Tiit Kikas rode the surge of post-independence nationalist enthusiasm before extending his horizons across the Baltic to study in neighboring Finland.
On returning home, he spread his talents to include improvisational work in the folk idiom with the band Dagö, before tackling the composition of music for the Eurovision program in 2002. Extensive studio work since then have obviously laid the basis for his first solo album released in Finland, String Theory (Rockadillo). Following the example of fellow Balts accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen and guitarist Jarmo Saari, Kikas has brought his knowledge of sound manipulation to bear on his classical and folk roots, to produce a solo album utilizing all the opportunities of digital technology.
The resulting nine tracks are a blend of rhythmic washes and effects built up to a full audio experience, all from one man and his violin. Taking his inspiration from contemporary issues in "Genome" as well as his country's convoluted relationship with its eastern neighbor ("If you break your bow Mr. Gagarin"the Soviet astronaut) Kikas plays with soundscapes in a lighthearted style. On "Play with Strings" there's the influence of the traditional Estonian fiddle, which one might have expected to feature more prominently. In comparison with Pohjonen and Saari, Kikas doesn't stretch his compositional envelope as broadly as one might have expected, but the album is still a worthy addition to the growing genre of post-classical folk musicians looking for more eclectic electronic pastures. Whether he continues his explorations deeper into electronics, or expands his acoustic repertoire, will be an interesting issue.
Personnel: Tiit Kikas: violin.