Lifestyle Music have just updated their Connection series with a beastly Baltic excursion: Estonian Connection. Following focuses on Australia and Belgium, the V/A collection showcases 10 of Estonia’s many D&B acts, weaving a thread through the country’s broad but predominantly dark and techy D&B style.
As with previous collections, the album unearths a whole wealth of talent and exclusively celebrates a vibrant and exciting local scene. In the case of Estonia (one of the least populated countries in the EU with only 1.5 million residents and is over 50 percent forest) it’s a scene that has deeper roots than you might expect; drum & bass has been bubbling away in the country since the mid 90s when it was championed by respected Estonian radio DJ Raul Saaremets on his Raadio 2 show Vibratsioon and later pushed by events such as the country’s famous Sin City party in clubs in capital city Tallinn and Estonia’s second largest city Tartu and other events such as Minimal, Grind, Format and many more. Russia’s famous Pirate Station raves were also strong influence in nearby St Petersburg and occasional events in Tallinn.
These days the city is home to imprints such as Kelder, RustOut, Depthwise/Dubthing and Through Sounds, while the Tjuun In crew dominate the game with a longstanding Raadio 2 show and regular roadblock events. Then there are the artists themselves…
With more D&B acts making international impressions than ever before, Estonia has a serious talent stash with much more than the 12 artists profiled below. Other acts who require full attention include Keshob, Audioholic and the runaway success of new duos such as Imaginary Friends (aka Modest Intentions and Rumble Bee) and HeadRead, a collaboration between Planeet (below) and Slammin who’ve racked up vibe miles on the likes of DSCi4 and Kos.Mos.Music. Dig deep into the extensive catalogues of Kelder and RustOut and you’ll find many more rising through the Estonian echelons. But first, dig deep into these…
Recently spotted on 31 and Repertoire, Tartu based Thing reps some of the deepest sounds of Estonian bass and has done for many years now. Flexing between dub and jungle with strong ambient textures and heavy atmospheres and deep shades of bass, he’s been a perfect fit on the likes of Warm Communications, Blu Mar Ten Music and Lifestyle. That’s when he’s not fronting his own two labels Dubthing and Depthwise. A regular in sets of acts such as Loxy and Gremlinz and a repeat face on Doc Scott’s label, Thing is one of the most consistent and longstanding acts in the Estonian game.
Look out for: Future releases which can’t quite be revealed but will be worth waiting for. In the meantime his Bandcamp page is a treasure trove of deep delights.
Mean Teeth comprises Lithuanian Mark and Estonian Marius. They broke through on Bad Taste in 2015 and have since released on a whole arsenal of labels such as Renegade Hardware, Nickbee’s Axon, Lifestyle and Neurofunkgrid which is where they actually connected.
“It was so cool to see neurofunk coming out of the Baltic states for once,” says Mark. “Hearing producers like Vidual and Voice (Marius) on Neurofunkgrid years back when I was first starting out.”
Mark explains how the Lithuanian drum & bass scene is starting to pick up speed while Marius jokes that in his small hometown village Voore the drum & bass scene here is “just me and forest”. Either way these guys are getting global recognition right now with full support from the likes of Cause4Concern and Noisia and they have a whole slew of sounds en route.
Look out for: The second part of their album Bring Back The Funk on Cause4Concern recordings. Plus singles, collabs and remixes all set to drop throughout 2019.
One of the founding members of Mutated Forms with releases on the likes of Spearhead, Grid, CIA, Low Down Deep, Blu Mar Ten to his name, AJ Mutated is the most stylistically broad Estonian D&B artist in this list. With 18 years of production under his belt, he’s one of the longest standing, too.
Having lived in Birmingham for many years, he’s a lesser spotted act on the local scene, but his hometown Tartu and the capital Tallinn are where his love for drum & bass began at legendary nights such as Sin City. “I remember being refused entry with a fake ID as a school kid when I tried to go see DJ Zinc at Sin City in Club Tallinn in 2004,” laughs AJ who still supports local nights when he’s over visiting family and follows his peers’ productions closely.
“I’m blown away by the production level of Mean Teeth, Insect is also very advanced,” he explains. “I like what Modest Intentions does. Thing for the deeper sounds. Tesla Coil made some good tunes. Obviously Sound In Noise being on RAM is a pretty strong look for Estonia. He is really good.”
Look out for: An imminent single on ProgRAM, a remix for MC Spyda with Bassface Sascha, Flex and Feindsoul and a forthcoming tune coming up on Viper. There are also a few Mutated Forms tunes coming up on Spearhead.
Sound In Noise
Sound In Noise has lived up to his blaring namesake since landing on Ram Records in late 2016. Last year was his nosiest yet; in the wake of 2017’s grizzled Duppy Bass came the gutter chomping sleaze of Ping Pong and the moodier intergalactic romp The Prophet (on the label’s Let It Roll EP) both doing a serious damage and setting our expectations high for more this year. A regular DJ at key Estonian events such as Format, he’s just as naughty at the controls as he is in the studio. For added stripes check his authentic and respectful remix of DJ Fresh’s Gatekeeper on Ram’s 25 year album.
Look out for: We suspect something is going to land on Ram very soon… He didn’t share Andy C’s recent XOYO video for nothing.
Representing since 2010, Modest Intentions’ soulful sounds have been a staple in Estonian drum & bass for the best part of 10 years. Armed with a bright, breezy piano laced signature, he’s found himself on label such as Liquicity, Galacy, Soul Deep, Liquid Brilliance and Celsius where he’s most frequently spotted and dropped his most recent single No Shadows In Trust. A regular DJ with Tjuun In, Format and the now defunct Sin City parties, he’s also just formed a new duo with fellow Tallinn artist Rumble Bee called Imaginary Friends. Entering the game earlier this year with this trance tinged dancefloor shredding bootleg of Virtual Self.
Look out for: More oceanic liquid vibes on the likes of Celsius and heavier sounds from his new Imaginary Friends project.
29 year oId Insect has been rising through the techy roller ranks for 10 years as a producer and five years as a DJ. His first major international breakthrough was in 2016 on Med School via their new talent championing New Blood album (he did this dope mix for them at the time) and more recently he’s appeared on the mighty C4C with his Noisia support collabo with Mean Teeth (Mudrub) and Estonian D&B institution Kelper. His sound is largely dark, heavy and tech entrenched, but he’s passionate about Estonia’s broad drum & bass church.
“The local scene is full of variations in drum and bass,” he tells us. “We have everything from jungle, liquid to neurofunk and hardcore drum and bass. If you come to Tallinn for drum & bass you have lots of options; More mainstream drum bass fans will enjoy the popular Grind events but we have a lot of great parties, almost weekly. In terms of Estonian artists I would recommend you check out Sound In Noise and Thing as well as everybody on the Lifestyle album. There is a lot of great D&B heads. They all are worth of checking out. As is the label Kelder. That is our own local movement dedicated to local drum and bass.”
Look out for: Plenty of new tracks can be expected later this year but right now he’s building his studio. Stay tuned to his socials for more updates.
Tartu born, Tallin based: Kimmo Rusty Mustard Sõna cooks up a mean brew of sinewy rollage, and he’s not shy of a few downtempo glitch experiments either. He’s also behind one of Estonia’s busiest D&B labels RustOut Records who have been responsible for 75 releases so far.
The label is responsible for some pretty epic collections of local beats and turns five in May. Rusty’s own history goes back a little further, however. He’s been producing for eight years and has made beats for many Estonian pop artists and rappers. In terms of D&B, he’s been a fan since his dad’s mate used to play him Aphrodite mixes in the car as a kid. “Also I remember when my brother used to listen to Crossfire – Hydra in the next room,” he grins. “This track still gives me goosebumps!”
Look out for: A collaboration with Emptysight and plenty more material on RustOut by himself and many other artists. Goosebumps galore.
“Having an electronic music festival without a D&B stage is not the smartest move in my opinion, not in Estonia,” grins Planeet. He should know; his began producing drum & bass in the late 90s and some of his earliest memories of the genre were at a Prodigy show when the warm up act dropped a bunch of Total Science, Ed Rush & Optical and Source Direct… Influences you can hear in his music to this day.
After spending much of the 2000s exploring other genres, Planeet returned to D&B in 2010 and has since released on the likes of RustOut, another long standing national label Kelder and his own self titled imprint. He’s also part of a duo HeadRead with fellow Estonian Slammin’ and is a regular fixture on Tallin’s D&B line ups. “The local scene here is really healthy,” he tells us. “Local DJs and artists (including myself) are throwing parties from time to time. We have a radio show and an event organization called Tjuun In run by QBA, To-Sha and L.Eazy. They have been keeping the scene alive since it began and are hosting monthly events with big drum’n’bass names in Tallinn. Check them out!”
Look out for: Planeet is working towards his second album which, he explains, “is mostly for the Estonian crowd due to its usage of native language samples and vocals on the tracks.” That should drop later this year while his and Slammin’s HeadRead alias has upcoming releases on locked on Electrosoul System’s Kos.Mos.Music, Delta9 and Rustout records. Check him out!
Repping a deeper, more liquid influenced side to the Estonian side, Majestim has been bringing the feels as a producer for six years with releases appearing on the likes of RustOut and Liquid Tones. Like many of the artists in this list, he plays regularly in the Estonian capital.
“We have at least three well-known drum & bass artists coming here every month at events like Tjuun In, Grind and Format. That has blessed me with opportunities to share the stage with some of the artists that inspire me the most,” explains Majestim who regularly reps for the Tjuun In crew. “Drum & bass is really blooming here. The Tjuun In nights are held at all kinds of different venues all across Estonia and I always have a blast playing at them. I would recommend these events for anyone visiting Estonia, wanting to get a proper skank on.”
Look out for: Majestim has a number of tracks coming out on various compilation albums. He’s also close to completing a new EP.
“I have to say that considering the size of Estonia, which is 1/7th of London as the total population of the country, the scene is really healthy,” grins InZtance. “There are a lot of international artists performing here constantly and I am happy to point out that the average punter is pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the music and its players.”
Based in Tallin, Tartu and London, and flexing a discography that includes releases on Warm Communications, Medschool, Hustle Audio and Through Sounds, InZtance is pretty knowledgeable himself. With a classically trained background, he’s been responsible for some serious beats, too. His track Road To Mandalay on the Estonian Connection is just the tip of the iceberg and cuts such as Way Back When are pure jungle drum magic.
Look out for: An EP landing later this year on Hustle Audio who he’ll also be playing for in the UK in July. Besides that he’s got various collaborations lined up and plenty more to follow.
Cald (AKA Allar Lauk) has been producing dark D&B and halftime beats for about eight years but has so far released only a handful of tracks. If his pensive halftime swagger joint Angry Music on the Estonian Connection album is anything to go by, he’ll be releasing plenty more in future from the Tartu resident.
“The scene here is pretty great,” says Cald who got bitten by the D&B bug when he first heard Spor. “The biggest D&B events in Tartu are usually held in Club Illusion, lots of great artists have been there, including Phace, Misanthrop, Noisia, Sub Focus, to name a few. It would be worth checking out because that’s the main club where D&B is played to larger crowds. We also have amazing labels, all have their own appeal. Dubthing Records releases some really nice deep tunes, RustOut recordings have released some really great darker dancefloor bangers, and also Kelder.”
Look out for: Releases in the future. Nothing can be 100 percent confirmed besides the fact the tracks are made using his hardware Bass Station synt.
With releases on Context, Faded, Authentic, OffWorld and Broken Audio, to name but a few, Bone knows his way around D&B. He’s been around since the mid 2000s and explored most known corners of the genre before settling into his own personal roomy fusion that ranges from gritty rollers such as the recent Undone on Kelder to the beautiful airy stepper Moments on OffWorld.
“I’m actually from southern Estonia and drum and bass I think made its way there a bit later than in the capital city Tallinn,” explains Bone. “Anyway, while I was visiting my uncle during the summer break one year, I somehow ended up in Sundance Music Festival. It was held in a local amusement park and I remember I was quite hooked from the music.”
Now it’s time to get hooked on Bone.
Look out for: No solid releases are ready to confirm but expect more solo material and collaborations with Harrison and Moral Fibre.
Target Audience may be a new name to the game but he’s been sharpening his skills as a producer for almost four years and making music since he first picked up the guitar as a teenager.
“I’ve been keeping quiet and honing my craft,” he explains. “But the new songs will be somewhat combination of neuro vibe with added melodies to it and there will definitely be some dancefloor neuro stuff as well.”
A mechanical engineer by day, his first track backs up his melodic neuro description perfectly. Left Behind dropped last September and it’s just been followed by the gnarled sizzler Incoming Message on the Estonian Connection album. We can’t wait to hear what’s next…
Look out for: More releases before the end of the year.