Estonian folk music isn't something that comes around these parts all that often (to be honest, it's never shown up until now); so we're not going to claim to have any pre-existing knowledge of the genre. But we'll don our ethnomusicological hats for this beautifully rich document of ancient Estonian folk songs!
Utsiotso is an Estonian men's choir reviving very old songs and archaic dialects from the Estonian people, whose cultural and geographical wanderings had planted villages as far as Novosibirisk in central Siberia over the millennia. There were a number of tribes and communities which took part in this diaspora, including the Seto and the Voru peoples. The former was the more widely spread, responsible for those Siberian settlements many centuries ago; and the latter populated what became southern Estonia and northern Latvia. As you could imagine, their dialects and their cultural traditions vary with the distance from the Estonian cultures localized farther north and west near the Baltic Sea. It's these particular, nearly forgotten cultures that are the objects of research for Utsiotso.
Musically, these folk songs are a capella short numbers, hinged upon the recurring polyphonic chants from the four voices offset in rhythmic phrases by a single voice, who presumably carrying the narrative of the song against the allegorical reprise of the chanting. It's not hard to hear Appalachian call and response, or the cyclical rhythms of Persian song poems, or the melancholy harmonics of Germanic plainsongs in these ancient hymns. The liner-notes are mostly in Estonian, with some brief English translations explaining that the songs wax about love, war, alcohol, and the bitter cold; but throughout these languid harmonies and vocal repetitions, Utiotso emphasizes a profound and beautiful sadness in their songs. They fix this emotional sentiment to the land from which they come by recording these songs in various locations in the Estonian countryside, including the windswept forest, the lapping waves of Lake Peipsi, and a couple of resonant churches. The recording was provided by Patrick McGinley, better known as the sound ecologist / drone strategist Murmer. His role is suitably small, lending all of the weight to the drama of these four men, their voices, and these ancient songs.
Kae ka: http://www.aquariusrecords.org/