Joseph Karol Smith
Sometimes strange, often beautiful, an introspective album with a dreamlike quality. It takes me to golden places. Compact melodies, on-point harmonies and throughout a powerful rhythmic drive without the single beat of a drum. A beer, this album, a window and rain. Perfect.
Balm of Light is the second solo album by the Estonian guitarist and composer Robert Jürjendal.
Compared with Roberts first album Source Of Joy ( Unsung Records 2013), Balm of Light is focused more towards different guitar sounds and composition techniques. As well as playing semi-acoustic, classical, 12 string and Gretsch electric guitars, Robert plays and records for the first time in his life with a U8 touch guitar which has a strong impact on the aesthetics of the sound of this new recording. It should be pointed out that on this album the touch guitar is played using fingerstyle techique with relatively little tapping.
Balm of Lightis a conceptual album – almost all the titles are related to the meaning of „light“.
Paradoxically, the album was recorded at Aaviku Farmstead in Estonia, during January and February - which happened to be the darkest period of the season. According to information from Estonian Weather Reports, throughout the whole of January there were only 19 hours of sunlight in the country. But don't understand this wrong – for Robert, this dark time is ideal for creating and recording new music! There exists a tension and an anticipation toward springtime, toward the light. As we know, light can also be a destructive and depressing thing as it occurs in the big cities of the world; but for Northern people, light is a meaning of life.
The musical material of the album was gathered, tested and prepared throughout 2014. This began in January and February 2014 with writing the soundtrack for the beautiful Estonian nature film „Hoidmise vägi“ directed by Riho Västrik. The musical themes for the documentary gave an idea to the series of solo performances which started in May 2014 with a concert at St.Oleviste church in Tallinn and continued with a seven date tour of Estonian churches during the summer of 2014. This preparation period culminated in a solo performance at St. Nicholas church on Dec 3th together with the harpist Liis Viira in a program of Christmas Jazz by Jazzkaar Festival – the biggest jazz festival in Estonia.
Balm of Light was recorded and mixed by Robert Jürjendal in his home studio at Aaviku Farmstead, 40 km from Tallinn, Estonia. There are no keyboards used on this recording, all sounds are produced with guitar, electronics and other instruments. The nature sounds (such as the rain and thunder in My Day Passes Away) and the singing cricket (Singing Cricket) were recorded in the garden of Aaviku Farmstead. The harpsichord was recorded at Robert's daughter Iti's apartment in Tartu, Estonia.
There are also some much-appreciated guest musicians on the album: Robert's wife Signe (voice in Then The Days..., Transformations, Sunlit II), their son Anti (cello in Then The Days.., Honey Calcite, Perseids, Protuberances) and their daughter Iti (harpsichord in From Dream Forests To Spring).
Musically, Balm of Lightis an eclectic album. One can find there soft ambient textures (Sunlit I, Balm of Light), advanced delay techniques (From Dream Forests To Spring), classical guitar ensemble composition (Transformations), live-looping techniques (Sunlit II, Balm of Light), field recordings and percussion treatments (Singing Cricket), a taste of early music (Transformations, Honey Calcite), latin (Sunlit II, Transformations), the use of traditional folk hymns (My Day Passes Away), experimentation and fusion (Perseids, Protuberances).
Balm of Light is a mirror of Robert Jürjendal's personal style which connects to the unconnected - or unconnectable - worlds. The music of the album would make sense to those listeners who are open to both the traditional - and the unexpected - contemporary soundworlds.
Produced by Robert Jürjendal
Recorded and mixed by Robert Jürjendal at Aaviku Farmstead
Master by Indrek Patte at Matrix Stuudio
Glass Art and installation by Lotte Jürjendal
Photos by Tauno Pääslane
Design by Tarvo-Kaspar Toome