In the early-to-mid-nineties, we were as spellbound by Mark Ernestus and Mortiz von Oswald as we were by the endless ebb and flow of the sea, as they moved from the most minimal of techno, characterised by the smooth, windowless whup of Maurizio’s M, into a soul-caressing, goosebump instrumental dub of Rhythm & Sound, which instantly created its own genre. While most of those who first struck perfect variations on that theme were friends and relations of in-house assembly station Chain Reaction and downstairs gathering spot, the Hard Wax Record Store (including Pole, Scion, Porter Ricks, Monolake, Vaiqueur), the sounds set free on vinyl were received by attentive antennae twitching across the globe, there among them Estonian Joel Tammik’s.
A bass player, by the early 2000s Tammik had begun producing solo albums on both domestic and European labels featuring his own warm, intelligent take on the new, pock-marked dub, deeply suggestive of the impact of another, more lo-fi, higher concept variation on the analogue glitch, Philip Jeck and his array of outmoded Dansette record players. Tammik’s Eluline (U-Cover) is perhaps the finest example of both his work thus far and the genre internationally.
Unless Horisont, his debut on his own new imprint, dedicated to the seafaring dreams of his grandfather, is. Not that Tammik has dramatically revamped his sound or conquered uncharted domains, but rather refined his warm, personal corner of the dub space to near perfection – beautifully integrated yet clear and distinct layers upon layers of charmed rhythm that seem to come into being and evolve through pure volition. Yet, as the listener comes to realize, a watershed moment occurs somewhere around the eighth track, as the music becomes less concentrated, more free-driftingly ambient, as if a steady undertow has been halted and sent into harmless eddying by a sandbar just offshore. It draws the album out to a near sixty minutes, the last twenty in which you can merely lie back and float while the first two-thirds kept you more alert, scanning the landscape with binocular eyes for each exiquisite, unexpected ripple and detail.
After this maiden voyage, Tammik chose to sign fellow Estonian Rajaleijda as first mate with his self-titled, long-playing debut. While a yeoman effort portraying a similarly undulating, perhaps queasier view of the pitch and toss of the sea, his is a greenhorn effort, smartly done but as yet in thrall to the many who have sailed before her.