Experimental Group ‘Themes For Great Cities’ Readies First Album Celebrating Tallinn, Estonia

International experimental four-piece Themes For Great Cities has announced a full-length debut album Themes For Great Cities: Tallinn as a love letter to the city of Tallinn, Estonia, due out February 2, 2023 via Moroderik Musik, including a limited run on vinyl. The first single Magazyn Sosysky” is out now. The group have also released a video of their performance of the song at Tallinn Music Week 2021.

In September 2021, four musicians gathered to celebrate the city of Tallinn, Estonia, and harvested sounds that tell the story of the city. The group consists of Mew‘s Jonas Bjerre (modular synthesizer, piano), Erki Pärnoja (guitar, keyboard), Jonas Kaarnamets (guitar, keyboard), and Alex Maiolo (modular synthesizer, recordings).

The group pioneered creating music without MIDI, using only modular synths, augmented by guitar and keyboards. The idea for the project came from “the desire to shed light on cities that don’t often get attention in effort to highlight and celebrate hidden treasures that lay within lesser-known metropolises”.

Maiolo explains about this first album:

The only directive was that the end result be musical. Some of the sounds we used in the piece are recognizable. Some were reassembled in a way that they maybe seemed familiar, but not quite. Some were ‘behind the scenes,’ dictating other sounds, rhythms, or changes. This is an allegory for the various levels cities affect us, from the ostensible to the subconscious.

Album artwork by Alyona Movko-Mägi 

“Magazyn Sosysky” is a track that was built around a real interaction in a Soviet-era open air market. Describing the song and its unique sound, Maiolo says:

Tram recordings lay the foundation as clocked clattered dishes from the ERR cafe (Estonia’s BBC) meet TR808 drums for a techno rhythm. Synth stabs and pads build, and we hear from a man asking where he can buy sausage in the old market. This song references how Estonia’s Nordic modernity meets with its Soviet past every moment.

In addition to their own musical work, the group partners with local artists to enhance their work. This time, Themes For Great Cities recruited Estonian multi-media artist Alyona Movko-Mägi to add to their message who created live visuals for the track as well as the single and album art.

The album was engineered by Kaarel Tamra, Adam McDaniel (Animal Collective, Angel Olsen, Moses Sumney, Indigo DeSouza), and Alex Maiolo. It was then mastered by Pete Weiss (Dusty Springfield, Aimee Mann, Mac Davis). The forthcoming LP was pressed to recycled red vinyl at Citizen Vinyl in Asheville, NC.

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