In Spe - In Spe

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Eesti Raadio
Catalog Number: ERCD-028
Format: CD
Total Time: 40:58:00

Estonian Progressive Rock is probably the best-kept secret of the last thirty years. Under Soviet rule the beautiful pieces that Estonian musicians were creating got suppressed and were forced into hiding. There could be no widespread distribution as was enjoyed by the likes of Genesis, King Crimson, Yes and ELP. But remaining undeterred, small pockets of artistic resistance did survive, and partially fuelled by their political frustrations they composed and performed their music ... music that would have rivaled any of the international Prog giants if an audience outside Estonia could have heard it. Releases were seldom and on a small scale, hardly ever reaching the outside world. Thankfully, the days of Soviet rule over, this much-overlooked Baltic country is finally beginning to yield up its gems on CD.

Erkki-Sven T??r is one of the most respected classical composers working in the world today, gaining international critical claim for his original and striking work. In 1979 he formed a Progressive Rock ensemble under the moniker of In Spe, whose eponymous debut album was released in 1983. A limited run of four thousand copies was produced, and as such In Spe remained unheard by the world at large. Thankfully in 1999 In Spe was released on CD, marking one of the greatest moments in Estonian Prog history.

The album opens with the three part "S?mfoonia Seitsmele Esitajale" (Symphony for Seven Performers), which is one of the finest examples of classical/rock fusion to be found anywhere. Fans of bands such as The Enid who play Prog with heavy classical overtones will love In Spe, and whilst I have heard many albums claiming to blend the two genres this record is quite simply the best. By a long, long way.... The term "genius" is bandied about constantly in music reviews simply for the want of a better word. But here there should be no doubt that Erkki-Sven T??r is truly a music visionary.

The first movement is "Ostium" which opens with T??r's welcoming synth lines - his extensive use of analogue synthesisers provides the warm, rich tones that seem so lacking today. Gradually the piece stirs into life, the themes striking and well defined, and the playing simply superb. Half way through the lead is taken by Riho Sibul on guitar for a blistering solo, before T??r's keyboards crash in once again.

"Illuminato," the second movement, begins is true Prog/classical style, with a woodwind duet between Peeter Brambat and T??r. The lilting, bewitching melody is supported by the rest of the band, but not drowned, leaving the music to live and breathe as it should. Again some beautiful guitar work from Sibul comes in towards the middle, as the lines of melody drift in and out of each other fitting together perfectly. This complexity and intertwining is one of the many things that separate In Spe from some of the watered down "neo-prog" bands who were beginning to emerge at the same time in the West. The opening theme is reprised towards the end, before the ethereal, revelationary finale.

The final movement, "Mare Viteum" is the most advanced. Jazzy cymbals, flute and a cascade of piano kick things off, before bass, guitar and keyboards join in the fun. At times delicately shimmering, and at times positively bombastic keyboard/guitar driven Prog, one is forced into wondering how the Progressive world would have reacted if this music had been widely available at the time of its initial release. Certainly the standard of what could be expected from a Prog band would have been raised somewhat. The crashing chord changes and pounding drums of the conclusion are everything that Symphonic Progressive Rock should be!

The second half of the album begins with "Antidolorosum", the only vocal track. Perhaps the rockiest cut, it opens with angular dark driving guitar and organ Prog, assisted by Toivo Kopoli who underpins the melody with huge, resonant bass notes. T??r proves himself a perfectly expressive vocalist as well as a virtuoso pianist, flautist and composer! It is superbly constructed, with big sweeping changes and a whole heap of drama.

If "Antidolorosum" is brilliant but traditional Prog matter, the following "P?ikesevene" (The Sunboat) is much more unusual. A disjointed but repeating background rhythm is stealthily enhanced and built upon, rather in the manner of Discipline era King Crimson. Quiet flute skips with agility across the mesmerising backdrop whilst Arvo Urb's drumming expands in complexity. Anyone familiar with Bill Bruford's drumming on "Cerulean Sea" (from B.L.U.E.) will hear a very similar type of construction here.

Things get a little more traditional when yet another distinctive guitar lead from Sibul comes in: less frantic than usual, he plays over the rhythm in grandiose style. Juicy Hammond and analogue synth are also brought in as the tension builds. The original background theme is never lost, and indeed takes over once again, before the whole band finally kicks in for the grandiose, Gothic tinged and slightly dissonant, finale.

"Sf??ride V?itlus" (Battle of the Spheres) is a masterpiece, portraying the eternal fight between Good and Evil. Light, angelic melodies are forced upon by pounding organ and guitar dissonance. Soaring harmonies, triumphant chords and layer upon layer of music and musicianship close the album in the grand style with which it began. Good triumphs in the end in case you were wondering, but not without gaining a heavier, more world-weary, sound.

The re-release of In Spe corrects one of the many injustices in the music world. It is a valuable historical document of what was happening in a corner of the world neglected by most music fans. It too throws new light on the Progressive scene at the start of the 1980s, and also the career of Erkki-Sven T??r, a musical genius who at the height of his classical career refuses to disavow his Prog beginnings. Finally, and most importantly, it is one of the most accomplished, inspirational, and unique examples of Symphonic Progressive that anyone could hope to hear.

More information on In Spe and a whole wealth of Estonian Prog can be found at Mel Huang's website, listed below.

Previously released in 1983 by Melodija (C60 19367 001)

S?mfoonia Seitsmele Esitajale (Symphony for Seven Performers): a) Ostium (4:25) / b) Illuminato (6:50) / c) Mare Vitreum (8:16) / Antidolorosum (4:47) / P?ikesevene [The Sunboat] (8:59) / Sf??ride v?itlus [Battle Of The Spheres] (7:19)

Erkki-Sven T??r - keyboards, vocals, flute, recorders
Riho Sibul - guitars
Peter Brambat - flute, tenor recorder
Anne T??r - keyboards
Mart Metsala: keyboards, Hammond
Toivo Kopli: bass
Arvo Urb: drums
Priit Kuulberg: electronics, vocoder (also remastering for CD)

In Spe (1983/1999)
In Spe (1985)
Typewriter Concerto In D (1994) (reissue of 2nd CD)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin EE

Added: March 1st 2000
Reviewer: Tony Emmerson

Artist website:
Hits: 1095
Language: english


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