It's early morning, June 8, 2013. We are at Lake Muike in Lahemaa National Park, Estonia. It's a windless, warm and sunny day. Birds sing, and bugs are about.
Listen at the volume of the original, natural environment.
On 2013. aasta 8nda juuni varahommik. Oleme Lääne-Virumaal Lahemaa Rahvuspargis, Muike järve kaldal. Päike paistab ning on tuulevaikne ja soe ilm. On kosta linnulaulu, vahel lendab mööda ka mõni putukas.
Kuula looduslikul helitugevusel.
Vital Weekly 954 :
TAAVI TULEV - KUKU! (miniCD, private)
From Estonia hails Taavi Tulev, who is an electronic musician as well as a field recordist. I never heard his work before but apparently he has been working since 2000, releasing a few albums and creating installations in museums, exhibitions and soundtracks to films; recently he expanded his interest into field recordings. One beautiful springtime day he walked out of his house, into the woods switched on his recording device and recorded twenty minutes of field recordings, mainly of birds. I am not sure if this is how this worked, but it sounds like it could have been. It sounds great, especially on a cold and rainy autumn day in The Netherlands. While listening to this, and I suggest you listen to this on repeat actually, you can create your own cover: a bunch of stickers are delivered which you stuck on the front and create your own landscape. It looks a bit childlike, but all of this, music and artwork together, oozes sunshine! Positive thinking! Holidays! I was thinking, when this stopped after nineteen minutes, why didn't he stay out in the woods for a full hour? I wouldn't have minded this artificial bit of nature in my house these days. (FdW)
POSTED BY DWIGHT PAVLOVIC ON NOVEMBER 7, 2014
Taavi Tulev is an Estonian experimental electronic composer, field recorder, sound designer… an artist with an interest in context and presentation, which is perhaps a large part of why he seems to be developing a distinct penchant for unusually packaged CDs. In 2013 he released a compact EP of moody soundscapes under the Wochtzchée moniker, securing a slim rectangular mini-CD in an “acrylic glass package which can be opened only by breaking it” (he’s got one copy left as of my writing). Though how he parses his work is unclear — early releases under his own name sample as much from the aural palette evident on Wochtzchée recordings — his latest is a softer touch, prepared field recordings with a charming set of transparent stickers designed by fellow Estonian artist Okeiko to allow listeners to design their own unique packaging. Named Kuku, presumably in honor of the vocal owl that appears throughout, the 22 minute recordings are attributed to the “Estonian woods in springtime.” Though it doesn’t transport you directly into those surely very agreeable forests, whichever one is responsible, the colorful way Tulev chose to package his recording is an almost brilliantly easy hook into the sounds of his home country — regardless of how conspicuously winter happens to be looming.
A CLOSER LISTEN
November 28, 2014, Richard Allen
Estonia’s Taavi Tulev describes himself as a soundscape designer, concerned with the interplay between natural and urban noises. Tulev is also an electronic artist, whose last release, T400, was released in a plastic case that had to be cracked to be opened. The packaging of his latest release is the opposite, inspiring a work of creation rather than destruction. Those who purchase the disc are invited to attach their choice of stickers to the digipak. Okeiko’s childlike images conjure a swift smile; even the translucent disc contains the artist’s happy doodles.
As to the sound of the disc: “It’s early morning, June 8, 2013. We’re at Lake Muike in Lahemaa National Park, Estonia. It’s a windless, warm and sunny day. Birds sing, and bugs are about.” The main character is a bird who chants the title of the album throughout the 22-minute recording, echoing effectively toward the end. Consider this character the lead singer, and the backing birds the band. From time to time, a guest vocalist – typically a bee – is given a line or two. The musicians are typically choral, but are occasionally percussive, using trees and water as their drum set. Together, they create a wall of natural sound. The longer one listens, the more nuance one gleans; one eventually begins to anticipate the entrance of the baby birds in the nineteenth minute.
contentsThe artist advises listeners to play the piece at “natural” volume so that it is interchangeable with the source environment. One of Tulev’s concerns is the seeming eradication of such sounds by those of industry. This humble disc is an invitation to bring the sounds of the outdoors indoors, as a reminder of what we’re missing, or have lost. A deeper invitation is for those in urban environments to find a sonic space of their own, whether it be a pocket or a preserve. The underlying hope is that such a discovery might bring the listener joy, restoring a sense of childlike wonder. Perhaps then one might return to one’s desk, reaching not for the keyboard, but for the crayons that one had set aside for younger visitors. One suspects that Tulev would be happy to learn he had inspired such a choice.
January 1st 2015, Andrew Danso
Kuku! is not music… at least not in its conventional sense. What’s heard is a piece of foley art, the recording of a lake during summer morning in a national park, Estonia. The recording itself is great. The environment teems naturally, birds chirp, a breeze gently fleets, the lake splashes and bees pan across the stereo field, humming in and out. It’s a wonderfully real experience, and if you have a penchant for self-reflection, this could well take you places.
That notion of bringing your own experience to Kuku! is not unlike John Cage’s 4’33”, were Cage focused on eliminating all sound for 4 minutes and 33 seconds—instead he was thrilled to hear the sound of his pulse thumping and nerves whizzing. I’m thinking about past summer travels while drafting this review, and they are warm pleasant reflections, perhaps amplified by the serenity of the recording. Richard Allen’s review discusses the record in terms of sound design, where the smaller birds chirping are backing vocalists to a main character and so on. It’s a wonderful interpretation, otherwise unrealized to this critic.
Yet, this is not strictly music and one should be clear to state that Kuku! would be a record only met halfway, even by audiophiles, if it shipped as an ambient piece alone. Instead, it ships as a breathtakingly detailed CD package. What designer Okeiko and composer Taavi Tulev have created in their package design is an extension of the ambient work on Kuku! As the design is so incredibly detailed (and do view the image inserted on this page), its visual ideas are forced upon the listener, who visualizes the images supplied by the art while listening to the environmental backdrop of the audio. It’s a technically impressive accomplishment.
Tulev is picking up awards for this too—winning silver prize in the Estonian Design Awards earlier in 2014. It is an extraordinarily detailed and beautiful package which accompanies the transparent disc inside. The disc has artist Okeiko’s doodles on it, and you’re even encouraged to re-arrange the front panel of art yourself, being supplied with a range of suitable stickers to attach. This focus on creation is the opposite to Tulev’s previous record, T400, where the emphasis was on destruction (you had to smash the glass that the CD was contained in to get it.)
Kuku! would not be near as exciting or interesting without its art-cum-package design to accompany it. It’s a well-recorded piece of foley artistry which sounds wholly authentic. Yet without Okieko’s and Tulev’s design, it would be a very incidental piece of work, perhaps fitting best in a museum, or art gallery as background audio for spectators to get a feel for a natural environment. What Kuku‘s package does successfully, is marry a visual reality of its recording, imposing a strong picture into our imagination for an ambiance to live in.