Mart Avi is a man with a velvet voice. So why does “Rakia”, the standout track on his new EP Wisteria, not make use of it? Firstly, neither convention nor expectation can divert Avi’s unwavering vision. Secondly, he is an excellent producer – perhaps more so on this record than ever before. Both 2020’s Vega Never Sets and last year’s Blade cemented his place as the unsung extraordinaire of hyperpop, but here the glitches and synths feel more streamlined; more organic.
Opening with the sombre “4000 Days”, Avi, ensconced in a chamber of whirring and echoes, invites us to traverse a new landscape. Jungles, snowy peaks, and a faceless personification of the future await, as the artist wrestles with destiny and the unknowable. His trademark sound, industrial, processed, and hypnotic, is in full effect. Inspired by a recent tour of the Balkans, “Get On With It” and “Rakia” come clattering into view. The former is reminiscent of Avi’s early work, while the latter marks new sonic territory for the Estonian native.
Although Avi has consistently dipped his toes in the waters of club music, fundamentally he has remained a pop artist. Here, though, his melodic choruses make way for lush synths and progressively tense, invigorating beats. A wailing, siren-like hook leads the way to a concrete dancefloor in a crowded basement where dry ice and sweat become one. If he ever decides to leave pop behind, his production skills will surely see him succeed in the dance world.
This foray comes to an end with title track “Wisteria”, a wonderfully wonky mix of guitar slices and lilting rhythms, over which Avi continues to wax candidly about nature and the elusive “you”. There’s just time for him to take on the ballad too, subverting it in true Avi style on the desolate, pulsing, “Silent Wheel”, before closing with lead single, “Village Affairs”.
Where previous releases, accomplished though they were, suggested Mart Avi had found a niche and was plying it contentedly, Wisteria hints at something more. The record presents him with new avenues. Standing on the corner, eyes fixed straight ahead, he could well decide to journey down them. But when has Mart Avi ever chosen the obvious route?