In Spe has to be considered one of the true giants of Estonian progressive rock. Even with its short history and changing face, the name In Spe has carried a certain awe about it -- even outside of Estonia, where the first LP is a much sought-after collectors item. Plus, the leader of the first version of the band, Erkki-Sven Tüür, is one of the world's most famous classical composers today.
In Spe was formed in the summer of 1979 by Erkki-Sven Tüür, then a student of composition and flute in Tallinn. The band was an outlet for Tüür to express his interests in a form of music combining classical and rock, one that he called "chamber rock" -- a phrase ahead of its time. In Spe turned into the teenager's most ambitious project, and he brought together a set of extremely talented musicians: his wife and pianist Anne Tüür, drummer Arvo Urb, guitar whiz Riho Sibul (of Propeller and other projects), flautist Peeter Brambat, keyboardist Mart Metsala, and bassist Toivo Kopli.
The group made its stage debut at the Tallinn Polytechnic Institute (now the Tallinn Polytechnic University) in December 1979. The complex pieces, featuring various layers of intricately-composed keyboard and flute parts, hooked the audience, and In Spe started gaining its well-deserved reputation. Erkki-Sven Tüür himself played keyboards, flute, recorder, and handled vocal duties. Gigging and writing continued into 1980 and 1981, and the band recorded some early tracks at the time. However, guitarist Riho Sibul had left to work with Kaseke, so he was replaced for a time by the doyen of prog guitarists, Jaanus Nõgisto of Ruja. Some of the early demos, which are still unreleased, featured some fabulous melodic solos by Nõgisto with his trademark sound. The material, though excellent themselves, paved the way for Tüür to write more ambitious pieces. Some of the best included "Isamaa" and "Uus ja vana" -- shockingly a melodic blues song with some excellent vocals by Tüür!
Sibul soon returned to In Spe, playing in both bands simultaneously. Going into 1982 and 1983, the seven members recorded many pieces. Gigging continued, and In Spe became one of the biggest bands at the annual Tartu Rock Festival. Eventually they recorded material for their debut LP; the self-titled LP was released in 1983. The central track was the timeless "Sumfoonia seitsmele esitajale" -- one of the most creative and amazing tracks every recorded in prog history. This, the symphony for seven performers, featured a brilliant composition by Tüür that used every member to its fullest in creating a dynamically rich sound with a melody line as memorable as something by Beethoven or Mozart. One listen and you'll be whistling it soon enough!
The LP also featured some other excellent tracks, like "Antidolorosum" -- the only track with vocals on the LP. Another one of the tracks is "Sfääride võitlus" which depicts a battle of the spheres -- of good and evil. Different instruments play out the parts perfectly and you can just see the action in the music. Fabulous imagery here. Riho Sibul's guitar is blazing throughout the LP, easily putting him on the pedestal of the top guitarists in the world. This LP is truly one of the best progressive rock LPs ever made. It was a shame that so few people heard the music due to its limited release of 3000 copies.
The reputation for Tüür and In Spe continued to grow, and the band went in to record another set of pieces for a new album. However, the master tape of this session was somehow lost -- a great tragedy. The band played live as itself and in other projects into the summer of 1983, though it was then that Tüür decided to pursue his music education full-time and leave In Spe. How would the band survive?
Carrying on the name In Spe was a young keyboardist and music student from the south-east, named Alo Mattiisen. Mattiisen's works featured a more jazzy feel, which severely changed the direction of In Spe. The band worked on for the next few years with a slightly-different line-up, including new bassist Vello Annuk and vibraphone player Terje Terasmaa. The new In Spe released another self-titled LP in 1985, this time featuring the whimsical left-field "Typewriter Concerto in D" as its major piece. This piece was more in the jazzy vein, featuring some excellent instrumental breaks throughout. One of the most interesting aspects of the piece is the rarest of all prog instruments -- the manual typewriter -- being used perfectly as a percussion instrument (played by the fabulous Ivo Varts, ex-Ruja drummer). The vibraphone played a large role in the piece as well.
The band, under Mattiisen, continued for many years with different line-ups. The group recorded many of Mattiisen's compositions, including several rock operas. And as Mattiisen moved into writing music for Estonia's "Singing Revolution" In Spe turned into basically the backing band for the music. Mattiisen became one of the central figures of the fight for freedom, and there was the end of In Spe.
Mattiisen became a national hero and Estonia won back its independence. However, In Spe faded into the background. It was not until 1994 when Mattiisen worked with France's Musea Records to put out the second In Spe recording on CD. Sadly, the CD was poorly produced, with tons of text errors, and was put as a "giveaway" by the French label. A total shame.
It was not until 1999 that the first In Spe recording, with Erkki-Sven Tüür, was released on CD. Eesti Raadio (Estonian Radio) released the cool digipack CD (albeit limited and hard to find), ending the endless quest to get the limited LP. Though there were no bonus tracks, the CD remains one of the best prog recordings of all time.
In 2000, some of the rock operas written by Alo Mattiisen and performed by In Spe was released. The two most famous -- "Rohelised munad" and "Näärmed" -- was released, albeit the first version re-performed. It featured some very strange vocals, but nevertheless fascinating.
Today In Spe remains as one of the most creative entities in Estonian music. Under Tüür, the music was intensely complex and showed off the composition skills of Tüür -- something the world has come to love over the past decade. The In Spe recording is just a natural part of his repertoire, and he remains incredibly proud of the music. Under Mattiisen, the music changed but was nevertheless challenging and exciting. In Spe was lucky enough to have two different but unique leaders, leaving a long legacy of music for its growing number of fans in and out of Estonia.
|Typewriter Concerto in D