Kaseke is one of the best known Estonian progressive rock bands outside of its borders. For one thing, its two vinyl releases are valued collectors items around the world. However, the rare collector that had the vinyls also knew that Kaseke was among the best prog-fusion bands during the early 1980s anywhere in the world.
The root of the band actually came out of the punk movement of the turn of the decade into the 1980s. The popular punk band Propeller, which featured some of the best prog musicians from bands like Ruja and others, became the voice of teenage angst in Estonia -- which obviously made Soviet authorities nervous. Propeller played a form of punk that was very national and quite interesting. However, authorities soon caught up to the band and banned it.
In essence, Kaseke sprung from the ashes of Propeller, as members of its late formation formed Kaseke in the autumn of 1980. Bassist Priit Kuulberg (also of Ruja fame), guitarist Ain Varts, drummer Ivo Varts (also of Ruja fame), and flautist Peeter Malkov made up the early formation of Kaseke (which, essentially, was Propeller sans vocalist Peeter Volkonski).
The line-up was very short-lived, as drummer Ivo Varts was drafted into the Soviet army. However, a new line-up, led by jazz keyboardist Tõnu Naissoo, soon emerged as one of the best fusion projects in the country. Naissoo brought a jazzy feel to the band's music, which was augmented with the fabulous drumming of ex-Ruja and ex-Mess drummer Andrus Vaht. Rounding out the first big line-up was former Propeller and In Spe guitarist, the fabulous Riho Sibul. The twin guitar attack of Sibul and Ain Varts soon became a Kaseke trademark.
The band's popularity grew, resulting in the release of an EP Sõnum in 1981. The excellent four-song EP featured the excellent title track and "Laupäeval koos isaga" among others. The tracks are catchy in an early '80s fusion way, and featured some excellent playing by everyone involved.
The line-up changed at the end of the year, as the driving force of the music, keyboardist Tõnu Naissoo, left the band. In came In Spe keyboard whiz Mart Metsala, and the direction of the band turned further towards prog and away from jazz. However, the sound remained that of a prog-fusion, led by the unique twin guitar attack of Sibul and Varts. The band became more and more popular with gigs, and this led to the release of the collectors item Põletus in 1983. This full-length LP features a wide assortment of tracks, some featuring guest keyboardists as well: In Spe's Erkki-Sven Tüür (for the fabulously proggy "Põlenud maa"), ex-keys player Tõnu Naissoo (for the jazzy "Pikk päevatee"), and Olav Ehala (for the catchy "Elevanti hirmulaul"). Two of the most interesting and aggressive songs -- "Põletaja" and "Näotused" -- feature the two guitarists at their very best, with driving lines and frantic duels. Absolutely fabulous playing by everyone.
The band gigged frequently, including the large Tartu Rock Festival every summer in Estonia's second city. However, the band ran its course in 1984 and split up. Many of the band's members remained active in the music scene, taking part in bands like In Spe and VSP Projekt. However, to its legion of fans -- especially in south Estonia -- Kaseke remains an institution.
One bit of good news recently. In 2000 Czech/Russian record company Boheme Music released a compilation of all of the band's material, taken from both Sõnum and Põletus. Finally, the world can hear how truly talented these musicians are, and how powerful these pieces from some two decade ago are still today.