Under The Influence \\ Guitarist and Composer Argo Vals

“I enjoy letting myself go and just dreaming,” says guitarist and electronic music artist Argo Vals, one of the leading lights of Estonia’s creative music scene. You can hear that in his expansive compositions. Vals’ most recent album, Nokturn, combines prog rock with hazy electronic ambience that makes it sound as if the guitars are trailing comet tails. His 2017 double single, To A Tireless Daydreamer, is a work of wonky, woozy electronica, propelled by prickly, jigsaw puzzle rhythms. And his new album, due in November 2018, promises more, ethereal textures and bewitching sounds.

Vals wears his jazz influences lightly, but he’s a long-time fan of the music and the freedom that it embodies. Ahead of his performance at Jazzkaar Festival in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, he talks us through five of his favourite jazz albums and the impact they’ve had on his work.

Oddarrang \\ Music Illustrated

I saw Oddarrang live in 2006 or 2007, in Viljandi, a small town where I’d recently started my music studies. I was 19 and jazz was new to me. The openness of their musical thinking helped me to break down the boundaries between jazz and indie music, which was my background along with metal. My favorite tune is the opening track, Still Unsure. Quite soon after hearing Oddarrang I discovered Jaga Jazzistwho are one of the greatest bands I know and have been very influential on me.

Tigran Hamasyan \\ A Fable

Tigran has written so much incredibly beautiful music I can’t just choose one of his albums. EP No. 1, A Fable, Shadow Theater and Mockroot are all awesome. He’s taken modern jazz to a new level, blending it with folk tunes, experimental electronics, crazy grooving piano and drum patterns. Some of his punchier tunes sound like acoustic Meshuggah, which on paper would feel weird, but when Tigran does it it sounds totally natural. Sometimes it feels like piano can sound much heavier than an electric guitar ever could. What also makes Tigran Hamasyan albums especially great are appearances from Areni Agbabian, who has a crystal clear voice.

Pat Metheny \\ Orchestrion

The idea behind this album – building the [midi-controlled, robotic] instruments and taking them on tour – is astonishing. I listened to this one summer on long walks, with headphones on. The title track is awesome. I first got into Pat Metheny’s music listening to his debut album, Bright Size Life. My first album, Tsihcier, was very influenced by him.  

Thundercat \\ Drunk

Thundercat is so fun to listen to. Flying Lotus’ albums are too. They’re both amazing musicians. For me, jazz is a free art. It’s for free thinkers. It gathers together a huge spectrum of different approaches to composing. I’m personally fascinated by cross-border thinkers and how they take a bit of this and a bit of that to make something new and fresh-sounding.

Aiming for Enrike \\ Las Napalmas

This album is the least jazz-sounding on this list, but still belongs to it. I’ve always been a fan of mixing different worlds together – jazz, math rock and progressive metal, for instance. Aiming for Enrike are an important discovery for me from last year, and right now I’m pretty hooked on listening to them. It sounds a bit like Omar Rodríguez-López (The Mars Volta) and Tosin Abasi (Animals As Leaders) have started a band together. It’s nice the way they use live electronics in their music.

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Argo Vals plays Jazzkaar Festival, Tallinn on 26 April