RootsWorld: Home Page LinkRootsWorld: Home Page Link

Trad. Attack!
Make Your Move

Trad. Attack! / Clockwork (2020)
Review by Lee Blackstone


The third full-length CD from Estonian band Trad. Attack! finds Sandra Vabarna (vocals, Estonian bagpipes, Jew’s harp), Jalmar Vabarna (12-string guitar, vocals), and Tõnu Tubli (drums, percussion, trombone, glockenspiel, vocals) firing on all cylinders. Make Your Move is a fierce and fearless treatment of traditional material, and in this surreal time of worldwide pandemic, you do not want to miss this album. Since 2014, Trad. Attack! have been focused on updating the sound of Estonian folk music. The band has always exuded a feeling of joy and playfulness, and they do not shy away from pop gloss, the dancefloor, or fully utilizing the recording studio to realize their vision. Each album has opened up new routes for Trad. Attack!, and Make Your Move is full of strong musicianship, electronic flourishes, and punk energy.

“Rickas Sittus (Rich Man Shat)” sets the tone for the record: Tubli’s drums kick it off, and then divebomb bass and electronics take over. The text excoriates the rich exploiting their wealth, while the poor look on. Rich man shat here and there
Poor man stared in hiding
Thought he saw nuts sprinkling
And berries falling on the ground

The anger is palpable. Jalmar Vabarna sings, and he is answered with a wordless chorus by Sandra. Tõnu Tubli’s percussive work is powerful (and he is a force throughout the entire album). What is striking is that while the song is massively danceable, there is a lot of noise going on – discordant voices are buried in the mix, and dissonant electronic washes undergird the tune.

“Pass-Pass” follows, and it is a roiling, energetic masterpiece. The song is a cooking spell (“Pass-pass-pass-pass back to the pot"), used to either keep a cauldron from boiling over or to make the pot boil. And indeed, the electronics bubble in techno-trance fashion over a complex rhythm. Sandra Vabarna spits out the lyrics rapidly, and the excitement gets to fever-pitch when her bagpipes are added to the mix.


“Vanamees” then rolls in on dirty electronics and trap snare, admonishing an old man to rise up, get dressed, and to go find love. The vocalizations that serve as a chorus are a kind of swirling chant, extremely reminiscent of Native American singing – a fascinating parallel that one finds elsewhere on the album (as on “Saada Vihma [Send Rain],” and the beautiful, closing “Siberi Unelaul [Siberian Lullaby]”). The song is also graced by the kind of glistening guitar sound from Jalmar Vabarna that provides an other worldly quality to music, and I really love how two-thirds of the way through the song the lyrics to get the ‘old man’ to dance are urgently repeated, setting up the Estonian bagpipes. The insistent snare drum and sampled and processed vocals nicely round out the track. “Saada Vihma,” with its crashing drum sound and clattering percussion, is set against echoing lines of guitar and dark fuzz that bounce from speaker-to-speaker, immersing the listener in an urgent, floating soundscape.


Slightly quieter moments of pop bliss shine on the album. For example, “Tehke Ruumi! (Make Room!)” is a shimmering earworm of a track. The slow, beautiful “Armasta Mind (Love Me)” is a love spell, intended to be read three times (“Love me more than you love yourself/More than your mother, father, the sun/And the moon”), augmented by trombone and layered vocals.


I would argue, though, that the introduction of post-punk aggression to Trad. Attack’s sound really ups the ante. “Miks Te Ei Laula? (Why Don’t You Sing?)” positively bristles on its collision of bagpipes, hard rhythm, and rugged imagery (“Do you have fir thorns in your throat/Or rice groats in your chest/Glass shards in the roof of your mouth/Nutshells on the back of your tongue?”), and the tune motors to a breathless finish. And then we are treated to a one-two punch towards the end of Make Your Move, with “Haned-Luiged (Geese and Swans)” and “Varesele Valu (Pain To The Crow)” brimming with dance power. Both these songs are taken from children. “Pain To The Crow” is something to behold, a meeting of The Cure and Estonian folk. Sandra Vabrana stuns again with her punk vocals (“Pain to the crow/Malady to the magpie/All other illness to the black bird”). This combination of post-punk and folk should be explored more.

With Make Your Move, Trad. Attack! have thrown down a gauntlet with an album of brave and bold material. What will you do? – Lee Blackstone

Find the band online

Search RootsWorld



return to rootsworld

© 2020 RootsWorld. No reproduction of any part of this page or its associated files is permitted without express written permission.






Like What You Read Here?
Subscribe and support RootsWorld

RootsWorld depends on your support.
Contribute in any amount
and get our weekly e-newsletter.

Share on Facebook


RootsWorld depends on your support.
Contribute in any amount
and get our weekly e-newsletter.