- Listening to Maria Minerva's recent output, with its haphazard arrangements and ever-present fog of delay, it's difficult to suppress a nagging question: is her sound the result of a carefully cultivated aesthetic or of laziness? It hasn't always been this way. When Estonian Maria Juur emerged with the Tallinn At Dawn cassette in 2011, her brand of heavy-lidded psychedelic pop was one of the most appealing things on the Not Not Fun roster. But subsequent releases increasingly fell somewhere between upbeat bedroom synth pop and retro disco karaoke. Where the results had been seductive, now they too often felt obnoxious or simply half-arsed.
It's with trepidation, then, that we approach the Bless EP, Juur's first release for Not Not Fun sub-label 100% Silk since 2011. Put simply, these four tracks are very much in the vein of Juur's past releases—delay-drenched vocals over tinny percussion—and will doubtless provoke the same questions. Still, at points she pulls it off. "Black Magick" reprises a familiar Juur theme, of desire as dark compulsion, and while the pop framing is trite—you sense, willfully so—there's an unwholesome quality to it that gets under the skin. The downtempo "Space 4 U" feels pretty aimless at first, but the jarringly off-key chords in the chorus give it a similar sickly appeal.
Elsewhere though, Juur's deadpan, aimless vocals let her down, and the attendant barrage of delay proves fatiguing—"Symbol Of My Pleasure (Form of My Pain)" is particularly tiresome in this regard. "Soul Searchin" is a rare moment of dryness, Juur's multi-tracked vocals forming a groggy off-key choir. But a chunk of George Carlin's "A Modern Man" monologue, dropped carelessly over the breakdown, breaks the spell. Finally, Lady Blacktronica reframes "Black Magick" as hazy deep house—an odd complement to Juur's originals, but probably the most digestible thing here.
A1 Black Magick
A2 Space 4 U
B1 Symbol Of My Pleasure (Form Of My Pain)
B2 Soul Searchin
B3 Black Magick (Lady BlacktronikaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Garage Trip Mix)