Patience by I Wear*Experiment is one of the songs competing in the Eesti Laul second semi-final, tonight at 9pm Estonian time on ETV. Below I explain why this unusual gem gets my vote, and why it's my song of the year up to now.
It begins with reverbed guitars, a distant drum, and an ethereal, breezy incantation. It's the kind of beginning you would expect from an edgy electronic band with lots of ambition, and not your typical Eesti Laul pop song. That's what makes 'Patience' by I Wear*Experiment so special.
The first chorus arrives after thirty seconds, but this isn't some bass-dropping release of energy. The way vocalist and keyboardist Johanna Eenma hits the final notes, it fools you into believing that the drums will kick in. Instead, something far cooler happens. A kind of overlaid Gregorian chant replaces the chorus.
"Beautiful patience, flow into my soul, erase the temptation to run back home."
I said in my review of the Eesti Laul songs that I thought 'Patience' was, in its own way, teaching us patience. The more I listen to the unconventional construction of this delicate three-minute song, the more I am convinced of this. The chorus is then repeated twice, before what Eenma describes as "the Phil Collins drums" come in.
I'd not even considered Phil Collins until that point - but 'In The Air Tonight', the song which that drum intro slyly references, is perhaps the best example of saving the drums - our usual guide to how a pop song moves and breathes, telling us whether a piece of music is fast, slow, joyful or mournful - until late in the record. That solo debut for Collins was, according to Kanye West, a principal inspiration for his masterwork, the album '808s & Heartbreak'. That was the record that sounded like it might destroy West's popularity, containing not barbed rap social commentary, but regretful, angry songs sung by the artist using heavy and deliberately obvious Auto-Tune. That disregard of what his fans seemed to want, and willingness to go on his own path, actually made West into a better artist, though.
'...Air...' actually waits until 3.41 to bring the relief of Collins's drums, having up to that point been kept alive by the thin background pulse of a metronomic drum machine. Collins said in an interview with the Guardian recently that he did not plan to release the songs on his debut album, 'Face Value', to the public - rather they were private demos. That perhaps explains the sheer cheek of one of the greatest rock drummers of all time saving what he was best-known for until the final refrain of his first single.
Eenma explains to me that this was absolutely the band's inspiration. "We tried to create this dynamic effect with bringing the beat in so late and also, as you can hear, from the beginning until the first chorus, the synth is playing only one note. For us it created such tension which was released with the Phil Collins drum break. It was Mikk [Simson]'s idea to mute the drums until the end of the first chorus, an unexpected wish from a drummer."
In fact, the rhythm kept up by the drums, which guides the listener back to the place you always expected to find yourself, but far later than imagined, is closer to something you might hear from Mick Fleetwood, or Muse's Dominic Howard on 'Time is Running Out' (one of my favourite drumming records). The chorus now makes sense, the longing for closure, to be "higher". You're getting there with the song, and it feels like a destination you've earned, not bought.
So often we are told that pop music is about the first thirty seconds, and it seems in the age of Spotify that producers are nervous of asking audiences to wait for gratification from their music. But 'Patience' is a reaction against this, and a bold statement of intent from a band about to become very big indeed.
Who are I Wear*Experiment, and where have they come from?
I've been a fan of the band since hearing their trilogy of 'Crickets Expire' EPs that culminated with the kickass single "Driving Alone At Night", another bold, ballsy statement song. Multi-instrumentalist Hando Jaksi, the third member of the group, explains. "We met more than 10 years ago, while doing our own separate bands. When being part of Iiris’s band and touring with that crazy party, we realized that the ideas and personalities of the three of us worked well together." Eenma says, "at one moment Hando had some song ideas which needed lovely female vocals and some real drums… and now we are here!"
"Patience was one of the first songs finished for the [forthcoming] album," Jaksi continues, "even though the process of finalising it took very much patience from us. The first moment we realized that the song really worked was when we recorded all the chorus voices and harmonies and just looped it with drums. If the vocals and the beat works, then everything else is just fun and games, but finding the right balance in tension and release needs time."
"For us, 'Patience' sets the tone of the whole album. It combines the essence of the lyrical themes with the sound dynamics and characters. The lyrics were written on a period when we felt real gratefulness for all the help and advice people around us had given us. What we learned the most from creating the songs was to have more patience in all aspects of the process. So basically we learnt that life is not always like in Queen’s 'I Want It All'," a reference to the late-period Brian May wig-out that gives the audience everything at the front of the record, including a thunderous guitar solo in the first thirty seconds.
I Wear*Experiment have shown strength and patience to get where they are today. Now, they need your votes in order to take the next step.