Prāta vētra new CD a breath of fresh air

So popular and beloved is the group Prāta vētra (known as Brainstorm internationally) that they have the artistic freedom to do just about whatever they like on their albums, and fans will rush out to not only buy the album, but attend their concerts – Prāta vētra regularly gather tens of thousands of listeners to their concerts.

However, the group’s most recent albums, though popular, may not have left the impression on listeners that their earlier works did. 2008’s Tur kaut kam ir jābūt, with its hip-hop elements, and 2011’s uneven Vēl viena klusā daba, with its very subdued melodies and focus on keyboards (no surprise, considering that keyboardist Māris Mihelsons was the lead architect on many of the album’s songs), were perhaps not as satisfying efforts as albums like 1996’s periodically anarchic Veronika or 2001’s polished pop music collection Kaķēns kurš atteicās no jūrasskolas. However, the group – made up of Renārs Kaupers on vocals, Jānis Jubalts on guitars, Māris Mihelsons on keyboards, Kaspars Roga on drums and Ingars Viļums on bass – are not content to rest on their laurels and continue to craft some of the best Latvian pop songs.

Now, in 2015, more than a quarter century after the group’s founding in 1989, the group released 7 soļi svaiga gaisa, their 10th full length Latvian studio album (many of their previous albums have been released in English and Russian language versions). One never quite knows what to expect from a new Prāta vētra album – will they continue their experiments in different genres, or might they return to sounds that have brought them success in the past.

It would appear that 7 soļi svaiga gaisa is indeed a ‘back to the basics’ album. Almost entirely devoid of the hip hop elements that distinguished Tur kaut kam ir jābūt, the focus is on the music and making songs slightly more accessible to listeners. This becomes clear from the lead off title track ‘7 soļi svaiga gaisa’, with its U2 like guitar effects at the beginning, slowly expanding like a bright sunrise and singer Kaupers singing ‘gribās stāvēt un elpot’ (I want to stand and breathe). The only sour note in the song is the slightly forced concert singalong section – which does not quite fit in with the rest of the song.

In a song that reminds the listener of the slightly harder edge of the songs on 2005’s Četri krasti (also perhaps not a surprise, as producer Alex Silva also produced that album, and has a knack for getting a great and clear guitar sound), is the second track ‘Ēdenes dārzs’ – a joyful, exuberant song. It is reassuring to hear the prominent guitars of Jānis Jubalts on a Prāta vētra album, as in the past they have sometimes been relegated to the background, and Prāta vētra works best as a guitar oriented band.

Prāta vētra also have a knack for bringing out the emotional and tender in their songs, such as ‘Tu izvēlējies palikt’ and ‘Spogulīt spogulīt’, and the song ‘Kad zvaigznes pār alejām krīt’ can certainly be considered an entry just as worthy. With its repeated lyric ‘kaut es spētu būt tev klāt’ (if only I could be with you), over a simple keyboard line and beat, the song is immediately memorable. This song, as well as a majority of the songs on the album, features lyrics by new Latvian poet Emīls Buiķis, whose lyrics may also have injected new life into the band. In fact, Buiķis wrote the lyrics for or shares a lyric credit on seven of the ten songs on the album.

Still, though, the album is not without its ‘experiments’. This time around, there are funk and disco-like elements in songs such as ‘Pilsētas ugunis’ and ‘Pastkastīte’, though, these are some of the weaker numbers on the album, and are a bit jarring with the rest of the more earnest songs.

The group is indeed confident in the material on the album, as they have announced that during their summer tour they will play all the songs from it. Unfortunately, with each tour, Prāta vētra play fewer shows in Latvia – there will be only four this summer (Jelgava, Ventspils, Valmiera and Riga).

Though it is difficult to compete with their seminal earlier albums, 7 soļi svaiga gaisa is one of their most cohesive albums in recent memory. Prāta vētra tone down the experimentation and return to a guitar based sound, and that makes 7 soļi svaiga gaisa overall a highly satisfying album. Though relatively short (the ten songs clock in at almost exactly 40 minutes), the album is indeed, as the title would indicate, a breath of fresh air. After more than a quarter century of existence, and with their place in Latvian music history secure, Prāta vētra show that they have not lost a step.

For further information, please visit the band’s website.

 

Details

7 soļi svaiga gaisa

Prāta vētra
Produced by Brainstorm Records, BRCD232, 2015

Track listing

  1. 7 soļi svaiga gaisa
  2. Ēdenes dārzs
  3. Pilsētas ugunis
  4. Sapnī
  5. Kad zvaigznes pār alejām krīt
  6. Ziemu apēst
  7. Pastkastīte
  8. Laimes satelīts
  9. Jūras
  10. Meklēt vienam otru

 

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area who lives in Rīga, Latvia. When not working in the information technology field, he sings in the Latvian Academy of Culture mixed choir Sõla, does occasional translation work, and has been known to sing and play guitar at the Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs in Old Rīga. Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

Ar jaunizveidoto lietotni “Kas, kas, ko?” var pārbaudīt savas zināšanas par Latviju

No 2015.g. Jāņiem pieejama jauna lietotne (Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), ko ar Latviešu fonda atbalstu veidojusi firma DekSoft – Arnis Gross ar programmēšanas un dizaineru komandu.

Jaunās lietotnes pamats ir 1989.g. Austrālijā veidotā spēle ar to pašu nosaukumu. Spēli sākotnēji sagatavoja grupa Melburnas latviešu skolotāju un aktīvu tautiešu, Melburnas latviešu vidusskolas vadītāja Kārļa Brēmaņa vadībā ar Latviešu apvienības Austrālijā un Jaunzelandē Kultūras fonda materiālo palīdzību. Spēle gan tajā laikā bija papīra formatā un jautājumi bija veidoti, lai pārbaudītu spēlētāju plašākas zināšanas – ne tikai par Latviju, bet par plašāko pasauli. Modernā spēles versija ir galvenokārt vērsta uz zināšanu par Latviju pārbaudīšanu, bet ir arī starptautiska rakstura jautājumi.

Lietotnes sešas kategorijas – etnogrāfija, ģeogrāfija, literatūra, valoda, mūzika, sports, vēsture – dod spēlētājam iespēju katram izvēlēties atbildes vairāku izvēļu jautājumiem.

Ja spēlētāja rezultāts ir starp 10 labākajiem, tad spēlētāja vārdu iespējams iekļaut goda dēlī.

Spēle domāta gan latviešiem, kas dzīvo Latvijā, gan tiem, kas dzīvo diasporā. Spēlētāju ieteicamais vecums – sākot ar aptuveni 12 gadiem līdz sirmam vecumam. Visi spēlēs jautājumi ir uzdoti latviešu valodā.

Tuvāka informācija: kaskasko.com

New ensemble Raxtu Raxti releases album with folklore elements

Raxtu Raxti is a new ensemble formed by members of the Latvian popular group Autobuss debesīs and Latvian folk musicians, who perform the songs of Latvian composer Imants Kalniņš and others, but with folklore elements and interpretations.  Though only recently formed, the group has quickly become one of the most popular folk ensembles, and the group released their debut album entitled Es atradu tautasdziesmu in 2015.

The group features the Autobuss debesīs members Marts Kristiāns Kalniņš (vocals, keyboards), Armands Treilihs (bass guitar) and Kārlis Auzāns (guitar and cello), joined by folk singer Kristīne Kārkle (vocals, violin) and Edgars Kārklis (vocals, bagpipes, and accordion). Joining the musicians on the album are Artis Orubs on percussion and Ilze Grunte on 12 string guitar.

The album opens with the dreamy ‘Es atradu tautasdziesmu’, a song with music by Imants Kalniņš and lyrics by Laima Līvena, slowly building in intensity over a simple keyboard melody and subtle cello line. Singer Kristīne Kārkle (who seems to be just about everywhere these days, performing with Folkvakars, Trio Šmite Kārkle Cinkuss, and Valts Pūce, among others), delivers a stirring vocal performance with her distinctive voice.

The song ‘Zanes dziesma’ from the film Pūt, vējiņi! (music by Imants Kalniņš, lyrics by Rainis and folksong elements), a fantasy about a young girl doing laundry by the Daugava River who has her wreath stolen from her head by a green pike, and then her ring also falls in the river. The music by Kalniņš and vocals by Kārkle give the song a mystic quality, as the girl reaches from her ring and thinks about what the future might bring her.

Though almost all the music on the album was composed by Imants Kalniņš, other composers are represented here as well. Composer Juris Vaivods provides the music for Rūdolfs Blaumanis’ folksong-style poem ‘Apkal manu kumeliņu’. Blaumanis’ metaphorical imagery – comparing the arduous task of winning the respect of a girls’ mother to climbing a mountain of ice, makes for a rousing, almost war-like song. In the end, the lad prepares his horse for this tortuous journey, chops up the ice mountain, and wins the approval of the mother. The song also features lead vocals by Edgars Kārklis (who also plays with the drum and bagpipe ensemble Auļi).

One of the many positive aspects of the album is its liveliness – reflected in songs such as ‘Man apnikusi’ (music by Imants Kalniņš, lyrics by Broņislava Martuževa), a song for anyone who experiences frustration with life and seeking more enjoyment out of life. Martuževa, who died in 2012, writes ‘Man apnicis ikvienu soli kā rubli bankā reģistrēt, es gribu līdz ar naktsvijoli uz meža noras noziedēt’ (I’m sick of registering every step like a rouble in the bank, I want to blossom like a butterfly orchid in a forest glade). The music of Kalniņš and vocals by Kārkle memorably capture the defiance and dreaminess of the poet’s words.

Autobuss debesīs have always been closely associated with Imants Kalniņš, which should be little surprise, considering that singer Marts Kristiāns Kalniņš is Kalniņš’ son. The group almost exclusively perform only his songs, and have become popular and successful in doing so. Still, performing the works of only one composer can be limiting, so the fact that there are multiple composers (including the group themselves) on the album provides for more variety. Also, one of the many aspects that makes Raxtu Raxti’s Es atradu tautasdziesmu is that it includes some of Kalniņš lesser known songs, and shies away from his biggest hits.

Es atradu tautasdziesmu, with its folklore elements and imaginative new arrangements, makes for a refreshing and enjoyable listen, shining new light on some older songs and presenting some new songs that feel right at place with the others. Though a new ensemble, Raxtu Raxti’s members, with their decades of performance experience, bring a solid music foundation, as well as a unique melding of popular and folk song elements. With this mix of folk elements with compositions by Imants Kalniņš and other composers, the album stands up well with the many other folk albums released in recent memory.

For more information, please visit the group’s Facebook page.

 

Raxtu raxti Es atradu tautasdziesmu

Details

Es atradu tautasdziesmu

Raxtu raxti
Produced by MICREC, 2015

Track listing

  1. Es atradu tautasdziesmu
  2. Karsta mana jauna dziesma
  3. Vedību dziesma
  4. Puiša dziesma
  5. Rakstu rakstus
  6. Modināšanas dziesma
  7. Zanes dziesma
  8. Klusi, klusi
  9. Apkal manu kumeliņu
  10. Šorīt saule
  11. Man apnikusi
  12. Laime, laime

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area who lives in Rīga, Latvia. When not working in the information technology field, he sings in the Latvian Academy of Culture mixed choir Sõla, does occasional translation work, and has been known to sing and play guitar at the Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs in Old Rīga. Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.