After a five year pause after their last album, 2011’s Tur saulīte pērties gāja, Latvian post folk ensemble Iļgi return with Tur kur mīti, released at the end of 2016, their latest collection of songs inspired by Latvian folk music and songs. As with most all of their albums, there is a thematic thread woven through all the songs, and this time it is myths and mystical elements.
The title of the album, Tur kur mīti, (as per the group, the lack of a comma is intentional), is actually a play on words, as ‘mīti’ can be both interpreted as ‘myths’, but the title can also be interpreted as ‘The place where you dwell’.
The group’s members remain unchanged, with Ilga Reizniece on vocals and violin, Māris Muktupāvels on vocals, kokle and accordion, Gatis Gaujenieks on vocals and bass guitar, guitarist Egons Kronbergs, and drummer Mārtiņš Linde.
In keeping with the mystical themes, the songs on the album have more of an ethereal, mysterious atmosphere about them. The reserved and reflective nature of the songs might be a surprise to those listeners that enjoy more their lively, energetic songs, like the ones on Sēju vēju or Kaza kāpa debesīs, but fans who enjoyed calmer albums like Totāri or Kur saulīte pērties gāja will find much to enjoy here. Muktupāvels has mentioned that he expects their next album to be livelier.
The ambling nature of many of the songs on the album becomes clear with the first track, ‘Laima’, about the nature of this Latvian goddess of good fortune and luck, which also appropriately features guest kokle performer Laima Jansone, and the sounds of the kokle add a dreamlike quality to the song.
The tempo does pick up slightly on the song ‘Vilki’, a song about giving a wolf gifts of bread and socks to discourage him from taking the young goat. The narrator even warns the little goat about the kind of clothes the wolf wears – a short jumper and well-heeled boots. The song is inspired by a winter solstice children’s game (December is considered ‘The Month of the Wolf’ in Latvian folklore), where the goats run away from the wolf.
A driving Gaujenieks bass line forms the foundation for the song ‘Istabā’, which is then built on with Kronbergs’ guitar and Muktupāvels’ accordion, and then features Reizniece’s violin, and is a song with Roma-like elements, particularly in the chorus. Muktupāvels’ characteristically deep bass voice gives the lyrics a chant-like nature.
The album concludes with what is certainly one of the most beautiful songs the group has ever recorded, ‘Kumeliņi’ (though in the CD booklet the song is called ‘Jūriņa’). This tender, almost lullaby-like song about two yellow horses that emerge from the sea, forms a fitting end to this album of mystical tales and creatures and this journey through the many facets and legends of Latvian folklore.
The album booklet includes all the lyrics with English translations, but one wishes they had taken the opportunity to provide a bit more detail about the legends and myths that they are singing about, so those less familiar with Latvian folklore would appreciate the songs even more.
Though, when one does reach the end of the album, one does get the sense that perhaps they could have included one or two more upbeat numbers on the record, especially when considering their previous album was similarly low-key. Granted, the intention of the album was to be a meditation on myths, but Iļgi are often at their best when they perform more energetic songs. Still, Tur kur mīti remains yet another example of why Iļģi, over their more than 35 year career, with their modern interpretations of Latvian folk songs and texts, have achieved worldwide fame and recognition – the ancient, mystical words and melodies remain just as vital and relevant in a contemporary setting and interpretation.
For further information, please visit the Iļģi website at www.ilgi.lv
Tur kur mīti