July 30, 2012
For me, part of the fun of listening to Sus Dungo’s debut mini-album, Rasā pēdas, is the memory of using social media to track down band member Kate Pāvula at a vintage fair in Rīga this summer.
With the album not yet available in stores, Twitter was the way to locate her, chat for a bit and get my hands on the compact disc. Even without that personal connection, the album is pure joy.
Sus Dungo has carved out a niche in the Latvian music scene with its dūdiņroks or “fairy rock” style that fits in well with Rīga’s new hipster community. While the term dūdiņroks might suggest light or even saccharine fare, that’s not what the band offers. Sus Dungo lays down intricate tracks that pull the listener through each song. Yet it is music sweet enough that, after hearing it, one feels good and wanting more.
Sus Dungo began in late 2007 as a duet between Pāvula and Diāna (Sus) Čepurnaja. The band now includes eight young women: Anneli Arro on djembé, cajon drum and shakers; Marika Arro on bass guitar; Elizabete Balčus on flute and metallophone; Čepurnaja on voice, acoustic guitar and banjo; Liene Dravniece on accordeon and voice; Elizabeta Angelika Lāce on harp; Pāvula on voice and violin; and Marta Trofimova on electric guitar and ukelele. Careful media consumers might jump to point out that in photos and music videos only seven performers can be counted, but Pāvula confirmed in an email that Sus Dungo does in fact total eight. Čepurnaja has been studying abroad and that is why she is not always visible.
(Balčus also has recorded on her own. Her six-track EP Wooden Horse was released late last year. For more information, visit elizabetebalcus.com.)
Categorizing the band’s dūdiņroks music can prove difficult. Accordeon, harp and flute often dominate the music, while the voices at times feature strong solos, at other times something akin to a small choir. Sus Dungo’s profile on the music website ReverbNation suggests the band sounds like artists such as Björk, Katzenjammer, or Florence and the Machine. However, the Latvian group is neither as odd as Iceland’s Björk, nor as raucous as Norway’s Katzenjammer, nor as clarion as England’s Florence and the Machine.
Rasā pēdas begins with the dreamy “Atspulgs” (Reflection), which starts out with the sounds of accordeon and harp. As the track builds, the ebb and flow of the song is a good introduction to Sus Dungo’s style.
Next is the mini-album’s title track “Rasā pēdas” (Footprints in the Dew), followed by the jazzy “SQP,” featuring bird sounds and Balčus playing the flute. “Mier loul” (Sea Song), the title of which is in the Livonian language, is a simple instrumental highlighting Lāce’s harp. “Tēta darzā” (Dad’s Garden) speaks of the sanctuary that is a father’s garden.
My favorite track is “Jasmīna lietus” (Jasmine Rain), perhaps because it is one of the tracks not previously heard as a single or YouTube video.
The mini-album concludes with “Balle ar Viegli,” with lyrics drawn from the work of poet Imants Ziedonis. The song muses about a beautiful dance here on earth and the thought that it is a reflection of an even more beautiful one going on in heaven. The song was recorded with members of the Viegli Fund, an effort by Prāta Vētra’s Renārs Kaupers and other Latvian creative types to support projects that reveal the country’s beauty.
My only “complaint” about the CD is its length. The eight tracks amount to just 35 minutes of listening. Of course, the recording is billed as a mini-album and not a full-fledged release, but I am left wanting more of Sus Dungo.
A pleasant half-hour video of the band performing at the Piens Club in Rīga can be viewed on Vimeo. The concert includes both covers and Sus Dungo’s original songs. Videos may also be found on Sus Dungo’s YouTube channel.
Rasā pēdas should soon be available in Rīga stores and online through eKase.lv, according to Pāvula.
Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000-2012 he was editor of the website.
The article may be found online at http://latviansonline.com/reviews/article/8252/
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