Actually, we’re all Roberts Larionovs


If you take away nothing else from ZZZ, the debut album by the Rīga-based group Aparāts, it’s this simple message: We’re all Roberts Larionovs.

What does it mean? Beats me. Maybe “Roberts Larionovs,” the final track on the album, is a song about a real person. In fact, after hearing the song for the first time I saw an interview on Latvian state television’s Panorāma with someone named Larionovs, but she wasn’t Roberts. Or maybe she was. Maybe Roberts Larionovs is really a sort of twisted Latvian Everyman.

No matter who Roberts Larionovs is, the song is just fun to listen to, as is most everything else on the album.

Describing the musical style of Aparāts isn’t easy. “Eclectic rock” comes to mind, which could fit well considering the group’s participants. The sextet includes a Latvian-singing and guitar-playing Dane named Peter Helms; guitarist Pēteris Sadovskis; bass player Mareks Auziņš; drummer Rihards Fedotovs, and backup singers Santa Pētersone and Ilga Grinpauka. Album credits also list guest singers (such as Alvils Cedriņš, who provides the operatic lead on “Milestības doktors”), as well as several musicians who lend their talents on instruments such as clarinet, flute, saxophone and tuba. The band must be a riot to see live on stage.

Aparāts was formed in 2000 and, by the time ZZZ was released late last year, had become well known in Latvian clubs.

Listen to the music and you’ll hear lots of rock flavored with funk, rap, jazz, the operatic voice or two, and what almost sounds like bits of klezmer thrown in.

ZZZ features 13 tracks, all but two penned by Helms alone. While several had been heard on Latvian airwaves before the album’s release, the song “Galdnieks” made it onto the 2002 Priekšnams compilation featuring music by little-known Latvian groups.

While some of the songs could no doubt be interpreted as having deeper meaning, on their face they are just plain fun. Helms must have enjoyed coming up with some of the rhymes, such as in the chorus for “Miers”: “Es esmu mierīgs, Tik ļoti ļoti miermīlīgs, Es mīlu dzīvniekus, ēdu tikai rīsiņus, Tādus mazus īsinus, Jebkura būtne ir mans draugs” (I am calm, So very very peaceful, I love the animals, Eat only rice, So small and short, Any being is my friend).

“Benedikte,” the loudest song on the album, is an example of why it’s important for some artists to provide the words to songs in album liner notes. Fortunately, Aparāts does, for otherwise “Benedikte” with its screamed lyrics would be unintelligble. Only after reading the lyrics did the song’s anguish and outrage—about a girl named Benedikte who doesn’t love the song’s protagonist—begin to make sense.

ZZZ also is among the newest releases from Baltic Records Group, which has added several new artists to its catalog in the past year in what seems to be an attempt to become a major contender in the Latvian market. The label’s biggest claim to fame is Marija Naumova, winner of last year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

In Aparāts the label appears to have found another success story.




Baltic Records Group,  2002

BRG CD 130

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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