Album offers a taste of Latvian post-folklore


Sviests (Butter) is a compact disc sampler of Latvian folklore-inspired music, also known as “post-folklore.” The CD does not have an overriding theme or style or time frame. Its only goal is to show the diversity of music that has been inspired by folk music, and therefore there’s a little bit of everything on it.

The CD begins with the groups Laiksne and Auri, both of which sing and play in a fairly traditional style. Next is Lidojošais paklājs with its mild, contemporary sound and elaborate arrangements, followed by Vilkači, the members of which focus on ancient Latvian culture and history.

Then the CD takes us to the world of ethno-jazz and the group Patina. Delve comes after that: a newer group from the Limbaži area with somewhat hypnotizing, ritual-like songs. Kristīne Kārkle and friends sing and play a first-rate rendition of “Ai, zaļā birztaliņa.” Kokle is a youth group, followed on the CD by the drums-and-bagpipes specialists, Auļi. Next is the most public face of Latvian traditional music—Skandinieki—followed by its antithesis, the pagan metal group Skyforger. If Latvian folk has made it this far, then there’s no fear that it will be lost any time soon, is there?

The next two groups on the CD are Trejasmens, a group that focuses on ancient warrior culture, and Dūdinieks, a project that creates modern musical arrangements for folk dance clubs. Kārkle then sings again, but this time with her original group, Ceiruleits. Next is the group Lāns and its delicate, ephemeral sound, followed by the Liv group Kala Jeng headed by Julgī Stalte. We hear Laiksne once more towards the end of the CD, and then Zane Šmite’s folk-avant-garde group Rīsa zvejnieki. The CD concludes with Visi vēji, a short-lived but popular and influential post-folklore group.

All in all, the variety included on Sviests shows an honest cross-section of the constantly changing post-folklore scene in Latvia. Some well-known groups have been left out, but some lesser-known groups have been brought to light. The liner notes offer a short description (in Latvian) of each group and a list of its participants. 

But why is the CD named “butter,” of all things? Especially when you take into account that in Latvian slang sviests means something that hasn’t turned out.

Maybe that’s what the CD sounds like to some: just a mess of unrelated music. But the name Sviests was chosen for other reasons. First of all, butter is a quintessentially Latvian product. Secondly, butter isn’t really a pure product, because in order to make butter, you need to take cream and churn and beat it until you finally get butter. But the result tastes just as good as the original product. The same goes for post-folklore: it’s highly processed folk music, but the result sounds just as good as the original. Thirdly, Latvians nowadays buy more margarine than butter—an analogy to the small part of the population who actually listen to and work with folk music.

In any case, this CD has definitely turned out and offers something for everybody who appreciates musical innovation.



Various artists

Lauska,  2005


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