Perhaps one of the most unusual, if not downright strange, albums recently released in Latvia is singer/songwriter Sniedze Prauliņa’s debut record Inkrustācija, released in 2017. Inkrustācija, an expansive space rock opus, features Prauliņa on vocals, flute, and synthesizers, among other instruments and effects. According to an interview with Prauliņa, the term ‘inkrustācija’ (or incrustation) is used to describe a decorative technique, where one material is infused with other materials.
As an introduction to this work, the first track is ‘Orbitālā prelūdija’, which features a heavenly vocalize from the choir Mūza, conducted by Guntis Cimiņš. This sets the stage for the journey to come, and gives a glimpse of the many talents and creative vision of Prauliņa.
On an album of strange songs, one of the more odd ones is the fuzzy sounding ‘Melncilts’, a lengthy duet between disembodied voices. As the lyrics are not included with the album, this song requires the listener to use a bit of imagination to understand the words, which is perhaps the artist’s intention, as these songs require the listener’s full attention to appreciate the nuances and subtleties in the music.
Edgars Šubrovskis, of the ensembles Manta and Hospitāļu iela, provides bass guitar on the track ‘If You’, a sparse and dreamy song that also features Prauliņa’s overlaid harmony vocals. To make the link to Manta even clearer, the album also has her version of the group’s song ‘Nāve jūras malā’, with just vocals and effects. Though the song offers a showcase for Prauliņa’s lovely vocals (which, at times, are less clear on the album’s other tracks), the song is a bit incongruous with the rest of the album’s cosmic songs.
The album has quite a few beautiful moments, particularly the song ‘Izoletta’ (with lyrics by Šubrovskis). Beginning with a gentle introduction, with the synthesizer sounding like small bells, as if in a lullaby, the song then develops into an undulating and hypnotic melody, which is balanced with Prauliņa’s breathy vocals.
Though much of the album is dreamy and in a slower tempo, there are a few more active works, such as the pulsating ‘Landing’ and the energetic album closer ‘All the Stars’, which also features Prauliņa’s flute.
In keeping with the science fiction theme, the CD booklet includes a short story by Prauliņa about a journey through space. One might still have appreciated the lyrics beings included, since often with the employed vocal effects, the texts are often difficult to understand, if not impenetrable.
Sniedze Prauliņa’s Inkrustācija, is a dreamy and sweeping album, and certainly does take the listener to distant and dark galaxies. Still, the album’s very leisurely and, occasionally, lonely atmosphere may make it a challenging listen for some, while others may find that perhaps there is an overreliance on effects and atmospheric sounds. Now that Prauliņa has explored the deep reaches of space, one is interested to also hear what her view of life on Earth might be, should she turn her attention away from the heavens. The album, at times relaxing, at times mysterious and distant, makes for an engaging outer space journey.
For further information, please visit Sniedze Prauliņa’s website.
Biedrība HI, HI14, 2017
- Orbitālā prelūdija
- Saturna josta
- If You
- If You coda
- Nāve jūras malā
- All the Stars