A recent new entry into the Latvian music scene is the ensemble Zāle. The group draws on a number of different influences, from indie rock and folk music to world music and perhaps even medieval music.
The group, originally formed as a duo, has now grown to be a full ensemble, and have released their first album Viņa. Group members include Marta Kreituse on vocals, Pēters Draguns on vocals and guitar, Sandra Kaņepe on vocals and electric guitar, Kira Maija Kirsanova on oboe and flute, Aivis Gailītis on cello, Dace Zariņa on bass guitar, and Uģis Vītiņš on added percussion, saxophone, electronic effects, and other instruments.
The album begins with the meditative ‘Smilšu laiva’, an almost entirely a cappella song, supplemented only with some sound effects. The interplay between the vocals of Kreituse and Draguns has a haunting effect with the lyrics almost chanted in a conjuring style.
The Latvian folk influences appear in the song ‘Neguli saulīte’, which also features Ernests Medenis on kokle and bagpipes. Kreituse’s vocals, with her deeper voice reminding the listeners slightly of the vocals of Ilga Reizniece of post folk group Iļģi, brings forth the mystical aspects of Latvian folklore, giving the song a dreamy feel.
The song ‘Mitago’ displays some Celtic-like elements, with Kreituse’s vocals reminding the listener of the new age stylings of Enya or Clannad. The song was inspired by author Robert Holdstock’s fantasy novel Mythago Wood, a story of a family and the mythical creatures living in the nearby forest.
The album concludes with the subdued ‘Bišu spiets’, a wistful, meditative work, with its philosophical and metaphorical comparison of life to a swarm of bees. The repeated vocal ‘man jābēg mūžībā’ (I have to flee into eternity) is a pensive rumination on life.
The CD packaging only contains a few pictures, somewhat strange compositions of actor Gints Vilnis with antlers and actress Paula Gorobec’s face colored in blue (the actors having appeared in the video for the song Mitago). Lyrics would have been helpful, if only to appreciate them more (Kreituse also wrote all of the words on the album).
Zāle, with its unique blend of folk, rock, new age, Renaissance, among many other styles, is a welcome new entry in the field of Latvian music. With its haunting vocals and mystical sounds, Viņa, though brief (35 minutes in length), is a highly engaging album, compelling listening with its multiple layers woven together in a dreamy fabric. Balancing both traditional sounds and electronic effects, the result is a truly engrossing album.
For more information, please visit Zāle’s Facebook page.
Melo Records, 2015
- Smilšu laiva
- Maigi nebūt
- Neguli Saulīte
- Rozā pļavas
- Bišu spiets
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