Sus Dungo, an all-female ensemble, call themselves “Latvian indie pop fairies”, and after releasing their well-received EP Rasā pēdas in 2012, have now released their first full length album Down the River.
Sus Dungo’s sound is indeed challenging to characterize in just a few words, as the various instruments in the ensemble all give a dreamy and fairy tale like sound. Flute, accordion, harp, as well as electric guitar, drums, and the occasional stringed instrument give their music an added depth and dimension. Blending together various styles, listening to Sus Dungo is indeed like an aural fairy tale, full of majestic sights and sounds.
The group is made up of six ladies – Diāna ‘Sus’ Čepurnaja (vocals, guitars), Anneli Arro (drums, percussion, vocals), Marika Arro (bass guitar, vocal), Marta Trofimova (guitars, vocals), Elizabete Balčus (flute, vocals), and Liene Dravniece (accordion, piano, vocals). Down the River also features Elizabeta Lāce on harp. The group’s name comes from the combination of ‘Sus’ (The name of Čepurnaja’s first guitar, as well as subsequently her nickname), and ‘Dungo’, which means ‘humming’ in Latvian. The group’s work has been recognized with a Latvian Gold Microphone Best Debut Award in 2012, as well as member Elizabete Balčus’ Best Debut Award for her 2011 solo album Wooden Horse.
Though Rasā pēdas was entirely in Latvian, the group decided to record almost all of Down the River in English (with one song in French), presumably to reach an international audience. The decision appears to be paying off, as the group has become noticed outside of Latvia.
The spiritual has always been a significant aspect of Sus Dungo’s music, and this is evidenced on the song ‘Gabriel’, a modern prayer, as well as a duet with Jānis Strapcāns. The lyrics embody the questioning that often comes in such spiritual matters – ‘why don’t you come to the place where all they need, is to believe?’ With Lāce’s harp providing the backdrop, this song, like many Sus Dungo songs, is an emotional sonic journey.
Though many of Sus Dungo’s song feature a softer sound, the song ‘Wolves’ features heavily distorted guitar, adding another layer to the group’s multifaceted sound and to this song about the metaphorical eternal fight between the good wolf and the bad wolf.
Anneli Arro’s arrangement of the French folksong ‘À la claire fontaine’ echoes the sadness and dreamy quality of the lyrics, about a maiden bathing in a fountain and longing for a lost love. The group’s performance of this sentimental song is at once beautiful and heartbreaking.
With their usage of instruments like the harp and flute, along with their experimental and complex melodies, one is occasionally reminded of the progressive rock of the 1970s, as there is a certain Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull sound to be heard in Sus Dungo’s songs, such as the instrumental ‘Intro Ra’, which also features cellist Undīne Balode (of the group The Sound Poets). The piece balances the softer instruments with an almost abrasive electric guitar to create an intricately woven sound tapestry.
Though Sus Dungo’s style of music lends itself to just about any language, one still wishes that they had recorded at least a few songs in their native Latvian, as one of the many aspects that made Rasā pēdas memorable was the creative and dreamy lyrics.
With their full length effort Down the River, Sus Dungo reaffirms that they are one of the most talented and original groups in Latvia today. Their exceptional sense of melody and harmony, and the many layers of their music make Down the River a refreshing listen. Intricately arranged, blending various instruments and styles, Sus Dungo have established themselves as one of the most creative of Latvian groups.
For further information, please visit the Sus Dungo website.
Down the River
Sus Dungo, 2015
- 1. Rānda Loul
- 2. Gabriel
- 3. Wolves
- 4. Circles
- 5. Intro Ra
- 6. À la claire fontaine
- 7. Pocket
- 8. Sailing the Same Way
- 9. No Roads
- 10. Fall
- 11. The River Lullaby
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