When I first heard Bordo, Bardo Splash’s debut album, I was at different points reminded of another Latvian group. But I couldn’t quite place it. Prāta Vētra? Jumprava? RamaDance? A bit of research revealed that at least the latter two are related.
Bordo, released late last year, was produced by Aigars Grāvers, one of the four members of the long-standing Jumprava and leader of the exciting Rama Dance project. And, it turns out, Bardo Splash’s lead singer, 21-year-old Rudīte Būmane, performed on Rama Dance’s second album, Extravagance.
Bardo Splash is relatively new to Latvia’s music scene, growing out of the now-defunct group Zupski Rubin. Bardo Splash has performed since 2001 in a variety of venues, including the noted Liepājas Dzintars and Sinepes un Medus festivals, as well as traveling around Latvia with the 2001 Priekšnams tour organized by Radio SWH. Attempts by media to pigeon-hole the group into a particular genre have mentioned modern rock, atmospheric rock, pop and other labels. On Bordo the group crosses and melds genres as needed. One track, “Māras avots,” in the liner notes is even described as postfeiklora, which, I suppose, can in turn be described as contemporary songs that sound like traditional Latvian folk songs but aren’t.
At the time the album was recorded, the group’s members numbered five: Rudīte Būmane on lead vocals and synthesizer; her brother, Renars Būmanis, on drums, programming and synthesizer; Aleksandrs Ruģēns (a.k.a. Sniegs) on vocals, acoustic guitar, Jew’s harp and programming; Edgars Dambis on electric and acoustic guitars, and Ieva Rudzīte on bass and acoustic guitar. Ruģēns was largely responsible for all music and lyrics on the album.
Since last summer, Dambis and Rudzīte no longer are with Bardo Splash, according to Baltic Records Group. A new guitarist and a new bassist are now working with the group in preparation for concerts. Ruģēns, meanwhile, is reported to be abroad, earning money to support his family.
I hope the departures, permanent or temporary, don’t hurt the group, because this is one band I’d like to see hang together for a while. How many rock or pop bands are there in Latvia today with a female lead singer? For Būmane’s potential as a role model alone, the band should survive.
Bordo also is just a good debut album, with an interesting mix of sounds and thoughtful lyrics. Anyone who has heard RamaDance’s Sāga or Extravagance will recognize similar electronica and folkloric elements in some of Bardo Splash’s work, especially on tunes such as “Māras avots” and “Spoku kamanas” (although for the latter the band cites influence from “post-folkore” group Iļģi).
But don’t expect that to be a constant on this album. The lead track, “Kad sajūtas mānās,” for example, is clearly a pop song, although the lyrics describe emotions encountered during a strange tusiņš.
The sweetest song on the album also is the shortest. At one minute and 12 seconds, “Kad straume projam iet” describes a simple philosophy about humankind’s relationship to the recurring forces of nature. Eight layers of Būmane’s vocals are accompanied just by an acoustic guitar. According to the liner notes, an earlier version of the song almost became the title track for the album.
Five of the album’s 14 tracks are in English, including one of the band’s better-known tunes, “Force majeure.” As with many other Latvian groups, Bardo Splash’s Latvian songs generally are better than their English material, although Būmane’s vocals and Ruģēns lyrics make for a nice combination. And, just as other groups lately have done, Bardo Splash offers Latvian and English versions of the some songs: “Glory Nights” is at least musically the same as “Kad sajūtas mānās,” “Four Fingers” is a relative of “Četri,” and “Initiation” is the anglicized “Māras avots.”
As we often lament in our reviews, the liner notes here are spartan. Lyrics are not provided. They would especially be helpful for the English-language tracks, where meaning sometimes is obscured by unpolished pronunciation.
Flaws aside, if you’re looking for something new from Latvia’s popular music scene, Bordo is worth seeking out.
Baltic Records Group, 2003
BRG CD 178
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