So popular and beloved is the group Prāta vētra (known as Brainstorm internationally) that they have the artistic freedom to do just about whatever they like on their albums, and fans will rush out to not only buy the album, but attend their concerts – Prāta vētra regularly gather tens of thousands of listeners to their concerts.
However, the group’s most recent albums, though popular, may not have left the impression on listeners that their earlier works did. 2008’s Tur kaut kam ir jābūt, with its hip-hop elements, and 2011’s uneven Vēl viena klusā daba, with its very subdued melodies and focus on keyboards (no surprise, considering that keyboardist Māris Mihelsons was the lead architect on many of the album’s songs), were perhaps not as satisfying efforts as albums like 1996’s periodically anarchic Veronika or 2001’s polished pop music collection Kaķēns kurš atteicās no jūrasskolas. However, the group – made up of Renārs Kaupers on vocals, Jānis Jubalts on guitars, Māris Mihelsons on keyboards, Kaspars Roga on drums and Ingars Viļums on bass – are not content to rest on their laurels and continue to craft some of the best Latvian pop songs.
Now, in 2015, more than a quarter century after the group’s founding in 1989, the group released 7 soļi svaiga gaisa, their 10th full length Latvian studio album (many of their previous albums have been released in English and Russian language versions). One never quite knows what to expect from a new Prāta vētra album – will they continue their experiments in different genres, or might they return to sounds that have brought them success in the past.
It would appear that 7 soļi svaiga gaisa is indeed a ‘back to the basics’ album. Almost entirely devoid of the hip hop elements that distinguished Tur kaut kam ir jābūt, the focus is on the music and making songs slightly more accessible to listeners. This becomes clear from the lead off title track ‘7 soļi svaiga gaisa’, with its U2 like guitar effects at the beginning, slowly expanding like a bright sunrise and singer Kaupers singing ‘gribās stāvēt un elpot’ (I want to stand and breathe). The only sour note in the song is the slightly forced concert singalong section – which does not quite fit in with the rest of the song.
In a song that reminds the listener of the slightly harder edge of the songs on 2005’s Četri krasti (also perhaps not a surprise, as producer Alex Silva also produced that album, and has a knack for getting a great and clear guitar sound), is the second track ‘Ēdenes dārzs’ – a joyful, exuberant song. It is reassuring to hear the prominent guitars of Jānis Jubalts on a Prāta vētra album, as in the past they have sometimes been relegated to the background, and Prāta vētra works best as a guitar oriented band.
Prāta vētra also have a knack for bringing out the emotional and tender in their songs, such as ‘Tu izvēlējies palikt’ and ‘Spogulīt spogulīt’, and the song ‘Kad zvaigznes pār alejām krīt’ can certainly be considered an entry just as worthy. With its repeated lyric ‘kaut es spētu būt tev klāt’ (if only I could be with you), over a simple keyboard line and beat, the song is immediately memorable. This song, as well as a majority of the songs on the album, features lyrics by new Latvian poet Emīls Buiķis, whose lyrics may also have injected new life into the band. In fact, Buiķis wrote the lyrics for or shares a lyric credit on seven of the ten songs on the album.
Still, though, the album is not without its ‘experiments’. This time around, there are funk and disco-like elements in songs such as ‘Pilsētas ugunis’ and ‘Pastkastīte’, though, these are some of the weaker numbers on the album, and are a bit jarring with the rest of the more earnest songs.
The group is indeed confident in the material on the album, as they have announced that during their summer tour they will play all the songs from it. Unfortunately, with each tour, Prāta vētra play fewer shows in Latvia – there will be only four this summer (Jelgava, Ventspils, Valmiera and Riga).
Though it is difficult to compete with their seminal earlier albums, 7 soļi svaiga gaisa is one of their most cohesive albums in recent memory. Prāta vētra tone down the experimentation and return to a guitar based sound, and that makes 7 soļi svaiga gaisa overall a highly satisfying album. Though relatively short (the ten songs clock in at almost exactly 40 minutes), the album is indeed, as the title would indicate, a breath of fresh air. After more than a quarter century of existence, and with their place in Latvian music history secure, Prāta vētra show that they have not lost a step.
For further information, please visit the band’s website.
7 soļi svaiga gaisa
Produced by Brainstorm Records, BRCD232, 2015
- 7 soļi svaiga gaisa
- Ēdenes dārzs
- Pilsētas ugunis
- Kad zvaigznes pār alejām krīt
- Ziemu apēst
- Laimes satelīts
- Meklēt vienam otru
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