Remix retrospective reveals effects of aging


Although the group has been on extended hiatus for many years, Remix celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2005. In acknowledgement of the anniversary and of the group’s contribution to Latvian popular music, the recording label MICREC reissued three noteworthy Remix albums. The first two are instrumental albums released on one compact disc—Uz veselību and Naktsmājas. The third, Gold, is a compilation of the group’s most popular songs.

Gold was first released on CD in 1995, though it has been out of print for many years now. It is a testament to the popularity of these songs that the CD has been released again.

The group’s name is a bit of a misnomer. The group doesn’t actually “remix” anything. Perhaps the name comes from the fact that the members of the group came from already established groups and were “mixed” together, creating the first Latvian supergroup. Some of the biggest names in Latvian music were members of Remix, most notably keyboardist and composer Uldis Marhilēvičs, guitarist Aivars Hermanis, legendary Latvian rock singer Igo (vocalist Rodrigo Fomins) and drummer Vilnis Krieviņš. The group was also joined on bass at first by Eduards Glotovs and then later, after the departure of Glotovs, by Jevgēņijs Ščapovs.

The music is very obviously from the 1980s. It is very, very slick and polished, with particular emphasis on keyboards and synthesizers, as well as the grandiose vocal stylings of Igo. However, there is a notable difference in styles between the instrumental works and the popular songs with vocals. Two of Remix’s instrumental works are contained on this CD, Cīņa” (Battle) and “Uz veselību” (To Your Health). The brief liner notes (no lyrics, but there is a short history of the group) call the instrumental work “jazz rock,” but I’m not so sure I would agree, because neither of these two instrumentals sounds particularly jazzy. However, I can’t think of a better term, so I’ll just say that they would fit in well on an 1980s movie soundtrack. For those interested in hearing more of this style, listen to the Uz veselību and Naktsmājas re-release, or the Aivars Hermanis solo album Mans laiks.

One timeless song on this album is “Kā senā dziesmā” (Like in the Ancient Song), with music by Raimonds Pauls. Even today, the song remains a popular Latvian anthem. It was performed at the youth choir concert, part of the song festival in Rīga in the summer of 2003. Its unmistakable guitar introduction and chorus of “noskūpstītas lapas no rīta… šai rudenī!” (leaves kissed in the morning…this autumn!) is part of what keeps the song in the hearts of many listeners. It is also a song that shows of the vocal talent of Igo, singing the chorus with more than a little bombast.

Another big hit was “Meitene kafejnīcā” (Girl in a Café), which again has a distinctive guitar intro. Rarely is a drummer also a composer, but Krieviņš is the music’s author. This features yet another beloved refrain, “(S)kumjas acis Jums šovakar…” (You have sad eyes tonight).

Gold isn’t all polished pop songs. “Komunālais blūzs” (Communal Blues) is a blues number, as the title indicates. Hermanis uses his best dirty guitar sound for maximum effect, but I could do without the track’s vocal echo.

The 1980s are in full force on “Dzeltenās kurpes” (Yellow Shoes), which reminds me of some of Prince’s poppy ‘80s output—especially the keyboard, which is the central instrument in practically all of Remix’s songs.

Perhaps Remix’s biggest hit was “…pie laika” (At the Time). The song reached first place in the Mikrofons 88 song competition—with its unabashedly pro-independence lyrics by Igo: “Brīvību tēvzemei – pieprasām!” (Freedom for the fatherland—we demand it!). However, this is not the same version that was on the Mikrofons 88 record (as well as the Tas ir Igo two-disc “best of” compilation.) That is unfortunate, as I think the version on Mikrofons 88 is superior, but it is still interesting to have this slightly different version. The Mikrofons 88 version has a bit more punch to it.

Finishing off the album is yet another hit, “Vienīgai” (Matchless). It’s yet another polished bit of pop, but at more than six minutes, the song starts to drag near the end.

I tend to skip over about half the songs on this CD, because some of them are just a bit too dated, and perhaps a bit too polished, especially with the unmistakable ‘80s keyboard that Marhilēvičs uses at times.

As a group whose active life was only about five years, Remix accomplished much in a very short period of time. Though most of the group’s material has not aged well and is clearly rooted in the 1980s, some of the songs now are classics. Any student of Latvian rock should be familiar with Remix’s work, especially songs like “Kā senā dziesmā,” “Meitene kafejnīcā” and “Dzeltenās kurpes.” To be honest, I’d probably recommend the Tas ir Igo collection over this one, as that contains all the best songs on this CD, as well as a number of others from Igo’s long career. However, that does not mean Gold is not worth picking up. It would certainly appeal to any fan of ‘80s music. Remix was the first Latvian supergroup, and this CD clearly explains why.




MICREC,  2005

MRCD 270

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

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