Like other countries, Latvia is being overrun by boy bands, pop starlets, and “reality show” talent. Though the voice of “traditional” rock music is being silenced elsewhere, it is alive and well—if not as strong as ever—in Latvia. Case in point: the debut compact disc Muzikants from Fomins & Kleins.
Between the two of them, Ivo Fomins and Tomass Kleins have a very respectable rock pedigree. Fomins sang with the group Liepājas brāļi (along with well-known singer and brother Igo Fomins). Kleins has played with the eternal Latvian warhorse Līvi. When I heard that these two were getting together to record an album, I had high hopes for a great record. Did they deliver? I would say that they have.
Of course the recording is not just Fomins (vocals) and Kleins (guitar, keyboards and vocals). They are complemented by Egils Mežs (bass guitar), Valērijs Iņutins (drums) and Jānis Strazds (keyboards). All the music was written by Kleins, and the lyrics were provided by Guntars Račs. Together this group has put together one of the most solid rock records in recent memory.
The album starts off with “Solījums” (Promise), one of the rockier numbers on the CD and through which it becomes clear that the focus of the album will be on the guitar. Although some might consider the guitar lines simplistic, they are exactly what this kind of music needs. The track is one of my favorite songs on the album.
Every rock album must have its ballads (or so says a rule somewhere!) and one of the prettiest is “Sniegs.” The song was released prior to the album and became one of the most popular tunes in Latvia in 2002.
Perhaps the catchiest song on the album is “Muzikants,” which Fomins & Kleins entered in last year’s national runup to the Eurovision Song Contest. (In retrospect, perhaps the song might have been the better choice for Latvia, given that F.L.Y.‘s “Hello From Mars” received a disappointing score in the contest.) “Muzikants” is a short yet infectious number.
Another ballad is “Kur esi Tu?,” a sad song about a dear friend who is no longer around. From my understanding, the song was dedicated to Ainars Virga, who at the time was taking an extended leave of absence in the United States but has since returned. Making the song even sadder is the fact that Ainars’ brother Dainis Virga plays drums on this track. Dainis died tragically in a car accident in 2003, making this one of the last songs that he recorded.
The rap group Device shows up on the song “Ātrāk, augstāk, tālāk.” They add bits of vocals here and there and an extended rap near the end of the song. I think it works well and adds a new dimension to the sound of Fomins & Kleins.
The album has many more great songs on it, and I highly recommend it to any fan of Latvian rock. Due to Kleins’ involvement, there certainly is a Līvi feel to many of the songs, but I think Fomins & Kleins have made a truly distinctive record with a sound of their own. This is a solid album about which all fans of rock music, and especially of the guitar, will be able to rejoice.
Fomins & Kleins
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