Tumsa leaves rock roots, chooses pop sound

Spēlējot debesis

Mārtiņš Freimanis, lead singer of the band Tumsa, seems dead set on becoming a pop star. Not content with leading his band in a more poppy direction, he is also part of the pop group F.L.Y. (along with Lauris Reiniks and Yana Kay), and F.L.Y. competed earlier this year in the holiest of Europop events, Eurovision 2003.

Perhaps because of his pop inclinations, Tumsa has come a long way since its debut, Putni. Putting that first album side by side with the latest compact disc, Spēlējot debesis, the average listener might be hard to convince that they are by the same band. Becoming slicker with each passing album, Tumsa has left behind its hard rock roots and is courting mass appeal.

Now, this does not mean that Spēlējot debesis is a bad album. On the contrary, I think it is quite good, and perhaps the band’s most consistent album to date. Having had this album for a while now, it still finds its way into my CD player quite often. It may be poppy and it may be slick, but it is still an excellent album.

The lineup remains as before: Freimanis on vocals and acoustic guitar (he’s also the principal songwriter), Jānis Daugalis on bass guitar, Aigars Šmits on keyboards, Haralds Drekslers on guitars and Kaspars Boroduško on drums.

Much like other Latvian bands, Tumsa is at its best when offering up more melancholy songs. Not coincidentally, my favorite songs on the album are the first track “Pēc mums (vēl ilgi zeme skums)” and “Es esmu mazliet don Kihots,” both of which show the band at the peak of its ability.

It’s not all melancholy, though. “Pēc mums” is followed by the far more cheery “Spēlējot debesis,” providing a nice balance to the more heartrending songs on the album.

The song “Logi mākoņos” (a rather sincere anti-drug song) features the Latvian rap group Device often repeating the main theme of the song, “Lūdzu nepadodies” (Don’t give in).

“This is not paradise” is the only song in English and features a saxophone solo by Alex Balinsky, not to mention an appearance by well-known Latvian violinist (and Bet Bet lead singer) Zigfrīds Muktupāvels. This is one of the more poppy songs on the album, practically a dance track.

Tumsa seems to be going for an Elton John feel on the song “Balāde par sirdīm salauztām,” what with piano and a soaring string section, added presumably for dramatic effect.

One of my favorites on the album is “Tu esi tāda viena,” a more up tempo number and probably the catchiest song on the album.

I may have misgivings about Tumsa’s transition to a more pop-oriented sound, but Spēlējot debesis is still a very well-crafted album, full of even more classic Tumsa songs. Also nice is that all the lyrics are included in the CD booklet. Perhaps now that Freimanis has become a bona fide pop star as a member of F.L.Y., he will be able to take out his pop agression there and return revitalized to Tumsa. There is no denying the songwriting talent of Freimanis (his name appears in the songwriting credits for many other artists) and that is why you can always count on Tumsa to put out excellent records, Spēlējot debesis included.


Spēlējot debesis


MICREC,  2002

MRCD 187

On the Web


The group’s official Web site includes background on the band and samples of its music. EN LV

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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