Tumsa: Not great yet, but getting better

Nesaprasto cilvēku zemē

After enjoying Tumsa’s 2000 release, Katram savu Atlantīdu, I picked up their 1997 debut, Putni. I also liked that album, which was far more "hard rock" than Atlantīdu. In terms of musicianship and songwriting, Tumsa had considerably evolved between the two albums. With Nesaprasto cilvēku zemē, it has became apparent that Tumsa is slowly perfecting their craft, making this the best and most consistent release of their career.

The core of the group has always been Mārtiņš Freimanis, who not only provides vocals and plays the acoustic guitar, but is the principal songwriter as well. Rounding out the band are Haralds Drekslers on rhythm and solo guitar, Jānis Daugalis on bass guitar, Kaspars Boroduško on drums and Einārs Kokins on sound. Joining them on this album is Aigars Šmits on keyboards.

Tumsa are first and foremost a rock band, and one of the better examples of that is the opening track "Tā nav lijis," with its catchy and sing-a-long chorus. This song also takes advantage of the presence of the new keyboardist, with the piano providing the hummable main melody.

In a more curious example of their evolution is the song "Tu neesi tāda." The drum beat reminds me of quite a few disco songs, though the song itself is very effective, but perhaps a bit out of place on the album.

Another song that deviates from the regular Tumsa sound is "Lai būtu tā," which sounds like it is from the early days of rock (although with a modernized sound). It reminds me a bit of the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," what with its constantly repeating backing vocals. Though it is a deviation from their regular style, this song is also very likable, since it has such a light touch, compared to some of the more serious and heavy songs on the album.

The lyrics on the album are also expansive in their subject matter. One of the more “disturbing” songs on the album is "Šupuldziesma slepkavam," which, as its title suggest, is a rather dark song—a lullaby for a murderer. Freimanis’ lyrics include the line "Guli mans asiņainais draugs" (Sleep my bloody friend).

However, many of the lyrics on the album do go over my head. Sometimes I’m not really quite sure what Freimanis is trying to say in a song, but that did not take away from my enjoyment of the album

My favorite song on the album is probably "Arī man ir sirds." With its great beat and driving rhythm, I think this is destined to be one of the all-time Tumsa classics. I would imagine it would be a hit in concert as well, with its oft-repeated phrase "Ša la la."

One criticism of the album would be that even though Tumsa have nearly perfected their songwriting craft, many of the songs wind up sounding very similar. One might ask, "Why mess with a winning formula?" However, Tumsa seem to be aware of this, judging by some of the afortementioned songs that try to break out of their regular mold.

The most apparent weakness of the Katram savu Atlantīdu was that it had a few too many songs in English (four in total). Perhaps wisely they decided to record every song on this album in Latvian.

Nesaprasto cilvēku zemē is a very solid and highly enjoyable rock record. But I am of the belief that Tumsa have not yet made a truly great album. These guys have incredible talent and I think they have a truly great album in them. In the meantime, Nesaprasto cilvēku zemē should delight all rock fans and help Tumsa reach an even broader audience, something these guys have worked hard to do and of which they are fully deserving.


Nesaprasto cilvēku zemē


MICREC,  2001

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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