Imants Kalniņš is one of the most adept composers in Latvia. Not confining himself to any one style, he can move between symphonic work (a great example being his “4th Symphony”) to film work (the music to “Pūt, vējiņi!”) as well as to popular music. He brings his style to every form of music that he composes, making it at once unique, but also recognizable. One never knows what to expect next from him.
One of his most recent projects is writing the music for the group Autobuss Debesīs, whose first album, Logs puspavērts, came out earlier this year.
Autobuss Debesīs is a new group, but one that I liked after hearing just one song. I had heard the song “Sitiet bungas, mani mīļie” on the MICREC release Superizlase and was anxiously waiting to hear more from the group. Though that song isn’t on this release, there are many other great songs that make this record a good listen.
Of course, it is not just Imants Kalniņš that made this record possible. The band is made up of Kalniņs’ son, Marts Kristiāns Kalniņš, on vocals; Kārlis Auzāns on lead guitar; Andrejs Grimms on acoustic guitar; Ervings Znotiņš on keyboards; Armands Treilihs on bass, and Emīls Zilberts on percussion. The lyrics are provided by Ieva Roze, Māra Čakla and Aigars Jirgens. Latvian actress Rēzija Kalniņa (now appearing in the new film Labas rokas) shows up to add vocals to two songs as well.
As with most music by Imants Kalniņš, it can be very hard to describe at times. Being an accomplished composer, most of the music is rather intricate and involved, taking a few listens to appreciate. The first few times I listened to the album, I didn’t think too much of it. The album seemed to be a bit too “artsy” for my tastes. But after repeated listenings, I began to enjoy it much more. The music is complex, so this record might not be for everyone, but I think even those people whose musical tastes are more toward the simpler style will find many things to enjoy.
The album opens up with “Alejas,” which is one of the more intricate songs (and, at more than six minutes, one of the longer ones). The singer describes himself as “apmulsis gaiss” (confused air) and wants to add green to the air in your alleys, or something like that.
Two of my favorite songs on the album are the second and third, “Es to tev teikšu” and “Kur slēpies tu,” which are more traditional in the sense that they are very catchy and have great melodies. “Kur slēpies tu” contains some great lead guitar work by Auzāns. These songs show that Autobuss debesīs are quite capable of playing great three-minute pop songs as well.
“Kad migla” recalls other Imants Kalniņš songs; it’s a subdued, keyboard heavy piece. It reminds me of the songs Kalniņš did with Ainars Mielavs, very relaxed and understated.
“Pie mežrozīša krūma” is another lengthy pice, clocking at the eight-minute mark. It starts off slowly, leading you to believe that this will be another relaxed song. Then suddenly, the song really kicks in and the tempo increases, allowing the musicians to shine in lengthy instrumental passages. But the song doesn’t seem to drag at all.
The song “Logs puspavērts” is a very pretty tune that features the vocals of Rēzija Kalniņa, as well as some beautiful cello work by Auzāns. It is another subdued piece, but also evokes a great sadness. Marts Kalniņš sings as well, but his vocals are mixed much lower than usual, so Kalniņa gets the chance to really shine in this song.
The lyrics on Logs puspavērts (which are included in the liner notes) also are on the artsy side, more poetic than the standard rock release. My knowledge of the Latvian language is fairly decent, but these lyrics had me reaching for the Latvian-to-English dictionary more often than usual.
Imants Kalniņš fans will like this record, as it features his trademark unpredictable style. The album can be enjoyed by all, from casual music fans to more serious listeners. It does take a few listens to get into, but it is worth it. Even if you’ve never heard of Imants Kalniņš before, this would be a good way to introduce yourself to his music, as there is plenty more good stuff where this came from.
UPE Recording Co., 2001
UPE CD 024
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