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Written in fRoots issue 347, 2012

Tur Saulite Perties Gaja

UPETT CD065 (2012)

Latvia’s best-known folk band began in 1981, back in the difficult pre-independence times, and has always been central in the gradual development of interest in music drawn from the villages but avoiding the Soviet-approved realm of colourful-happy-peasant ensembles. In all those years it’s made quite a few albums, tentative at first, gaining in strength, toughened by touring abroad but until recently moving between a sometimes uncertain fragility and ventures into a rockier sound.
     This time they’ve kept it reflective and minimal, both melodically and instrumentally, and succeeded in maintaining a confident consistency throughout, held together in an airy place by a well-engineered warm spacious sound, to Ilga Reizniece’s gentle, intimate singing and the floating interplay of her and Maris Muktupavels’s pair of soft chiming finger-picked kokles, sometimes mixed with pattering kalimba or serene violin, with touches of guitar or deeper bowed strings.
     The CD’s theme is the role in Latvian social and family life of pirts, sauna. The elegant digipack bears an atmospheric photo of evening sunbeams streaming through the window of the sauna room in a traditional wooden house, and its soft grey matt laminated finish is silkily strokable, like post-sauna skin – you don’t get that from a download – and the soothing, quietly calm contents match the promise.


© 2012 Andrew Cronshaw

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