Ilgi’s Isakas Nakts Dziesmas

cover art for Isakas Nakts DziesmasA new CD from this Latvian folk-rock band is always a cause for celebration. This is the first release we’ve received from Ilgi since we wrote our omnibus review of the band’s rather extensive oeuvre two years ago.

As was the case with the memorable Kaza Kapa Debesis, Isakas Nakts Dziesmas (which means Songs of the Shortest Night) is shorter than I would have liked – eleven tracks running about forty-two and a half minutes. The music is based on a Latvian song cycle celebrating the summer solstice as embodied in an ancient pagan deity named Janis. Appropriate to that theme, the band held its CD release party at a park in Riga on June 13. Must have been a wild party! The band also produced its first ever music video as part of this release.

I have come up with a term to describe music like this. It’s muscular, meaning that the people playing it have to use their muscles and I have to use my muscles when I listen to it. If nothing else, it makes me tap my foot or my fingers. Usually I find myself itching to stand up and dance to it. That’s probably just what the band intended! The production is characteristically rich and dense, what I call Latvian wall of sound. Ilgi features one female vocalist (Ilga Reizniece, the band’s founder and muse) and on many tracks a male chorus as well. Instruments include balalaika, buzuki, bass, percussion and the dudas – Latvian bagpipes, which must be heard to be believed!

The CD is packaged in a cardboard case, bound along the outside edge with cloth like a little book. The liner notes are stapled into the binding. Although the type is a bit small and the light orange printed on a black background doesn’t make it any easier to read, at least the song titles and lyrics are included in English. They are really quite lovely, for example: “All flowers blossomed but the fern. The fern bloomed on Jani Eve in the golden mist.”

This CD is on a new label for Ilgi. Like their previous label, UPE, Platforma Music is based in Riga, the capital of Latvia. As best I have been able to tell from web-based sources available in English, Platforma was founded in the late 1990s. The company’s founder, Rimants Liepins, is primarily interested in internet distribution of music rather than CD production and distribution. Platforma represents literally scores of bands, most of which I’ve literally never heard of. More to explore!

(Platforma Music, 2009)

Donna Bird

I am a former lecturer of Sociology at the University of Southern Maine in the beautiful Portland area, where I have lived since 1992.

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