Year of release: 2019
Released by: Dangus
At the festival “Voseni Ratangniki III” held at the end of November in Minsk, I met with the head of the respected oldest Lithuanian label Dangus and received a fresh promo compilation that I promised to review in Bagnik Zine. The listening, I must say, was long - the collection contains 30 tracks, scattered equally on two discs. All of them are taken from albums released on Dangus in 2018 and 2019 or planned for this year. As follows from the name, the material is a modern look at the folk music of the Balts. Looking ahead, I’ll say that you should not wrinkle your nose. I am also a supporter of maximum authenticity, but the trouble is that in most European countries, where Christianity is deeply rooted, only indistinct echoes of genuine folk music remained. Therefore, the musicians have no choice but to offer an “author’s vision”, which often stinks of bad taste and a complete misunderstanding of the spirituality of their own land. So they happily mix tribal, acoustic folk, Viking aesthetics and electronics, getting at the output something awkward, reminiscent of a negro samurai in crocodile boots and a horned helmet. Or a circus bullshit like HEILUNG.
Lithuanians have no such problem. Their ancient culture and language successfully survived the Christian invasion. The connection of people with the soil was not interrupted, traditions were not buried under the ashes of burnt holy groves, despite all the efforts of the invaders. Therefore, the “post-folk” presented at Dangus releases is still the same folk music, rooted in the past centuries, but made with allowance for modern realities and opportunities, still developing and not even too underground. However, this does not mean that these artists offer some kind of hip-hop about stone idols. The archaic spirit is inherent in all tracks, but I'll tell about that below:
VIRGINIJA PIEVOS is an experienced female performer, from whose solo project two songs are presented. The first is a fairly traditional tribal folk with good singing. The second is an excellent melodic thing that could easily fit into the soundtrack of some thematically suitable movie or game like “The Witcher” or “Kingdom Come: Deliverance”. On the first song, a simple official video was shot:
SAULIUS SPINDI is a musician working in the genre of ethno-electronics. His two tracks are a demonstration of a modern approach. In them, relaxed electronic beats and synths create a sound platform for the voice of the legendary Lithuanian folk singer Petras Zalanskas, who died back in 1980. Both elements separately sound very good, but my impressions on the mixture, forgive me this pun, are mixed.
UNDAN is a trio performing “post-folk-wave”. Simply put, this is the same folk music with female vocals, but performed on electronic instruments. As a background music, it works well; the sound is deep, the atmosphere is pleasant and soothing. But if you listen carefully, you can get bored quickly. The video below contains the second composition as if in a live version, but I think, the audio track is from a studio record:
VĖLIŲ NAMAI is a project that performed at the aforementioned festival in Minsk. Two things are presented on the disc from the recent album “Kúrir”, which I will review separately soon, so I will save words for now.
GIRIU DVASIOS is a solo project with a rich history, combining modern electronic music with Lithuanian polyphonic songs “sutartines”. The collection includes a joint track of the project with the ŠALAVIA band ("night city lights" kind of music did not cause any special emotions), and a more memorable independent one, permeated with a some kind of pre-thunderous sensation. Both contain female vocals. I suggest listening to the second:
VĖJOPATIS is another solo project, whose music is similar to GIRIU DVASIOS and even released on the digital label its creator. The only difference is that the electronic part dominates the folklore and is made in an even more modern way. In my opinion, the musician goes a bit too far with his "electric sorcery", having made some kind of techno with flutes. Still listenable, but not really interesting.
SEN SVAJA – женское трио, которое всё делаем вместе – и поёт, и играет. Музыка с трайбл-мотивами, на мой взгляд, довольно близка к более западной традиции, вроде польской. Впрочем, как я понял, на альбоме, с которого взяты треки, каждая песня взята из фольклора других народов – македонцев, сербов и т.д. Исполнению SEN SVAJA присуща очень сильная энергетика, но вторая вещь слишком затянута в первой трети.
ANDRIUS RUGYS - the track from this, ahem, artist would delight the owner of Cold Spring Records label. A man is engaged in recording the noise of a bee swarm, because bees, according to the old Lithuanian tradition, are sacred insects. A minute of buzzing closes the first disc.
The second disc starts with two things from the legendary project DONIS. They are taken from the albums “Bite lingo” and “Kas tave šaukia ...”, which were re-released by Dangus in 2019 in the double digipack format. Of the two songs, I liked second, the most, combining authentic tunes with rich arrangements.
ĒNU KALEIDOSKOPS is a canonical neo-folk with abundant parts of an acoustic guitar, tambourine, tributaries, hooks and so on. The first song is the embodiment of pep, the second is more atmospheric, “medieval” and beautiful. All in all, pretty good.
ROMOWE RIKOITO is a famous Prussian band that has been operating since 1993. Two tracks from the actual album “Nawamār” are presented. Beautiful, mystical and magical music that creates the feeling of gatherings around a fire under the stars. Some of the best songs on the compilation.
UGNIAVIJAS – квартет из четырёх молодых парней, исполняющий народные военные песни. Хотя группа не чурается струнных и ударных инструментов, основной силой выступает атака четырёх голосов. Первая из двух песен вообще использует только голоса, и это тоже работает превосходно.
TRYS KETURIOSE - two “sutartines” from this collective, probably the most authentic in the whole collection. They are directly related to the creativity of the already mentioned beekeeper ANDRIUS RUGYS, since they were recorded with his help under the background buzz of the same swarm. A very interesting experience.
GYVATA - the majority of Bagnik Zine readers already know this group by their split with PRAGNAVIT. The presented tracks are taken from that split and from the album “Su Vėjužiu Kalbėjau”, since both were recently reissued on one disc. GYVATA music is absolutely beautiful, peppy and blooming, as well as versatile. Perhaps it is more “youthful” than that of other artists represented in the collection, but I do not consider this a minus. “Dolijuta” is simply amazing - this song is forever with me from the first listening, which I still remember thoroughly.
ANDAJA - this band began its journey with pagan metal, but then switched to folk, which, however, still retains “rocky” structures, complex percussion parts and rich arrangements. The characteristic female vocals and atmosphere evoke strong associations with the old Polish Dark Metal like HEFEYSTOS and the latest THY WORSHIP works. Unfortunately, I could not find this song in the Internet, so you have to take my word for it.
DANDELION WINE is an Australian duet, one of the participants of which is originally from Lithuania. The only English-language song on the compilation. Life in Australia did not seem to reflect on the group in the best way - its song is a cringy darkwave-Trance-Folk-hell-knows-what, some creepy stuff for people who like to wriggle like worms, swallowing acid.
The song from the ancient SIELA band, which draws a line under the collection, also offers material that breaks out of the general mass, but is a little more curious. This is a record from a rare album released in 1997 on tape, which will be reissued this year on CD for the first time in its history. It is a classic Gothic rock - good dark music, annoying grimacing vocals. I’m unlikely to ever listen to this again.
All that remains is to summarize. The collection turned out to be very sensible. At a minimum, it will open for you some interesting bands and individual songs. As a maximum, it will become the gateway to the culture of almost the last European country, which truly honors its traditions, not treating them as a useless relic. The only advice - do not listen to this entirely from the first effort, because the variety of music and the duration is too much for one's head to swallow at once. Dangus give the compilation for a minimum amount with orders for other releases from their site. Nevertheless, it is made professionally and beautifully, although it can't compete with other extremely cool Dangus releases of course. Six-panel digipack, discs in pockets, booklet with a brief description of the participants. Details on a video.