Warm music for a cold night

  • 2006-12-06
  • By Holly Morrison
RIGA - "Tad, Kad Pasauli Pardos" ("When the World Will be Sold"), the second album by Mielavs un Parcelaji (Mielavs and the Ferrymen) couldn't have been released at a better time: the soothing, melodic music is perfect accompaniment for hot wine on a cold winter night.

Although Mielavs un Parcelaji are a relatively new group, their voices are some of Latvia's most familiar. In 1987, musicians Ainars Mielavs and Gints Sola created Jauns Meness (New Moon), and have since become two of the nation's most beloved voices. Last year, the duo merged with percussionist Juris Kroics to form Mielavs un Parcelaji.

Instrumentally, their latest CD is, at times, reminiscent of American country/western music'sas in the first cut: "Zala Gaisma" (Green Light)'swhile at other times, it resembles traditional folk'sas in the third cut: "Ar Siltu Plaukstu" ("With Warm Hands"). But some cuts, such as "Karalis ir Pliks" ("The King is Naked") are simply socially conscious poetry set to music'sa bit like a mellow Bob Dylan, if he'd had a voice… So you're getting the picture? This CD is difficult to confine to any one genre. Which, in part, is what keeps it so interesting.

Mielavs delivers his lyrics in his distinctive silken voice that flows like warm fudge 's rich and enticing 's to the last drop. His many years of performing have added control and depth to his vocal talent.
For those who don't understand Latvian, the instrumentation alone is worth a listen. The music, uncomplicated in rhythm and melody, is effectively driven by Sola's rhythmic guitar style; but he also adds delicate riffs at precise moments, slightly modifying tunes that might have otherwise become repetitive. Percussionist Juris Kroics adds rhythms that flow so unobtrusively with the guitar that, at times, it's difficult to tell where the guitar ends and percussion begins.

In his earlier years, Mielavs - known for writing thought provoking poetry - would borrow lines from Latvian folksongs (dainas). Today the artist creates his own unique poems, using the daina or haiku style of writing as his inspiration. Appearing, at first glance, laconic and straightforward, Mielavs' lyrics actually have deep, multi-levels of meaning. "Courageous Smell of Lilies" creates an infinitely complicated image within a few short lines: comparing the bitter taste of ash berries to the stain left on the soul, when, instead of taking control of life and voicing opinions, one apathetically accepts the status quo and lives in silence. Another song: "Sun is a Peeled Orange," reflects on the relationship between hatred and fear, encouraging resistance to hatred as a means of rendering fear powerless. These songs are timely, and perhaps will, one day in the future, be remembered as the voice of the Latvian heart and conscience.

The pamphlet accompanying the CD consists of the lyrics, as well as five photos. On the front cover, the artists face the camera. A biplane flying above them is insinuated. On the back cover the artists are ostensibly suspended in the sky, looking into the clouds. These two photographs, although not lacking symbolism, are simple, clear and well focused. The three photographs inside the pamphlet, however, artfully create a sense of motion, challenging one to discern precisely what lies within the pictures; much like the album itself, which consists of deep and thoughtful poetry enveloped within simple melodic, easy listening music.