CD, Sturm, 2006
Hands up who here’s from Latvia? Who here’s ever been to Latvia? Who knows more about this small former Soviet nation other than it is located on the Baltic between Lithuania and Estonia and its capital city is Riga? Not many I’m sure. So having established that Latvia is not exactly high in the list of musically influential countries, a compilation containing only Latvian artists should contain some curious new discoveries for any listener not from the nation in question. The “Decennium” compilation on Sturm records is starkly packaged in a black digipack with a militaristic silver logo and no song titles, immediately giving the impression that the Latvians know things about how to do industrial music.
Anocodaine provide a convincing opening, with minimal bass line, mysterious melody and simple beat building up with successive layers into a moving piece of moody electronica, and then Knauzers Un Zeme march in with a martial industrial track containing the obligatory battle sounds and led by a deep Latvian voice intoning stern German words. Rosewater and Living Nightmare then let the side down with some rather generic EBM, with the ubiquitous distorted screaming voice and crashing snare drum, but these are certainly no less good than many western acts in the style. LS Tur improve things with some more unusual sounds, although with slightly painful high end, and Strops are rather intriguing with what appears to be a Latvian radio presenter talking about industrial things leading into a haunting melody and a slow harsh rhythm which is quite unsettling.
Marchwitza sounds like a good name and they offer up one of the hardest tracks on the CD, with pounding syncopated beats and a disorientating mixture of strange voices, but then Barodarho are less accomplished with over familiar German (Austrian?) shouting samples and a sound which doesn’t quite achieve its intended aim. Radio Kaput / 3OT seems to be a collaboration producing slow, oppressive and bleak industrial music which I find rather pleasing, as do the next act Kauna Traips, with the addition of some very frustrated sounding vocals.
The piece by Untitled, “1921 vs Rudens”, sounds like the only Latvian band I saw before, the absent Claustrum (ed note: it is the project of Lauris Vorslavs, frontman of Claustrum), with some very emotional and upsetting folkish dark ambient which could certainly make you cry if you’re feeling vulnerable. The curiously named Gas Of Latvia close the audio CD with minimal experimental sounding appropriately enough like a gas leak before a grim dialogue in the national tongue. As a bonus we get the well produced if slightly clichéd Cyberpunk video, with moving architecture, dancing robots and punky men shouting aggressively over technoid industrial.
So in conclusion, this compilation definitely shows that the Latvians are rather good at industrial music, so let’s hope that some of these acts will be gracing the stages of venues across Europe and further in the near future.
— Nathan Clemence