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What comes to life, when you combine a jazz cat and a folk maiden

Stanislav and Asnate — how to disconnect from the daily rush, find peace, recharge and write an album that’s hard to describe

Evilena Protektore

In the beginning of October a new local music product was born. Something like this is quite rarely heard in our surroundings — music that can put you in a state of trance, an album that lets the mind disconnect and only to feel, an album that stretches the minutes out and makes your being transform into a ball of emotions. This is about the album «Opus 2» of Stanislav Yudin and Asnate Rancane. Not me, nor the musicians themselves are able to unambiguously describe the style, but there’s an urge to put it in the broad category called “ethno jazz”, although with all its broadness this title describes 10% of the product at best. The album was released as a record, although I’ve only heard the digital version, there’s no other way than to use my imagination to try and understand, how it would sound with all the coughs and noises that would ideally fit into the concept, in my opinion.

I could not pass up on the opportunity to meet Stass and Asnate to talk about the accomplished work, because I felt that the conversation will turn out quite interesting. I was right: I spent a very interesting hour in a place, where we got to know each other and where, as it turns out, the origin of the project can be found — Academy of Music.


Can we talk about the album already? Let’s say, there’s a person, who is not familiar with the both of you and suddenly he sees your record in the music store. What could the salesperson tell about this album?

A.: Hm. The album’s called Opus 2, it’s a duet of me and Stanislav, where we play music that has originated from improvisation. The music is definitely something new, at least in the Latvian music scene. It’s something new for ourselves as well, something we haven’t done before, and if I had to describe, what kind of music that is, I’d probably say it’s something… Stass, I believe you’ll be better at this!
S.: I assume that in record stores it could be filed under the title “world music”. Most probably.
A.: Yes! I have to say there’s a lot of ethno influence, because my vocal part in most of the songs originates from folk melodies, at least is influenced by them.
S.: Yes. The process was that we met and simply started improvising freely. There were also some specific ideas, a couple of music pieces are also composed, and some of them originated from improvisation, and we simply recorded them, afterwards we fixed them, changing almost nothing, put some forms in, as we thought was best, and added melodies and harmonies.
A.: I’d say that from the side of Stass it was explicit improvisation, an impulsive moment. I perhaps thought more about what would fit, what kind of melody could be added on top, but at the same time I tried really hard. One could say that this album is my debut in improvisation.
S.: Of course, we also complimented each other. I also hear the ethnic singing and the songs in the improvisation and that, of course, influences me, when I improvise myself, yes. Also the same techniques… I borrowed a lot from Anders Jormin and Taavo Remmel, such effects for the double-bass as the hu effect, I used flageolets a lot. But also when I listen to the ethnic singing, I take a musical phrase, a moment, a sound, all of that influences the music.

What music pieces are in the album?

A.: The particularity of the music pieces is that they’ve been taken from different folks, around half of our album is Latvian or Latgalian, but there are also Bulgarian, Russian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian folk songs. I’m usually used to performing Latvian folk music, but at the same time I also listen a lot to other music, and this was an album, where I was able to freely fulfill my desire to sing in other languages.
S.: Yes! And also to improvise.
A.: Well, yes…

Although you’re mostly a duet, in some music pieces you’re also joined by other music instruments?

S.: At first we were thinking of playing just the two of us. But afterwards Artis Gaga came to the studio and I invited him to join us. I guess it was for “Ganu Dziesma”?
A.: Yes.
S.: Then we thought – why not? And we invited some more friends. Artis Orubs was on the drums, and in the last music piece we became a whole ensemble – the clarinet, the bass clarinet played by Ivars Kalnins, then there’s the violin played by Aleksejs Bahirs, and also the trombone played by Laura Rozenberga and Martins Milevskis (tabular bell). But mostly there were the two of us – the double-bass was recorded in multiple layers and then the voice.
A.: Yes, this album on the scale of Latvia definitely reveals, how wonderfully many possibilities the double-bass has, how perfect the music is. Nothing is lacking there in my opinion, the voice and the double-bass is enough. Very interesting is also the fact that we often don’t have a rhythm, there’s no drums, we only have two songs with percussions, but the rest are completely fluent, there are no confines of rhythm.
S.: Some critics even wanted to call it ambient, but I myself don’t find that fitting… it’s more like minimalism.


Why is the album called like that?

S.: Opus 2? Well, that might be due to some changes in my life, I decided to begin a new chapter also in music, previously I played a lot as an accompanying musician, I wanted to play something of my own, and it was that same moment, when I started searching for my own language. That was one of the reasons in favor of Opus 2.
A.: Second act!

But you’ve been experimenting for a long time with the double-bass? You’ve had projects with the poet from Orbita, with a step dancer and others.

S.: Yes, maybe that’s where it all began and this is where it crystallized.

Let’s talk about the beginning of the project – how did your duet came to be?

A.: You were there!
S.: A couple of years ago JVLMA had a project ethno+jazz, and me and Asnate where in the same course, I just didn’t know if she was a violin player, or a piano player… But actually it was like this! I was invited for an interview to radio Naba, and Girts Rozentals asked me to bring the double-bass, but I figured I wouldn’t do it, I’d rather record a music piece. At that moment got the urge to start something. I like very much how Asnate sings…
A.: Thank you!
S.: Yes… And I invited her, asked her, if she would like to help me by participating in this recording, she gladly agreed, and we recorded the demo played during the interview right here in the Academy.
A.: That is also currently our biggest hit, the music piece called Opus 2.
S.: It was also an impulse, a sign that we need to try more, turns out, Asnate worked right by the studio, where I was also working, and she just came over after work and we jammed, and we understood that we like, how it sounds, we decided to record an album!

Was it the same music piece for which you filmed a music video?

S.: Yes, that’s the first one!

Asnate, how do you feel about signing up for such an undertaking?

A.: Well… It took courage on my part, because… previously I sang ONLY folk songs, and our project began at the same time, when Tautumeitas took off for me, and I also experienced the beginning of a new chapter in my life, I started treating it creatively. I would have never done something of the sort myself, it was a very interesting adventure. None of us, of course, knew what would come out of it… I had to change the way I think, because singing what you’ve learned from others is one thing, but creating something new based on that requires a completely different way of thinking, you need immense freedom. And maybe it was for the best that it happened after work – when you’re tired and don’t want anything anymore, and it’s difficult to contain yourself in any boundaries, you disconnect your mind and just let things happen.

How is it with the description of the style, though? Can your project be dubbed ethno jazz?

S.: I like the name while, many may disagree, maybe it’s not like that anymore, but jazz is basically swing, right? Of course, it’s also improvisation and many other things, but… there’s no swing in our case. A couple of music pieces don’t even have a pulse. Of course, I’ve played jazz for so many years, it has it’s influence, but you can’t call it jazz music, although there’s definitely improvisation there.
A.: Each music genre has some kind of rules, laws that define the genre, correct? But in our case there’s no generally accepted jazz language there, and due to that we cannot call it by one particular name. It’s something in between different genres. There’s the influence of that same minimalism and Steve Reich rolled into one piece, right?
S.: That’s because there’s a looper. Everything you play using a looper sounds like something by Steve Reich.
A.: Let others describe our music. It’s too difficult for ourselves.

Is it a one-time experiment, do you plan on continuing with this project?

A.: We just recorded the album, we’d like to think that it’s only the beginning.
S.: There are already ideas for the next music pieces, I believe that in some time we’ll record them.

Have there already been opinions expressed on the album? What do people say?

S.: Very good reactions!
A.: I think that for now the album has been mostly listened to by music connoisseurs, critics that take interest in such alternative non mainstream music. And also during the Vinyl day, when the album was released, people looking for exactly this kind of music format came over, and to our great joy they like the album very much and there are good reviews. We’ll see, who will attend our concerts.

What do you think, is this album meant for everyone or just for music lovers?

A.: No, definitely not for everyone, and I think that’s a good thing. There are projects that target the masses, but there are also other kinds.
S.: Well, I intended it to be for everyone!
A.: Oh, really?…

What is the right moment when to listen to the album?

S.: I’ve actually thought about that. When you’re driving after work and all you want is peace, you’re stuck in traffic and the sound system in your car is good, then you can listen to it in the car, for sure. But the best moment most probably is at home by the fireplace, in the evening, in silence, it requires your time.
A.: That’s the thing… Back to the topic of people, for which the album is intended. Many people go to concerts to consume, to be entertained. The musician is like a showman there, like a master of ceremonies, like an actor, right? But our priority is not to entertain, we want to guide others into our world and show what’s inside us, that is why our music can be listened to by those who want and are able to immerse themselves. This music is quite intimate, personal, everyone who opens his mind to it already enters quite a dangerous world, many different things happen in the subconscious, it’s a chance to travel through your own layers of the subconscious, to trip, that’s what the music does.


What is the message of the album? What did you want to express?

S.: Meditation. To stop for a moment, forget the city, the daily rush, find peace.
A.: I agree with the part about peace, but often when you listen to this kind of music you can also get a big boost of energy at the same time or get extremely inspired.

Why vinyl?

S.: I’ll tell! Firstly, I’m a big fan of vinyl myself, and as soon as we started recording the album I wanted it to be released in vinyl. A person showed up – Mareks Ameriks, who wanted to release our album, but he wanted to do everything in an analogue manner, use only tapes. However, when he listened to our album, he also agreed to a digital release, which made us very happy.

Explain to those who do not understand, what is a digital line?

S.: Jersika Records (company of Mareks Ameriks) records straight unto tape and presses to vinyl, but digital line is a process of recording on the computer, processing it there, and only afterwards you press the music to vinyl. Our album is recorded digitally. The record is already available in music stores.

Will those without a record player at home also have a chance to listen to the album?

S.: The album is already on iTunes, Spotify and will also be available in a CD format.

I have to add that I listened to the album after the interview, but I did it just like Stass advised – using good equipment, in a peaceful setting, lying comfortably on a huge bean bag and completely alone. Indeed, both musicians were right, or it would be more accurate to say that the opinions of both musicians were combined – I achieved a peaceful mindset, as well as got inspired and energized. Yes, you definitely cannot call it traditional jazz, but it’s the freedom that I associate with jazz, that definitely breathes in every music piece. Perhaps my opinion is not very objective, because I know both musicians personally and I was there when the project began, but I would say that during moments, when you can immerse yourself in your own world, this album will definitely help you to do that.