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Kristīne Prauliņa & «Soulful Crew» – «Textures»

Ilmārs Priede

«A Fantastic Recipe with Proven Ingredients» or knocking it out of the park

Kristīne Prauliņa allows her true colors to shine and flourish. Long present on the Latvian stage and airwaves, earning praises for interpreting Raimonds Pauls’ well-known songs, Kristīne gathers a closely-knit groove pack of fantastic Latvian instrumentalists around her. The album «Textures» showcases Kristīne’s original and authentic inspiration — American soul, R’n’B, and sometimes spiritual sounds. With rhythmically intimate yet spiritually free interplay, the tightly-knit ensemble accompanies Kristīne’s highly authentic, Jos Stone-like vocal performance, convincingly introducing unprecedented paths into the Latvian sound world.

At times entertaining and wild, at times intimately quiet and touching — different compositions invite participation in the «Soulful Crew» texture celebration. In listening to the album, syncopated grooves and riffs demand attention, paralleled by Kristīne’s familiar voice that, this time, irresistibly embodies all the characteristic features, confidently striding into previously unexplored territories in the Latvian music scene.

In addition to the usual vocal attributes, characterized by excellent objective measurements, Kristīne authentically reveals the intangible qualities of soul and R’n’B genres, which are mostly immeasurable but palpable — the passage of time, often referred to as timing or feel. These elements give the genre its gospel and spiritual quality, subtly directing the listener’s attention to the lyrical performance of the music. It’s a performance style that introduces a cadence similar to human speech in words and melody, making the text more easily perceptible to the listener, enveloping phrases with inhalation and exhalation.

In contrast to this natural vocal style, a tight, syncopated, and felt instrumental interplay provides it with the necessary context. An attentive listener hears the producer’s seasonings as fusions, echoes, and added percussive values in the instrumentation and in overall harmony, making the overall sound darker and richer. In the more active pieces of the album, the textures are quite dense but never overly excessive. The overall sound creates a vibrant, layered impression. Listening on headphones makes it especially easy to hear how each element is layered in proportions. The listener can simply relax and enjoy this audio variegation by stepping back and not delving into details.

Skilled musicians each carve out their niche in the album’s rich sound. Drums and bass create a stable but conversational interplay in choruses and verses, offering various punctuated time units to each other, at times uniting in harmony to emphasize what other musicians are saying. The accompaniment of guitars and keyboards operates in its stratosphere, filling the harmonic context in ways that seem arranged but with improvised ease. Above and parallel to the basic instrumentalists’ play are backing vocals, which give the palette those gospel tones that are integral to Kristīne’s colors. The formula of «Textures» is simple but genius—it is the musical play within well-planned parameters, where each participant independently fills the space with joyful, light charm, and occasionally, all musicians unite around one idea, giving birth to the core or the catchy hook in each song.

The album’s theme is romance, the search for inner strength and empathy, and sometimes soulful cries of pain. As mentioned before, the lyrics are easy to engage with. It is evident that a good balance between music and text has been found — a balance in which it is clear that lyrics are not necessarily created before the music, but rather, both are created in parallel. The album’s ten-song-long list is complemented by various characters of compositions that do not tire but, on the contrary, hold attention, occasionally surprising the listener. A delicate balance is found between the festive and the soulful, the fast and the slow, and other self-evident comparisons. The album is radio-friendly, easy to listen to, and highly recommended. It’s a safe choice, much like the music itself.