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16 Nov 2016

Alva “Ja Tik Butu…” 1977 UK Prog Folk

Alva  “Ja Tik Butu…” 1977 UK Prog Folk
A female fronted Latvian group from the mid-Seventies that were actually based in England, Alva are regarded as a prog-folk group, but they’re a lot more varied and complex than just that! Despite many of their tunes being grounded in more typically folk-based melodies, the tunes on their sole debut work from 1977 `Ja Tik Būtu’ worked in everything from little traces of acid rock, psychedelic pop, Sixties garage toughness, loose jazzy runs and an almost punky murkiness (you can even hear the guitars struggling to stay in tune here and there throughout the album!), making for a very unpredictable and colourful album with a charming do-it-yourself production. 
The title track opener is a melancholic pop tune with Diana Ābols’ weary purring voice over chiming electric guitars , and `Pilsēta Kurā Piedzimst Vējs’ is the first folkier interlude where one of the fellas takes the lead vocal (unsure which member), a gently manic tone to his voice! Buoyant bass and jangling ragged guitars on both `Kopā’ and `Svesinieks’ sound like lost proto-punky girl-group rockers from the early Sixties, and the much more ambitious seven minute psychedelic epic `Akts’ holds wonderfully shambling acoustic guitars strums, dreamy keyboards , scratchy dingy pipes, rambunctious drumming, and Diana’s treated voice taking on an eerie unhinged snarl to close the first side. 

The baffling and out-of-place tough psych rocker `Vilcienu dziesma’ opens the second side with the guys growling unbearably, but thankfully the ragged electric guitars and runaway bass keeps things interesting! `Miglā’ is bookend by spiky up-tempo indie rock guitars, and despite being sweetly sung, there’s a weary tone to `Ziemeļvēji’. Reaching electric guitars drone manically and twist between pumping bass and bashing drums throughout the raga-like `Es Izkūlu’ (with the second half throwing in a deliciously putrid and rough-as-guts reinterpretation of the melody of `Mary had a Little Lamb’!), and `Jo Beigas Ir Klāt’ is a sombre and contemplative folk rumination to close on. 

Despite a variation on the group reactivating in the new millennium, `Ja Tik Būtu’ remains the sole Alva release to date, which makes it even more unique and precious. Many rare and mostly unknown prog-related albums are seeing reissues these days, and while many turn out to be forgettable, lost to the ages with good reason, some are exciting little obscurities in desperate need of fresh exposure and reappraisal. In that respect, `Ja Tik Būtu’ is a refreshingly out-of-time album that proves to be hugely addictive and enjoyable, and prog/acid-folk and garage/psych fans should investigate this welcome female-led curio immediately!……by Aussie-Byrd-Brother….. 

Originally released 1978 on Pennine Records, two catalogue numbers before they issued the famouse ‘Rosemary Lane’ album by Tickwinda! Even European music might have quite an exotic feeling and Latvian ethno rockers ALVA are the living proof. Based in England at the time they released their sole album “Ja tik butu” they fell straight into the folk rock genre with their cross of melancholic, even slightly psychedelic rock and colorful, mystifying Baltic folk and all of this in the middle of the UK punk explosion. So you will certainly be aware of the raw edge the rock part of their music bears. But this is just the fundament of the songs on which anthem like haunting melodies grow to entwine around your mind like ivy. The result is mind expanding and you can be sure that this is something you will hardly have experienced before in such a radical form. Folk, melancholic rock and laid back punk rock melted into one enchanting sound with the Eastern, the Baltic folk being holding the biggest share in the overall picture. The punk feeling on the other hand is the result of a rather energetic playing while all musicians are as skilled as a band should be. ALVA leave the sloppy performance always associated with punk rock to others. They even reach a post punkish area with the strange, yet also anthem like and humorous “Vilcenu dziesma”, sixth track on this colorful album. ALVA could have inspired fans from 1960s garage rock to haunting Eastern European gypsy folk to more sophisticated punk rock and become a major force in the rock world if the business was just a little bit more fair. This album is like a trip in spirit through an idyllic landscape most of the time but there is always a feeling of uproar backing up the flaming melodies. Listen with a free mind and you will be dragged into a world of sheer beauty and joy…… 

Line-up / Musicians 

- Raimonds Dāle / bells, guitar, vocals 
- Arnolds Dāle / drums, pipes 
- Roģeris Dāle / bass 
- Viktors Brenners / guitar, vocals 
- Diana Ābols / vocals 

Songs / Tracks Listing 

1. Ja Tik Būtu (3:24) 
2. Pilsēta Kurā Piedzimst Vējs (1:57) 
3. Kopā (2:40) 
4. Svesinieks (2:38) 
5. Akts (7:15) 
6. Vilcienu dziesma (3:50) 
7. Miglā (2:29) 
8. Ziemeļvēji (2:31) 
9. Es Izkūlu (3:47) 
10. Jo Beigas Ir Klāt (2:30)

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..