Latvian multi-instrumentalist, singer and psychedelia artist Elizabete Balčus has released her second album "Hotel Universe".
From layered flute solos and synthesizers, to baritone sax romps and biorhythms, the album offers immersion in a richly-imaginative parallel reality. It’s perhaps the emphasis on musical arrangement, and the ability to transfix the listener, through not knowing where the music is going to go next, that sets Elizabete Balčus apart.
The artist’s ear is one of Latvia’s great treasures. After spending years training in classical and jazz music, she turned away from a traditional approach, instead assembling a self-styled future, where performing live with fruits and vegetables as a synthesizer and wearing surreal DIY costumes, with nods to the avant-garde, would become the norm.
I draw inspiration from my dreams and dream-like experiences. I feel like Salvador Dali did that full-time, through a living-and-recreating-dreams lifestyle. I’m fascinated by 60s/70s flower-power music that I grew up listening to, but also very inspired by modern classical music by composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, avant-garde music from the likes of The Residents, Moondog, Cibo Matto, Laurie Anderson and Yoko Ono’s The Plastic Ono band, free jazz albums by William Parker, and Bjork’s unique style that combines a classical background, electronica and avant-garde techniques. I also find immensely inspiring Kabuki theater scores as well as Middle Eastern traditional music.
– Elizabete Balčus
Despite being predominantly a one-woman powerhouse – producing everything herself – the few moments of collaboration on her second album do stand out. "Narcissism Purgatory" features an inspired percussive contribution from English comedian James Acaster. While, Simonas Šipavičius from Sheep Got Waxed plays sax on "Get Naked" and "Asparagus or Brussel Sprouts?" – resulting in one of the Baltic States’ most potent coming together of woodwind instrumentalists in an age.
Yet to focus solely on virtuosity and innovation musically would be a disservice. As alluded to in the introduction, she is a psychedelic artist and Hotel Universe is crafted in a way that offers access to her worldview – one which posits collective consciousness over the idea of the individual.
The microcosm/macrocosm analogy – where the human body is thought to contain all the entities and elements of the universe – is hugely influential to her.
Perhaps the most overt reference to this idea comes through the aforementioned biorhythms. Elizabete reached for a stethoscope and recorded her heart as part of the percussion as a way to laden in the cosmos. And, in turn, offering a portal to something deeper than we usually come across going about our day.
The body is definitely one of the overarching themes on Hotel Universe. The body as a house we live in, but also the body as a micro-universe. It's about this idea that we're all connected and that by understanding our own body (which is just a smaller version of the whole system), we can perhaps understand the infinite universe. All of our atoms are ultimately connected with the rest of nature and, to a greater extent, the universe, each with their own individual history spanning billions of years. There is also a real possibility that each of us has inherited at least one atom carrying in itself the experience of all that is and/or existed. To me, it’s not far-fetched at all to think that everything is one, that everything is interconnected – “As above, so below”
I have created a dreamscape – these are the manifestations of my inner world and an aural equivalent to stargazing. I hope that people will get some of the transformative emotions listening to it as I have had making it. I am really excited to share what is there. This is the most complete body of work I have ever created.
– Elizabete Balčus
And upon hearing Hotel Universe in full, it is a statement that certainly rings true. The multidisciplinary set here offers to supporters of her debut album affirmation that they were right in backing a truly exciting new artist on the scene. And for newcomers to her sound, this sophomore effort is bound to leave a lasting impression.
Elizabete Balčus is a Latvian musician and performance artist who creates neo-psychedelic dream pop from surprising, collaged, genre juxtapositions that is simultaneously melodic and experimental. She works with a strong visual aesthetic that draws upon modern surrealism, contemporary fashion and geometric imagery. Elizabete attended Latvian Academy of Music in order to study classical and jazz flute, plus opera vocal in Rome’s Santa Cecilia Academy. Anything is permitted in her musical cosmos: looping flute and voice, clicking electro pop beats and playing vegetables as a synthesizer, leaving the listener in a blissed out trance like state, somewhere between the waking and sleeping. Live performances engage the audience with a psychedelic and theatrical situation that is as befuddling as it is mesmerising.