THE MUSIC IMBIZO 2023 (29 AUGUST - 02 SEPTEMBER)

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ELIZABETE BALČUS (Latvia)
ELIZABETE BALČUS (Latvia)

ELIZABETE BALČUS (Latvia)

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.

“Balčus' sonic cosmos offers more twists and turns than Alice's Wonderland, with every sound and texture exquisitely alien. She's very much in a league of her own.” Electronic Sound “The vibe is so transcendent in places you feel you are in motion listening to it, transported in a stupor through some faerie glade and awake before you have time to register what has happened“ The Quietus “If Elizabete treads the fine line between visionary art terrorist and certifiable nutso in a crown made of surgical waste, she makes it sound utterly beguiling” Gigwise “Blissed out electronics with heavenly melodies” Clash Born in Riga, Elizabete grew up in a very creative environment – partly in the theater and partly at an architect office, and before she started school, she has been played in various theater productions. At very early ages Elizabete started her music school education, specializing in flute. She participated in and was placed first in several different competitions for young flute players. Later, she continued her studies at Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music in two departments simultaneously, studying classical music as well as jazz music. Additionally, she also studied vocal performance, composition and flute at Rome’s Santa Cecilia Conservatory of Music. In 2011, she independently released the EP Wooden Horse and it won the Annual Latvian Music Recording Award for best debut. At the end of 2016 Elizabete released her album Conarium under the UK label Liminal Noise. Album has got nomination at the Annual Latvian Music Recording Award 2017 for Best alternative or indie pop album of the year, as well as nomination for Latvian “Mercury Prize” – Austras balva for Best Album of 2017; It's not often that a debut album as solid as Conarium is birthed so it's unsurprising that indie press across Europe spoke so highly of it. The Quietus, Drowned In Sound, Clash, Gigwise, God Is In The TV, Louder Than War shared features and reviews. Perhaps the most brilliant and unexpected of media support has come from British comedian, podcaster and author James Acaster. Acaster quirkily claims all the best music was released in 2016 and as such has dedicated a book and a podcast series to the best music of that year where Conarium features prominently with its own chapter. Elizabete has toured the Conarium album extensively. Starting at an official showcase at The Great Escape in Brighton, the artist went on to perform at Reepberbahn (GER) and Eurosonic Noorderslag (NL), before headline shows across Canada. Moreover, she toured the UK; including key London venues for emerging artists: The Windmill and Sebright Arms. The musician's tour history in Asia includes two appearances at the showcase and conference LUCfest in Taiwan in as many years, a sold out headline gig in Taipei and a support slot at Cosmo Sheldrake's headline gig at UNIT in Tokyo. She's toured the length and breadth of Italy twice. And did a 30-date tour of the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Her album Hotel Universe, which was released via Montreal-based label, Mothland, in September 2022, is a body of work that shows her maintain the experimental approach so loved on Conarium. The touchstones we come to associate with Elizabete’s sound are etched into its fabric: mesmerizing flute, ultra-modern electronics and her ethereal vocals. The work leans into electronica, contemporary classical, and indie dream pop to varying degrees, yet is never in danger of aping any influence too heavily. It’s her spicing of wildly contrasting references that drives her version of pop music forward and keeps things fresh and exciting. When it came to the songwriting, the artist went about transposing her imagined parallel world – one of vivid dreams - into music. Much like Conarium, it acts as a sort of dream diary, and with that there exists a multitude of characters, moods and stories. Gazing in deeper into the work, one may start to notice that within the album there are multiple references to the body. Elizabete found putting the body as a centerpiece an important thing to do because she felt strongly that the representation of the body in popular discourse is often limiting and not investigating what she sees as the truly limitless qualities that bodies have. To her the body is not so much skin and bones, but more a vessel that contains the infinite universe. The record received praise from UK publication The Quietus, who did a profile on Elizabete shortly before the release of the album. And a slew of Montreal-based journalist – including Le Devoir, which is one of the main broadsheet newspapers in Quebec – followed suit in lavish Hotel Universe with praise. The reviews come after the artist embarked on a tour of Eastern Canada, which was organized by her label, Mothland, in order to promote the release. One of the highlights of the tour was show was at FME (Festival De Musique Emergente), which is Quebec’s answer to SXSW, and it has left the future looking very bright with a number of new festival opportunities on the cards in the wake of her highly-acclaimed live performance on the open air mainstage of the festival. The artist had a well-attended slot, coming on shortly before the festival’s main attraction, the U.S. experimental indie band, Animal Collective.

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