Above: a detail from Ajukaja & Maria Minerva’s C U Again EP (Porridge Bullet)
In her monthly report, Lucia Udvardyova tracks the movements in and from the best of the Central and Eastern European sonic underground, distilling the best of her Easterndaze blog.
In January I participated in a radio discussion about Eastern European experimental music scenes, focusing on the many unsung heroes and, to a lesser extent, to their successors today. We were all from the East, spread across various generations: Hungary, Slovakia, East Germany, Poland, the Baltics. All of us somehow trying to come up with some semi-plausible ‘definition’ of what Eastern European music was, is and could be. It is of course easier to employ the archeological approach and place it in a context of an ideological struggle of a well-researched past, rather than try to capture the abstract and fluid development of today, when there are no clearly defined borders and such compelling stories behind it. The artists of today are plugged into a global reservoir; music has turned into a tool of a bona fide escapism rather than subversion of the status quo. It is harder to stand out nowadays in the sea of sound, without being automatically laden with mystique of being from the other, unknown, side of the Iron Curtain—but nonetheless it’s rewarding. In this column, the mission is actually the opposite, trying to capture some sort of “present”—at least some tiny slice of it—as a work in progress, untainted by the past or its dramatic narrative, just being in its purest essence.
Tesla Tapes is actually a UK-based label, though for the purposes of the aforementioned, we may hypothesize on its name taking cues from the eponymous Serbian inventor and arrive in Belgrade via Manchester. But anyway, more importantly, Tesla Tapes have released two noteworthy albums last week by artists from this side of the continent. Machine Woman is a nickname of the Russian music producer Anastasia Vtorova. Previously active in a project called Female Band, Vtorova subverts the still predominantly male-dominated world of lo-fi electronics with explicitly gendered project names. Pink Silk, the aptly entitled cassette, is an industrial merciless voyage, wrapped up in dark sticky velvet.
Another album from the latest batch of Tesla Tapes is a Prague-based ‘isolationist’ electronic duo Sister Body with ties to the local post-noise scene. In effect very similar to the above-mentioned release, Lucifer Efekt hovers in the liminal zones of consciousness, a psychotropic disco at the morgue. A man and a woman create a yearning dub-laced sonifesto for fallen angels and the likes.
Sound Sleep is a new nom de plume of a seasoned Eastern Slovakian producer mostly working under the name Dead Janitor. Shape is his new album on the Bratislava based Exitab label. Composed of two almost fifteen minute tracks, Shape unravels at a mellow pace, in the second part embracing beats and samples rich in sonics. It’s as similarly hypnotizing as the two aforementioned projects, lulling the hypervigilant into a state of hazy aural relaxation.
Last year, the Estonian label Porridge Bullet managed to excavate the wonderful Hypnosaurus (you can read more about this in an interview with the label here), an Estonian techno project active in the 1990s. But this label doesn’t only focus on reviving the old forgotten gems of the country’s electronic history; it is also firmly established in Estonia’s contemporary electronic dance scene, as its latest offering demonstrates. A collaboration between Porridge Bullet’s staple Ajukaja and the fellow Estonian Maria Minerva on vocals. Check their slightly off-kilter video. ~
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