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.
Věra Chytilová, the grande dame of Bohemian cinema, the uncompromising, forward-thinking director, one of the most eminent figures of the Czech New Wave, passed away in March. “My journey is full of mistakes, I am a mistake,” she once said in an interview. For it is in the glitches, delineations, flaws and errors that the outstanding, the weird, the border-pushing and thought-provoking is born. Chytilová’s New Wave colleague, albeit not a filmographer but a composer, Zdeněk Liška, achieved similar acclaim with his eerie, electronic soundtracks which, considering the time and place of their origin, were mind-blowing. They created a perfect backdrop to the equally avant-garde cinematic creations he was working with, for instance, the films of Jan Švankmajer.
Liška’s output, in particular his 1977 collaboration with the Czech director Jan Schmidt, has now been recontextualized by Tarnovski, a sound artist who has worked in the past with gems of the Czechoslovak audiovisual legacy; tweaking, twisting and turning the historical works into modern day homages. His latest mixtape, Osada havranů includes reworkings of three Liška scores: Osada havranů (Settlement of Crows), Na veliké řece (At The Great River) and Volání rodu (Call of the Tribe) all of them made in 1977. “Zdeněk felt the need to banish the whole sonic realistic construction, dispensing with most of the real atmospheres and sounds, instead trying to create them from loops. This resulted in strange howling, flicking, and this he mixed together… To all of this he then composed music,” recollects the director Jan Schmidt. Tarnovski’s reworking of the rhythmic structures, disembodied voices, sounds of birds and waves manifests the brilliance of both the source and recontextualisation.
The Budapest contingent has been keeping itself active with a steady string of releases on local or international labels, many documented by this very column. Aside from the well-received Norwell & S Olbricht collab, the latest batch of Pestian sonic offerings include a cute split between the 15 year-old Alley Catss and the aforementioned Martin Mikolai (aka S Olbricht). While Catss’ A-side pursues an eclectic, epic direction—incorporating elements of jungle, rave or breakbeat—the B-side is a more forlorn, abstract affair.
Metal and noise musicians who make techno and dance/able electronics could fill a chapter of its own in the story of modern music, but I’ll leave you with the latest addition to this macabre canon—the mysterious Slovak producer, BDY. ~
For more editions of Eastern Haze, click here.