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. Main image: S Olbricht’s Opal Tapes release artwork.
As we gallivant through the venerable streets of the Prague’s Little Quarter after a tragically bad black metal concert, my friend “skateboarding” on what appears to be a street sign, I fall in love with the mighty Bohemian capital—albeit very briefly. Some street fracas and a wave party later I find myself walking home at dawn to my beloved “ghetto” Palmovka, the music in my ears completing my early morning walk. I’ve heard so much good music lately, and one of the sonic surprises to catch my ears of late is an archive recording of a Czech project called Quarantaine, who recorded their post-punk/proto electronics during the early ‘80s, a particularly stifling period in the Czechoslovak history following the quashed Prague Spring of ’68, a “normalized” cultural wasteland at the time. The tracks are now released digitally via CS Industrial, a Facebook page that tracks Czech and Slovak industrial, EBM and electronic archeology. Lichtempfindlich offers an authentic account of Quarantaine’s recording sessions and comes rough around the edges, in a good way. The rawness of the material breathes in a similar way to Smersh and their ephemeral recording processes.
A few weeks later I find myself in Bratislava, the capital of my abandoned motherland. I do like Bratislava in some sort of retro-utopian way. It reminds me of these ‘70s and ‘80s Slovak films soaked in melancholia and nostalgia with stark visual aesthetics mixed with the almost comical post-turbo capitalist ethos of 2k13: a concrete dystopia of one of the largest council estates in Eastern Europe, Petržalka, coupled with a receding grandness of Austrian-Hungarian heritage, über-ambitious yuppies, some very vague and weird sense of Slovakness and a semi-Balkan style of flaunting their questionably obtained riches. I DJ at YMCA on a Saturday night at the A4, one of the few havens of experimental music, while next door there is a Meshuggah concert. Two great Polish musicians, Piotr Kurek, whose album Heat was released by Foxy Digitalis and Lutto Lento, proprietor of the amazing Sangoplasmo Records, play in the basement. I play upstairs, tracks by Ugandan Methods, TM404 or Parris Mitchell. A guy walks past and gives me a thumbs up, saying “You play like a man.” Is that a compliment these days? Guess we in the East have a strange attitude towards gender roles.
As I’m writing this, I’m back in Budapest again, a city I have spent an increasing amount of time in recently, observing the hermetic and claustrophobic societal and political atmosphere on one hand—most recently 12,000 people have turned up at the nationalist Jobbik party mayday “Majális” open air including children, soundtracked by all of the popular “Nemzeti rock” bands—and the sprawling underground music scene on the other with labels such as Last Foundation. Their releases include Ekoplekz and Russell Haswell, and Farbwechsel, whose maitre d’ S Olbricht has a new cassette on Opal Tapes. You can read more about Budapest in the latest issue of the EB magazine or on the EB site here.
And last but not least, some shakey footage from our travels across the wild East.~
Interested in more obscure and exciting music from Eastern Europe? Head to Easterndaze.