Nowhere is the contrast between the progressive drive of Hungary’s creative class and the current government’s reactionary politics more visible than in the sprawling capital Budapest. The city is known as the Paris of the East for its art nouveau architecture and flâneur-friendly boulevards, though extreme budget cuts and rampant racism under Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist Fidesz party are rapidly degrading its potential as a creative hub in what many see as an only nominally united Europan Union. We met six protagonists from the city’s varied art, music and cultural scenes who remain cautiously optimistic about their individual futures amidst the collective crisis. This is the fourth of a six-part series. Read the third part here, and the fifth part here. All photos by Rosalia Kullick.
4:00pm: Coffee with András G. Varga
I have a strong commitment to culture and a keen interest in music and fashion. In 2008 I graduated from Corvinus University in Budapest with a masters degree in start-up management. This means that whenever a small shop or label wants to set up in Budapest’s utterly un-transparent and restrictive cultural environment, I can be of potential help. I’m proud to say that I was the babysitter for many ambitious start-ups and helped entrepreneurs to establish their brands, equipping them with the skills to survive in Hungary’s post-socialist, turbo-capitalist ecosystem.
Today it’s pretty difficult to start an enterprise in Budapest: it requires a lot of capital and the local market is small, isolated and inflexible. However, I remain an optimist and believe that willingness and creativity will go a long way. One thing I always tell my clients is that they not only have to serve the increasing number of tourists in Budapest, but that they also have to think internationally. They have to leave their own language behind and learn English in order to form international networks from the very beginning. In that sense, the A38 people have done just the right thing by opening their business up to an international audience. The same goes for a new generation of DIY record labels like 8ounce and Farbwechsel, fashion brands like NUBU and Nanushka, and many other artists and designers fluent in international business strategy. Not a single one of them would have survived if they’d focused on the Budapest scene alone.
One of the problems is that people here still expect support from state subsidies for their creative ventures. I think that instead we have to have initiative and I see it as an integral part of my work to bring people together and to convince them that they can help each other by pooling expertise and creating symbiotic networks, as it’s only through these means that you can grow. When I lived in London, I witnessed a kind of pro-active, community approach to running small businesses, and by contrast I’m always a little shocked when I encounter a certain kind of Hungarian ignorance traceable to a lack of trust and self-confidence. I truly believe Hungarians have many overlooked talents and that they have the potential to achieve great things. Likewise, I am certain that this city will revive itself in a couple of years in the same way that Berlin has regenerated itself over the last two decades. There are many parallels between the two cities, and you can already sense that Budapest could and will ultimately style itself as a hub connecting the west and the east. Yes, we’re going through a dark time at the moment, but I feel that the creative prospects of this great capital will come back stronger than ever. That’s why I’m always eager to help foreign magazines when they’re preparing city guides or editorial spreads about Budapest. I can become almost evangelical when they ask me to introduce them to all the members of the city’s burgeoning contemporary art, music and fashion scenes. There are many, many reasons to remain optimistic.~
2012 uncovered so many beautiful and exciting sounds around the globe that 2013 has to try hard to be able to beat it. It won’t be easy, but fortunately it’s not just globally; for Eastern Europeans, there’s something happening locally too. We had an incredible year behind us in the eastern territories: Budapest’s bustling nightlife is worth digging for hidden treasures more than ever thanks to newborn labels like 8ounce, Farbwechsel and Visionary Mind and up-and-coming producers like Iketa, Yvein Monq, Headshotboyz and others. I thought it might be more interesting to pick some of the more local hopefuls I can see making it to the international landscape of music this year.
Iketa is a rising Hungarian artist who made a bang last year with his first EP Glass on Visionary Mind. His track “Burn” was number 14 at Beatport’s October Electronica Top 100 Chart, and almost immediately picked by Max Cooper for his Top 10 chart. “Loving everything by Iketa and Visionary Mind Records at the moment. I was lucky enough to get to remix this great track by Iketa… ” he praised , announcing his new remixes including Iketa’s hit track “Burn” in a video interview published a few days ago.
The Bristol via Budapest dubstep producer DJ Madd made it to #6 on Mixmag’s 2012 top downloads chart, and has been called a dubstep legend. After his debut album last year, we certainly want to see even more from this prolific artist.
In November Headshotboyz raised attention with the XLR8R premiere of their sick video “Sweet Cabbages” which is a single off their split EP shared with another promising Budapest producer Polyklinik, coming out via fledgling label 8ounce soon. But it won’t happen sooner than the release of their new Bushcrack Hills EP via Fuse Lab. The six track EP is due to come out on February 7 and will be distributed by L.A.’s Alpha Pup Records which is a huge step forward for the Budapest duo.
The aforementioned Polyklinik is on Svetlana Industries’ roster with his debut EP that we documented last year, but in December he released his first album Syntropy via French label BedroomResearch. His first album can be streamed here in its entirety. His forthcoming split EP with Headshotboyz will consist of two tracks and cross-remixes, released by 8ounce.
Silf appeared on our radar via our Eastern Haze column which reported on the synth duo, calling them “opium house”. Find out more and listen to Silf’s debut EP in my interview. The record comes on cassette via the newly established Budapest label Farbwechsel in January.
Norwell is another one to watch. Also introduced by the latest Eastern Haze installment, his debut album came out last week via Shabu Recordings. Once again, you can find out more in my interview with him and listen to his best psychedelic dance track off his I Kissed The Sun album.
Yvein Monq is a young and promising producer based in Budapest, definitely one to watch. His very first album Hookers in My Strings was released in 2010 but he’s stepped it up a level with his conceptualized record Post Apocalyptic Codex X on newly debuting Budapest label 8ounce. Lost in time and space, this is a memory capsule telling you the history of a fallen mankind as seen from the future. Inspired by sci-fi movies, Yvein Monq’s experiments are exploring the far boundaries beyond massive bass music, ethereal electronica and instrumental hip-hop. His dark melodies are about deep thoughts on an after-human era creating a surreal atmosphere.
Yvein Monq’s highly anticipated sophomore release is available for exclusive stream below. Have a good trip and enjoy the post-apocalyptic vibe!
You’re a graphic design graduate and musician; how would you introduce yourself?
I’m graduating as a graphic designer from Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest and my diploma is actually about a music project as well. I’m trying to connect these two things as much as possible. Well, it might be a bit of exaggeration to call me musician. [laughs] I wouldn’t call myself musician I prefer to define myself as a beatmaker or producer in last case. My approach is about what I’m really interested in and these are music and musicality as well as visuality. My diploma work is an example for this connection. It’s about data based city auralization which roughly speaking means I transform European metropolises divided by river to parameterized soundscapes. There will be an interactive exhibition with abstract 3D city maps presenting some capitals and you can play kind of music on them generated originally by the city’s organic structure.
How did you come to music?
I grew up in a family with a lot of musicians, and since my childhood there was music around all the time. I learned playing on some instruments, but forgot a lot. Learned playing piano, drums and some more I was into that time. But lately I’m playing piano sometimes. I like to play on random instruments I borrow from friends, maybe sometimes not even in the proper way, just kidding. But I usually create a lot of samples this way. This is my kind of classical music background, then typical story as I started making beats as I was 15-16.
What and who inspired you that time?
That time I was basically inspired by the big classic hip-hop producers like DJ Premiere. I like him, he was the first I was listening to and then all around Stone Throw Records and J Dilla. I felt Madlib close to me, but later I preferred Jay Dee’s direction which was so strong, it was impossible to pass by. DJ Krush, DJ Shadow, DJ Vadim, couple of stuff from Ninja Tune and DJ Cam, too. Then I came over this a bit and got into how I can make beats complete without texts on it, however it’s rooted from rap based context. Then started to make music which were ready to release. Then my first album came out, which was really a very eclectic first stuff what I tried to put all my ideas into, classical music stuff with jazz and lot of live music samples.
What are you listening to lately?
To be honest I’m not a big music collector, however, I try to catch up and listen to what’s going on out there around the world. This is important to know where you’re positioned. I’m talking not about copying or being obsessed with someone, just to understand the big picture.
I’m listening a lot of music from Alva Noto aka Carsten Nicolai, founder of Raster-Noton Records. I like his stuff very much, it’s so sensitive. I’m also listening to Steve Reich usually like I was always doing. I have so good memories related to his music. As for contemporary stuff I’m digging How To Dress Well, or the new mixtape from Lorn [with Dolor] called Drugs. Then bigger names like Rustie’s Glass Swords. Just name a few suddenly.
You said visuality is important for you. How did that influence Post Apocalyptic Codex X?
I‘m very often inspired by images, I’m totally excited about how abstract things would sound like for instant strange lights or likes. This might be a kind of approach of a sound designer, but it influenced the whole EP. The concept is that you’re listening to the resonance of the atoms in the space after an enormous catastrophe, whilst mankind is able to make music only with stones and sticks. This is a kind of trip for me.
Each track has a short plot related to the post apocalyptic atmosphere. That’s why the cheesy title, because it came to my mind, that the entire stuff is like an old comics with stories related to an era or time period but you’re not able to connect them to one coherent story. I find the title very important anyway, it’s essential for me that even I’m trying to explain deep thoughts through my music, I need a hint of irony to avoid clichés. And this is articulated on the EP as well.
Where is the sci-fi influence coming from?
I had a huge collection of VHS’s, even my father had a notable sci-fi book and album collection. Then couple of years ago I totally fell in love with B or C category Italian sci-fi movies from the 80s, really bad films, even though killer sounds. Like closing a door sounds really shit. Sick but inspiring.
What kind of samples have you used on the EP?
I usually record sounds from my very close environment, I don’t use samples from other artists. Also, I have recorded live instruments, for instance percussions, various drums and played with their sounds for a while. I realized that our environment is so rich of sounds that you can twist incredible sounds even from a spoon and a cup if you take your time experimenting.
Do you have contributors on Post Apocalyptic Codex X EP?
Yes, I have contributors. There is Stefanie Barz. I got know her in Rotterdam while living there. I think she is an unbelievable talent, she plays psych-rock and I fell into her voice, so I used it in the first track ‘Epiclesis’. As a matter of fact the long talks with her inspired me to find out this milieu around the EP. I also have the vocal of Martina Király in the last track ‘Godess of the w_01D’. Then a guy called Lucrecia Protellor has also contributed on ‘Ode To Vulture’ song, they both make good music by themselves as well.
What does 2012 hold for us?
I’m currently working on the next EP, I have a couple of tracks working on and I’m on my diploma work, which I want present as an interactive exhibition. I got in touch with Origami Sound, they liked my stuff and they will release one of my tracks on their compilation. And I have some project ideas, so we’ll see.
Post Apocalyptic Codex X EP is out February 29th on 8ounce (limited vinyl and digital).
Photos: Hargi Csik & Lili Zoe Ermezei