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.
Budapest has fully brought out the flaneur in me; the most important part of my daily routine involving a random stroll in the city’s seventh, eighth and ninth districts. Somehow I always ended up in Józsefváros, dubbed the “ghetto” by the locals, enthralled by its brutish beauty and languid, nostalgic atmosphere. Musically, as elsewhere, not much was happening in the summer, though I guess I have been immersed in the world of Hungarian patriotic rock for a documentary I’ve been working on, which is another story. The Farbwechsel crew has been super active as always, not only being the life and soul of every decent party in town, but also becoming an umbrella for several remarkable musicians from this country who have emerged in the last two or three years. The following remix EP only reinforces this, and features homegrown talent from Imre Kiss—who’s actually from Slovakia (same as me, the Slovak-Hungarian mixed territory)—Asio Otus or Stanley Maneuver; the label boss S Olbricht, naturally, also has a hand.
As I write this, I’ve just come back from a festival in northeastern Slovakia, a bucolic part of the country in the vicinity of the Polish border. It’s interesting to observe the differences between such geographically close parts of this region. The overtly religious and traditional Spiš region is mellow and ideal for unwinding, and my preconceptions about its poverty prove unfounded. I regret not going to Poland in spite of the proximity; the country’s music scene is still the most diverse in Central/Eastern Europe (which is probably understandable considering its size and musical heritage). Sangoplasmo is one of first labels I noticed since becoming involved in the Easterndaze project. Renowned for its affinity for the offbeat and the eccentric, Sangoplasmo has brought out several noteworthy releases. Among those upcoming is one by Sangopolasmo’s heart and soul, Lubomir Grzelak under his Lutto Lento alias (pictured at the top of the page) featuring Enya remixes and various mangled samples. “I’m really into reading myths and legends for a long long time. At the same time I’m into anthropology, biology and cryptozoology. I guess it’s just my need for exoticism,” he told us.
LOM is a great label from Slovakia, established by Institute of Sonology graduate Jonáš Gruska, extolling experimentation instead of ornamentation, avant-garde instead of the accustomed. Jonáš has returned back from his studies in The Hague, set up a mastering studio and embraced the burgeoning Bratislava underground sonic scene, venue-wise centered around the amazing FUGA club. Jonáš’ latest music output doesn’t appear on his own imprint, but on the Russian Cyland Audio Archive on 7.5″ polycarbonate squares. It’s an extraterrestrial journey into outer spaces, as if revisiting X-102/Underground Resistance’s Rings of Saturn.
Bucharest’s Somnoroase Pasarele are a duo composed of two recognized Romanian visual artists who also make decidely otherworldy music, which is firmly rooted in humanness. It’s fragile and demented, beautiful in its sonic strangeness, yet weirdly familiar. We are releasing their debut album entitled ABECD soon on Baba Vanga, and proudly so. Here is a remix recontextualizing the samples off the album courtesy of fellow Romanian musician, Miron Ghiu.~
You can read previous editions of Eastern Haze here.
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. Read previous editions of the column here.
The onset of summer finds me en route to Berlin, the EastWest hedonistic hideaway, where we showed some Eastern videos at the imposing socialist realist building of the Czech Centre, featuring a lot of concrete estates, languid environs and dark moods. We take a Mitfahrt, a passenger ride, from Alexanderplatz, the “sandwich express” as we call it because our driver comes to Berlin each weekend to sell food to international crowds of hungry clubgoers and drives back to Prague on a Sunday. We stop in Velemin, a small village, to drink beer for 50 cents a pint at a local pub surrounded by regulars in various states of alcohol-induced disarray—we either crossed the German border or regressed back in time. He plays music in the car, throbbingly loud and without any mercy to our hapless bodies ravaged by sleepless Berlin nights. Our next stop is Bosnia, the country most affected by the Balkan war, now replaced with the omnipresent void. The only local music project we have found so far, unsurprisingly, is a harsh noise band.
“Proč jsme se nepotkali zaživa?” – Why We Haven’t Met Alive?, is the title of a mixtape, released by a Prague-based netlabel Signals of Arkaim. A hauntological Czechoslovak manifesto, which recontextualizes various hits and bits from the productions of the Brno Czechoslovak TV studio, found its source material in the period spanning between 1967 and 1993. These 25 years were marked by dense, claustrophobic atmospheres, a general state of hopelessness and stringent state control. Ironically, it was called “Normalization”, because, as I read in a period magazine, “all normal people—and in Czechoslovakia most people are normal—want normal things”. The mixtape reflects this perfectly, with its haunting passages, random vocal samples and absurd juxtapositions.
S Olbricht’s Opal Tapes release is out now for your listening pleasure. Martin Mikolai is a fledgling Hungarian producer and owner of the Farbwechsel imprint which has championed several up-and-coming musicians from his motherland. I’ve met Martin often whilst in Budapest, usually either at various nocturnal hours in one of the city’s night haunts, or at our mutual friend Zoltán’s Újpest’s flat/studio, where the guys often record with Zoli’s burgeoning vintage synth collection. Martin’s latest S Olbricht tape is a romantic lo-fi house and techno record, with dreamy interludes and somnambulist atmospheres. Never too dark or hard, it rather floats in the ethereal.
Lightning Glove are from Prague, an audiovisual collective of music activists, angry, relentless and determined. Their music emanates from the existential and guttural, the harrowing vocals and electronics weave a yearning soundtrack to abandoned rave fields. A few months ago, they supported Gnod and this led to a release on the Salford group’s label Tesla Tapes. Dub-inflected and airy, Raving Peacocks Tail pursues helium-induced states, echoing from a veil of ersatz nostalgia. ~
November embodies melancholia, that’s a given. I continue my homeless, nomadic existence, a wannabe-sailor whose playground isn’t the deep blue sea but chaotic urban mazes. At the moment I’m stationed in Budapest, a city that basks in its golden Austro-Hungarian past with its grand boulevards and derelict inner city townhouses, inviting you to dine at places like “Hungarian Memories” or the “Nosztalgia Étterem”. It drowns me in sentimentality and sadness for phantom recollections of experiences I’ve never had. As I write this, I’m delving deeper into the elusive sounds of Mangrove Mangrave, whose album just came out on Mik Musik!, a label I cannot stop extolling in this column. Dark without the need to flaunt it, subtly harrowing, but utterly groovy and compelling.
Another favored Polish imprint, the cassette label Sangoplasmo, excels at bringing out hypnotic, psychedelic compositions. Suaves Figures is a collaboration between Piotr Kurek, whose previous album Heat was released by Foxy Digitalis, and Sylvia Monnier. The Warsaw-Lyon connection has spawned a synth-heavy kosmische creation, out for your listening pleasure alongside Lutto Lento – aka Sangoplasmo boss Lubomir Adam Grzelak, and The Phantom‘s latest offerings.
Budapest-based synth duo SILF, composed of music student Martin Mikolai and Bálint Zelkei, are perhaps an odd inclusion considering their apparently bon vivant music, but only at first listen. The inherent addictively languid “opium house” has nostalgia emanating from their vintage gear. Those who know Mikolai’s solo project Stefan Olbricht and his imprint Farbwechsel will see similarities in SILF. Catch them live on December 11 supporting Led Er Est in Budapest.
Aches is a British Bratislava transplant whose latest EP Easy Ghost, out on the Slovak label Exitab—in sync at least verbally with this month’s sonic “theme”—features a remix by Glasgow’s Dam Mantle, and the plaintive, bass-heavy Ink Midget rendition. This fresh-faced Slovak producer has just released his own debut album Re-Leave on the aforementioned imprint.
Interested in more obscure and exciting music from Eastern Europe? Head to Easterndaze.
As the leaves fall incessantly from the trees and nostalgia creeps upon our hazed souls, the music returns back where it belongs – dingy clubs and sweaty pubs. As a prerequisite to some bouncing live sounds, there must be inspiring records. Swag, chalga and plunderphonics: delve in.
We have just returned from a two-week exploratory trip to Bulgaria, still dazed from all the experiences which haven’t had time to settle into the inner recesses of the memory. The country is an amalgam of influences ranging from its 500 Ottoman rule to relics of communism which somehow still keeps its claws upon the country’s status quo, as well as the ornamental Orthodox legacy. Bulgaria is an ideal breeding ground for an aural cacophony. The local electronic scene may seem miniscule at first sight, but still, on the day of our arrival to Sofia, there was a release party for the city’s tape label WTF IS SWAG (yes, that’s how it’s called) at the city’s only proper music club (so we’ve been told) Vlaikova. Largely composed of local musicians, the compilation aims to showcase local urban music in its latest metamorphoses.
Turbofolk, manele, Tallava, chalga. If you’ve ever been the to the Balkans, or are at least vaguely interested in the music of this region, chances are you’ve come across this blend of high-octane pop-folk, which due to its vicinity to the Orient, even at its worst, still sounds better than your “best” schlager hit. All this is coated in glossy Eurodance production. In Bulgaria, the much-maligned chalga industry is booming and its main star is of course Azis, the transvestite singer whose infamy long transgressed the borders of this southeastern state (just watch this DIS interview by Fatima Al Qadiri). If you’re looking for more, check out this curated display of the bizarre world of chalgatronics.
Labels are popping up like mushrooms these days, and another sprang up in Poland. Plunderphonics is the brainchild of 18-year-old Krystian Stebnicki. Instigated by a Satanicpornocultshop tweet, he released an EP by Japanese digital noiseheads Dagshenma, followed by a string of releases (four so far since June 2012!), whose sound ranges from the faux-French EBM of CochonPorc to experimentalism of Molr Drammaz. John Oswald might be proud.
Another Polish imprint, the great Mik Musik! delivered a mixtape for us full of previously unreleased songs and rarities from demented techno through debauched sampledelia, exclusively by its diverse roster.
Interested in more obscure and exciting music from Eastern Europe? Head to Easterndaze.
August always feels like a slowed-down sloth of a month, with an increasingly annoying amount of automatic out-of-office replies and general laziness pervading the air.
The music cognoscenti increasingly eschew the summer sedation in favor of a consistent flow of new releases, and this is no exception in the Eastern shores. Ladies and gents, let me commence the next installment of our sonic explorations.
Bangeliz is one of the new projects on the recently revamped Polish label Mik Musik. A woozy journey through hazy, dubby, post-punk and ethereal sonic territories make it a rather sentimental but none the less pleasant aural ride. Their new mixtape album is out now for your listening pleasure.
Although geographically same, the next audio specimen is sonically slightly different, more guttural and raw. Sultan Hagavik is a duo from Wroclaw whose main musical medium is the tape deck. Their EP Same Przeboje is an excercise in avant garde electronics, reappropriation, imbued with a de rigeur ironic serioussness… or serious irony? Check out their cover artwork, and decide for yourself.
Fat Kid Beny is the founding member of the fledgling Serbian rap collective RAP CAT$. He has embarked on a solo journey with his latest batch of synthy, dirty tracks and raw beats, a sonic document of ‘disillusioned cul-de-sac feelings’.
For more news and updates, head to the Easterndaze blog.