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 third of a six-part series. Read the second part here, the fourth part here. All photos by Rosalia Kullick.
Zsuzsanna Bende is the booker at A38. By pulling in larger acts and making serious investments in the soundsystem and club architecture, A38 has survived the wave of extinction that has ravished the city’s club landscape.
2:00pm: Lunch with Zsuzsanna Bende
The A38 was founded in April 2003, almost exactly ten years ago. Back then we had a boat and a love for music, but we didn’t exactly know what our direction was. All we knew was that we wanted to present great international acts, even if we didn’t know how to get them. We had good intentions, but because there was essentially zero basis or expertise, we couldn’t pay fees that would match international standards, nor could we refer to past merits. It was, in short, very, very difficult. To install a challenging program and to build up confidence for a venue in an ex-Eastern Bloc city such as Budapest requires patience and a huge amount of responsibility, and only by properly booking and organizing concerts can you gain credit. Over the years, my strategy of booking primarily international acts paid off very well and today we are known for exactly that. We are proud to say the A38 has become Hungary’s first stop when it comes to current cult international performers, ranging from Jane Birkin to David Lynch to The Brandt Brauer Frick Ensemble. Of course, we book outstanding Hungarian artists too—DJ Titusz, for instance, has a residency at the A38.
We’ve invested a lot of money into the A38 over the years and we now have a great sound system and capacities to film our concerts professionally. We even have an art exhibition space and a restaurant on the boat. Still, even if we aspire to be a live music space primarily, we also know that the real money comes from organizing parties. To book a DJ is always cheaper than paying a band and their entourage for a gig, so we came up with the idea of double billings on Fridays and Saturdays: first a concert, then the party. This concept has helped us enormously to navigate the brutal financial crisis that our country has seen over the last three years, and now we’re out the other side and very much looking forward into the future. Of course, it helped a lot that we were voted “The World’s Greatest Bar” by the readers of Lonely Planet and this past January we were voted “Best Venue 2012” by the readers of Electronic Beats online, picking up even more votes than the Berghain in Berlin. We’re already noticing the positive effects of these poll results, and as we build a more international audience, we face fewer problems booking for the forthcoming months. But despite these recent developments, the A38 strategy will always remain the same: we have to trust our personal taste as we feel it is our role to survey the market. The A38 never was and never will be a space focused only on one particular kind of music, and that is its strength.~
2012 has been sort of a weird year, hasn’t it? The intermingling of hope and apocalyptic fervor (Y2K much?) put strange vibes into the air—vibes that certainly (at least from our perspective) informed much of the musical landscape as well as the mental.
It’s the last day of the year, and whether you’re spending it at an overcrowded, lackluster party or sitting quietly at home, you have more than enough wonderful songs to soundtrack your way into 2013. We know you know it, too. You’ve already told us your favorite tracks, artists, labels and a variety of other things. All that remains is your favorite album, and no surprise (to us, anyway)—it’s Grimes‘ Visions. Claire Boucher absolutely dominated this year. Her avant-pop is the perfect sound of the times, challenging yet brilliantly beautiful, while her DIY spirit helping to show all us freaks that you can achieve success without compromising yourself—or your visions.
In second place is Holy Other‘s stirring Held, the first full-length from the young cherub-in-black and the perfect response to those lackwit left-behinds who still insist there’s no real feeling or emotion in electronic music. Held is emotion, an album that holds you like an embrace, wraps ephemeral arms about you and lifts you into a higher plane. It’s a true listening experience, and rests comfortably high in many of our own personal Best Of lists as well.
Chromatics‘ Kill For Love stunned us as well when we first heard it, and it certainly deserves a spot on this list—even at third place. Everything that drew us into the flickering, neon-lit world of 2007’s Night Drive is here: the intimate coos of Ruth Radlet, the sparkling synth-pop, and a firm sense of the cinematic, Kill For Love tightens those aesthetics like a silken noose. Rarely has loneliness felt so engaging.
Flying Lotus is a name we’ve all come to trust as one of the more forward-thinking producers over the years, and his latest LP Until The Quiet Comes enforces his status in a rather gentle fashion. While less bombastic than many of his previous works, the stripped-down and minimized textures are no less rich, the worlds Steven Ellison fashions no less engaging. In this case, less truly is more.
The fifth and final goes to Crystal Castles, and they’ve earned it. With III, there’s a sense that the duo have finally transcended their tired electro roots to emerge into a wholly different space. Most of the BOUNCEBOUNCERAVERAVE vibe has been replaced (perhaps due in part to the album being wholly produced by band member Ethan Kath) by something harsher, less commercial and far more engaging. If III‘s shattered vocals, brooding synth lines and moments of disaffected loveliness evoke any thoughts of raving, it’s the aftermath: cold and empty concrete rooms, gray sunlight, and a beautiful sense of disconnection. Pretty much how January 1st is going to feel…
Electronic Beats Readers’ Poll 2012 — Best Album:
1. Grimes – Visions (4AD)
2. Holy Other – Held (Tri Angle)
3. Chromatics – Kill For Love (Italians Do It Better)
4. Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes (Warp Records)
5. Crystal Castles – III (Casablanca)
6. Trust – TRST (Arts & Crafts)
7. Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (Modern Love)
8. Purity Ring – Shrines (4AD)
9. SpaceGhostPurrp – Mysterious Phonk: The Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp (4AD)
10. Chelsea Wolfe – Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs (Sargent House)
The first prize-travel and two tickets to an EB Festival of your choice, all expenses paid—goes to Manon Monjaret from Vitry-sur-Seine, France.
Thanks for participating in our 2012 poll—and for making us a part of your 2012. You can find all the poll results here.
Songs. Leaked, released, shared, stolen, blogged, bought… There was a lot of them that rattled around our skulls in 2012.
Too many to count, right? WRONG. Out of the hundreds of entries (Little Boots? Really?) these were the tracks that were playing on loop for you.
Disclosure’s “Latch” (feat Sam Smith) came in at first place. Rightly so—it was a huge year for the young London brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence. Hailing from South London, they grew up with the UKG of London’s pirate aerials clearly ringing around their bedrooms. For some their precise, blocky beats and yearning peaktime sensibility—exemplified in the straight 4/4 pop of “Latch”—seemed a little too clean, but their aspirations beyond the underground meant that their songs hit hard. As if house and garage was ever about humorless neckbeards comparing 12-inches anyway…
It was a close one, but Grimes’ “Oblivion” comes in second in your choice of Best Songs. From burrito restaurants, hipster art parties to soundtracking Tumblr p0rn, this song was everywhere in 2012. A modern classic and one of those desperately weird songs that still, somehow, own the label of pop song with quirky-haired aplomb.
When Barcelona producer John Talabot released Fin in early February there was much talk that it could well be turning up in the best albums polls some ten months down the line. Sometimes you just know. “Destiny”, like the rest of the album, the pleasure is in its slow-release grooves, throbbing synths and Balearic sensibility. Music for sunsets or sunrises, wherever limbs are worm and bodies are close and skies are pink.
Burial’s “Kindred” was received with praise that bordered on feverishness back in February (what a month for music!) Finally, the enigmatic hauntologist had refreshed his template and broken out of the motions that had threatened to bury him in ever-diminishing returns. It opens with redemptive synths, crackling static and whisps of some vocal transmission forever undecipherable before plunging into its ceramic, syncopated beats that sound like they’re playing out to an empty warehouse club; the atmosphere amplified by the promise of what will be, or the memory of what was—it’s all the same in Burial’s interior world. Loaded silences, call and response vocals and that swinging, swingeing beat. Eleven minutes later you want, no need to hear it all over again. Burial would have undoubtedly topped this chart if the vote hadn’t been split between all three tracks on the Kindred EP.
“Numb” from Andy Stott‘s excellent Luxury Problems completes our top five. It shows Stott pushing his degraded, corroded house music to the point of disintegration. At points it seems that the only thing holding “Numb” together is the spiritual current implicit in those exquisite murmurs and the traces of loping momentum set in motion who knows when.
Electronic Beats Readers’ Poll 2012 — Best Song:
1. Disclosure feat. Sam Smith – Latch
2. Grimes – Oblivion
3. John Talabot feat. Pional – Destiny
4. Burial – Kindred
5. Andy Stott – Numb
6. Burial – Loner
7. Burial – Ashtray Wasp
8. Pachanga Boys – Time
9. Le1f – Wut
10. Unicorn Kid – I Need You
The second prize—dinner with the EB Staff at their headquarters in Berlin—goes to Mario Krnic, from Zagreb, Croatia.
Your favorite album of 2012 will follow on Monday, December 31st. Find all poll results in here.
When we asked you what you thought the most exciting artist of the year was, the results came flying in fast and furious. Sorting through the diesel selection you gave us, one thing became clear very quickly: you guys really like Trust. Robert Alfons’ goth-drenched synthpop project dominated the list, something we’re happy to announce as we loved his debut TRST as well. How many summer nights we spent popping it to “Chrissy E” is somewhat less easy to count.
Mykki Blanco was a close second. Industrial-tinged, experimental hip-hop was a big thing this year (as our fourth place selection further proves, but more on that in a minute) and Blanco’s drag-draped, in-your-face personality of the poet-turned-rapper has pushed her ever closer to stardom. While her mixtape Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss was something of a mixed bag, her debut EP Mykki Blanco & The Mutant Angels is a pitch-perfect selection of sounds that put Mykki in the eyes of the world.
Third place goes to Grimes, again not much of a surprise; her esoteric pop masterpiece Visions is showing up in most of the Year’s Best lists we’ve seen, and for good reason. It’s been a very big year for Claire Boucher, and it’s been a pleasure to watch her garner ever more attention, all without compromising her own vision and sense of self. Legitimate weirdos making legitimately weird music will always be very much our thing.
Death Grips commanded a respectable fourth, thought there’s nothing respectable about the duo of Stefan Burnett and Zach Hill—aside from how much they thrash the skin off our bodies whenever we see them live. The Money Store established them as a force to be reckoned with early in the year, but it was the penis-covered No Love Deep Web, released online for free by the band allegedly in an effort to bypass perceived stall tactics from their label Epic Records, cemented their place as modern punk heroes for many.
At fifth place is rapper Azealia Banks, whose debut 2011 single “212” blew up in Europe and led to Banks being signed to XL Recordings. Though the relationship between the UK label and the NYC songstress would ultimately dissolve, Banks’ work in 2012—the 1991 EP and its timely ’90s-referencing video, her well-received Fantasea mixtape featuring collabs with Machinedrum, Hudson Mohawke, Diplo and other heavy-hitters—kept her head and name high.
The third prize—your favorite albums of the year (in vinyl, CD or digital, whichever you prefer)—goes to Bakos Zsolt, Szeged, Hungary.
Your favorite song of 2012 will be following on Sunday, December 30th. Find all poll results in here.
Yes, we know the parameters were wide for this one: from self-released hip-hop mixtapes, commercial DJ mixes, instalments of long-running radio blends to website podcasts…
Such a category reflects both the old and new musical order: the primacy of the internet he primacy of the internet as a free and effective platform for DJ mixes and mixtapes (Soundcloud, DatPiff, MediaFire, we see you) and the more established—and commercial—channels (take a bow the long-running DJ-Kicks series). As our winners’ list proves, one way isn’t usurping the other—as was once predicted—but rather they’re co-existing. After all, how many of you heard Nicolas Jaar’s Essential Mix on the radio? Not as many as heard it through blogs pointing to the Soundcloud rip, we’d wager. Yet this established and respected BBC institution—it began way back in 1993—is still an important proving ground and leg up to the main-mainstream. Nicolas Jaar described a high-falutin’ concept behind the two hour mix which you crowned number one: “I’ve watched Jurassic Park twice in my life—once when I was six and the second time a couple of weeks ago. It inspired me to think about how gaps in time change our way of perceiving”, he told the BBC. Really though, it’s the killer tracklist and subtle, elegant mixing that elevates this one above all else. It also helped that he opened with “Conversation on Twin Peaks”—a recording of Angelo Badalamenti playing and annotating the Twin Peaks score. Glorious.
We knew we hadn’t seen the last of Le1f on these lists after editor Daniel Jones placed him in his Editor’s Picks. Dark York comes in a strong second. This self-released mixtape featuring beats by the likes of 5kinandbone5, Nguzunguzu and Le1f himself was one of the many fully-realised (and self-released) albums that dropped for free this year. It’s gnarly production and subversive flows placed eerily low in the mix made it an record you kept returning to—and it only got better.
Another example of the fecund state of independent hip-hop was Reservations by NY rapper Angel Haze. This 14 track mixtape blindsided us when it dropped in July, and not just because Haze is responsible for one of the strongest flows of the year. By turns arrogant, confrontational and pumped full of street rapper brio; “New York” is a piece of audacious rapper braggadocio while “Cleaning Out My Closet” unflinchingly describes her experience of sexual abuse over an Eminem instrumental. There was a tangible sense that, to use that overused phrase which for once seems fitting, the game had changed.
Remember when nobody knew who Captain Murphy was? I miss those days. The year’s worst kept secret may be out of the bag (spoiler for the slow of click: Flying Lotus is Captain Murphy) but as Duality proves, he aint so bad at rapping over funked out, skunked out beats.
A Year’s Best Mixtapes list wouldn’t be complete without Lil B, so you obliged by voting God’s Father in at five. Thanks!
Electronic Beats Readers’ Poll 2012 — Best Mixtape, Compilation or DJ Set:
1. Nicolas Jarr – BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix (BBC)
2. Le1f – Dark York (self-released)
3. Angel Haze – Reservations (self-released)
4. Captain Murphy – Duality (self-released)
5. Lil B – God’s Father (self-released)
6. BlackBlackGold presents the Stonergoth Expansion (self-released)
7. Azealia Banks – Fantasea (Interscope/Polydor)
8. Digitalism – DJ Kicks (!K7)
9. Pinch – Fabriclive 61 (Fabric Records)
10. Mykki Blanco – Cosmic Angel: Illuminati Prince/ss (self-released)
The 4th prize—five tickets for a EB Festival of your choice—goes to carstenpstahl.
Your favorite artist of 2012 will follow on Saturday, December 29. Find all poll results in here.