Eastern Haze: November 2013

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.


As the weather gradually turns from pretty and sunny to rainy and miserable, the latest happenings in this region are equally dismal. In Hungary, a new party has been established in anticipation of the upcoming elections, due in 2014. The party is called Magyar Hajnal, which means “Hungarian Dawn”. Modelled after the Greek party bearing a very similar name—the Golden Dawn—it was established by the radical wing of the already far right Hungarian party Jobbik. In Slovakia, where I come from, the municipal elections took place over the weekend. Usually these don’t elicit much interest outside the borders of the country, but this time the alarming success of an extremist candidate, a high school teacher who you could see walking around in a replica black uniform of the Slovak WWII-era Nazi puppet state, means it has to. A friend of mine from Bulgaria tells me about the omnipresent protests in her country, which have become almost invisible for the powers-that-be sat in their ivory towers while the rest of the country survives on two hundred euros a month salaries. Amid all this doom and gloom which, perhaps, we’ve become so used to that it doesn’t really shock us anymore, music gets produced, art gets created, books are written. The correlation between external forces and the creation of art are of not straightforward, particularly in these global times when artists tend to, or want to, be inspired by the global, not local. Nevertheless, this month I have come across the more introspective, solemn and psychotropic.

Bálint Zalkai is one of the integral parts of the fledgling Budapest electronic scene. He co-owns the Farbwechsel label, which is one of the driving forces, alongside Martin Mikolai aka Opal Tapes’ S Olbricht, with whom he also has a vintage house project called SILF. In his solo work under the moniker Alpár, Zalkai favours offbeat compositions, more kraut and kosmische than 4/4. When I asked him about Budapest, he said that the collaborative nature of the producers’ work in the city reminds him of the Zodiak Free Arts Lab, the legendary West Berlin music hub frequented by the likes of Conrad Schnitzler. Alpár will soon release a split album on the German label SicSic Tapes.


The London-based Slovak musician Daniel Kordík makes analog electronics. In contrast to the raw and unrelenting nature of his experimental oeuvre released under the Jamka name, his new solo work is perhaps more refined and subtle but equally haunting, which considering its title and place of origin of the sonics, is understandable. [Sy][ria] consists of five compositions primarily revolving around field recordings which he made between April and May 2011 in various locations across Syria, including Damascus, Maaloula, Deir ez-Zur, Aleppo and Hama. “Based on the ongoing events in Syria that would eventually break the country down into pieces, I cut my initial field recordings into small fragments and rearranged them into new compositions. At the end I decided to add two more tracks made on Vostok synthesiser,” says Kordík.


Nava Spatiala describe themselves as noisenautics. Much like psychonauts with their mind-altering substances, Nava Spatiala  experiment with mind-altering sonics, delivering a haunting, disembodied world devoid of any hope or solace. The drone-tastic tracks are a journey—both figuratively and literally—ranging from six to eighteen minutes.


The new Slovak project .soundscapes has emerged from the vibrant Bratislava techno and underground electronic scene of late. Their new EP Tides of Voltage is hypnotic and drone-y, echoing the likes of Raime, Haxan Cloak or Shackleton. The band’s name is unobtrusive which in a way mirrors the music itself, preferring to blend into the environment rather than stand out, operating within the liminal zones of consciousness. ~


You can read previous editions of Eastern Haze here.

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Eastern Haze: October 2013

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.


I’m freshly returned from another Central European trek—literally, since I’ve coincidentally hung out with my friends who played a couple of gigs in the ex-Austro-Hungarian empire. I’m using this rather anachronistic imperialistic expression deliberately since Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava are just soaked in monarchist nostalgia, each in their own way. Touring with a band is great, even if the band in question doesn’t indulge in too much Spinal Tap-style debauchery. The on-the-road camaraderie—cemented by gallons of beer, incessant travelling, random half-naked backstage dancing, sleeping at various random places which range from the club you’ve just played at to small town snobby hotels—is surely a godsend for any band. My role largely revolved around taking crappy compact camera photos or moaning because I got sick.

Imre Kiss, mentioned in the previous installment of the column, is a Hungarian producer who’s lived in London and now, presumably, Budapest and one of the rising stars of the Farbwechsel label. His dreamlike compositions are mellow, coated in a characteristically lo-fi haze and range from ambient to house. The remixes of his new record Midnight Wave have been provided, fittingly, by Best Available Technology.



Hot on the heels of mentioning the remix in Eastern Haze’s September dispatch comes the full-length from the Romanian duo Somnoroase Pasarele. Writing about music is like dancing about architecture, apparently, so we might as well be inane here: “All around, musical dunes for Fata Morgana, Yeti in a chairlift, Sisyphus pushing Prometheus in a convertible, Gili does ‘pataphysics technoulipo for the gymnastics of heavenly bodies in the sky and other macrotonal didascalia that remain to be demonstrated”. A wonderfully apt description courtesy of Bandcamp. You can listen to the full album below:



The nineties are a terra incognita when it comes to Eastern Europe and electronic music—not that it’s much different now. The post-communist, so-called “transition” period, hasn’t been documented so well, relegated largely to fleeting oral histories hampered by temporary drug-induced amnesia. Porridge Bullet is a label, based in Estonia, oriented towards releasing noteworthy electronic and dance music from this Baltic country, including the likes of Maria Minerva. One of their latest remarkable releases, which also contains a remix by Hieroglyphic Being, is an unearthed nineties gem: an Estonian techno project called Hypnosaurus. “The picture on the 12-inch B-side is actually taken at the party attended by the late and great John Peel. Visiting Tallinn thanks to a BBC World Service happening, he came to check out some Estonian underground acts. It was the third live performance of Hypnosaurus,” says Siim Nestor of Porridge Bullet.  You can read the whole interview with the label owners here. ~



You can read previous editions of Eastern Haze here

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Eastern Haze: June 2013

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.

Another month has flown by, with yet more Central European happenings to report. As I write this, we’ve been hit by floods in Prague, but despite the rather cataclysmic images and media scaremongering, it hasn’t actually reached the momentum of 2002 when half of the city was swimming in water. Still, the hundred-tower town had frantically prepared itself for the potential apocalypse, which has best been experienced through nocturnal trips to streets hidden under water and cloaked in an omnipresent fog, police sirens providing the soundtrack—as well some other sounds, of course. Speaking of which…

Alley Catss is a precocious Hungarian producer whose countless activities makes me feel uncomfortably lazy—particularly as I’m twice his age. His portfolio includes running a label, graphic design work, various musical projects and school, of course. His latest endeavour, Withdwr, sees him embrace a more experimental guise and also proves that these days music production has truly become an ageless experience, a thing-in-itself, which can be made from anywhere, by (almost) anyone.

Another Hungarian producer, the Budapest-based S Olbricht has a new tape on Opal Tapes. A soon-to-be graduate of the Faculty of Music and Arts in Pécs in southern Hungary, he has a diverse musical stamp, which ranges from the experimental to straight 4/4. One of the most active personalities on the Budapest underground scene, he also co-runs the Farbwechsel imprint. Check out the video for his track off the Opal Tapes release and his label’s latest venture, the new album by the improv project 12z.

Střed Světa is a mysterious Czech producer, the archetypal genius who prefers to create his extraterrestrial compositions away from the spotlight and in his own mind and way. His eponymous debut release appeared earlier this year on Baba Vanga (full disclosure: I’m affiliated but the music is simply too good to omit); a psychedelic journey through recontextualisations of his last decade’s ouvre. The upcoming reinterpretations of the tape’s material retained the original material’s potency, with the likes of Basic House or the aforementioned S Olbricht.

Sangoplasmo has become one of the most important Central and Eastern European imprints, releasing predominantly Polish experimental electronic artists, as well as a few foreign ones such as Felicia Atkinson or Ensemble Economique. Their next release is a lush droney number by a mysterious project called DWUTYSIĘCZNY. Keep your ear to the ground. ~

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Eastern Haze: May 2013

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.~


Easterndaze from easterndaze on Vimeo.


Interested in more obscure and exciting music from Eastern Europe? Head to Easterndaze.

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24 hours in Budapest: András G. Varga (part four of six)

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 hereAll photos by Rosalia Kullick.

András G. Varga is Electronic Beats’ intrepid Budapest correspondent and a freelance cultural promoter. He recently advised Tyler Brûlé’s Monocle magazine for their editorial on Hungary’s capital.


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.~

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