Photo taken in Budapest by Marci Kristof
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.
A diary is a memory device, a personal narrative of a present that has irrevocably become the past. A deeply personal expression that usually remains private, a self-reflexive reminiscence of the development of the self. An audio diary shifts the rather self-centred nature of a written account into a more communal experience, or rather, diverts the attention onto others, or the environment. Captured by the recorder (“directed” by the one who is holding it) it selects aural situations and sounds that create a sort of sonic play. “In the first few minutes we just started to record noises, we continued by capturing audio phenomena using other sound equipment. We were brainstorming about the possible follow-ups and an overall conception,” says Marci Kristof of the 12z collective about his Budapest audio mixtape. “Also, we got stuck in conversations about the past and future of music, then we went out to different places in Budapest and met a lot of people.”
Lutto Lento is one of the most active figures on the Polish underground scene, running his acclaimed Sangoplasmo label for several years now, with the likes of Ensemble Economique, Aranos or Burial Hex under its belt. His own musical output increasingly focuses on—in contrast to his label—dancefloor friendly material, though of a cerebral rather than functionalist nature. The 4/4 tempo is injected with mangled samples and enough strangeness to suggest a sound emanating from speakers placed in a bucket full of lysergic acid.
And this brings us nicely to Piotr Kurek, with whom Lubomir Grzelak—Lutto Lento—is currently on European tour. Kurek doesn’t need to prove much more with his artistic creations, his acclaimed album Heat has appeared on Foxy Digitalis and he remains one of the most noteworthy characters of contemporary Polish music scene, with his idiosyncratic sound signature which varies from odd to the apparently more “customary”. His latest sonic incarnation is called ABRADA.
Triple Sun is a relatively new addition to the sprawling Bratislava electronic music scene, whose vibrancy is confirmed in release after release. When I attended a local festival in February, which featured approximately 16 (!) local live acts, mostly inaccessible to the “untrained” ear. Triple Sun is one of the staples of this community, its members being active in various outfits and collectives. Their latest release Overture is out now on the recently established Forum Absurdum label, associated with the haven of Bratislava’s underground scene, the Fuga club, located in an old industrial complex encircled by signs of merciless urban development. ~
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.
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.
I’ll start this column with a disclaimer: I’m not trying to reinforce Cold War rhetoric. It would be foolish to suggest that in today’s globalised hyper-world, the geographical distinctions still matter – or do they? Online, we are supposedly all interconnected within a virtual bubble regardless of whether we come from Ohio or Opava. For most of the time, we in Europe are inundated by news about bands from the other side of the planet, which is fine, but it’s good to keep things balanced. Hence, we will present some noteworthy bands, labels and acitivities from Central and Eastern Europe here, handpicked from a pool of resources courtesy of the Easterndaze project.
Sangoplasmo is an unassuming tape label from Poznan, Poland. Lead by the effervescent Lubomir Adam Grzelak, the imprint has been steadily releasing some of the best psychedelic-tinged synth-based and experimental stuff in the region. Although it has to be said that Sangoplasmo also embraces the international waters. Inaugurated by the wonderfully strange Aranos, Sangoplasmo has carved its niche with further releases by the likes of Burial Hex and Felicia Atkinson. Other noteworthy aural offerings include Katapulto‘s conceptual tape Animalia, a recording about animals in different languages, and the label boss’ project Lutto Lento.
Sangoplasmo’s latest batch of tapes is equally impressing: Ensemble Economique, the ghostly Decimus, Komodo Haunts debut album, and Polish musician Bartek Kujawski.
One more imprint to keep your eyes onto right now is Over9000, more of a free-form platform, open to artistic expression and collaboration. The Belgrarde-based label/collective is run by mangulicaFM, a musician in his own right. A red thread that runs through the label’s sonic stamp is a certain recontextualisation of local – ex Yugoslavian folk music, mostly pronounced in the label head’s output. mangulicaFM’s latest release, a self-titled album, is an adventurous and exotic sonic offering. You can read an interview with this fledgling producer here.
Lucia Udvardyova is an EB correspondent one of the creators behind the always inspiring Easterndaze blog, which focuses on up-and-coming Eastern European music scenes