Stream Opal Tapes Alumni OOBE Try Digital Gloss on <i>Digitalsea</i>

At first listen, experimental tape imprints Opal Tapes and 1080p seem to be in aesthetic opposition: the former favors industrial sludge, while the latter is partial to torrents of gloss-drenched digitalia. But it turns out that the labels have a mutual interest in distortion and undermining house and techno’s common tropes. Italian producer Yari Malaspina sits somewhere between the Canadian (1080p) and British (Opal Tapes) projects. His debut EP as OOBE explored haunted, gritty techno on Opal Tapes in 2013, and his return on 1080p next week, Digitalsea, explores a similarly estranged relationship to club music through more synthetic means. Hearing the cassette album in full, which you can do via the player above, illuminates its subtleties. Between squelchy cuts like the Actress-indebted “Purplehaze” and the dilapidated almost-arpeggios on “166.166.166” lie moments of touching ambiance.

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Eastern Haze: April 2014

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.

 

Věra Chytilová, the grande dame of Bohemian cinema, the uncompromising, forward-thinking director, one of the most eminent figures of the Czech New Wave, passed away in March. “My journey is full of mistakes, I am a mistake,” she once said in an interview. For it is in the glitches, delineations, flaws and errors that the outstanding, the weird, the border-pushing and thought-provoking is born. Chytilová’s New Wave colleague, albeit not a filmographer but a composer, Zdeněk Liška, achieved similar acclaim with his eerie, electronic soundtracks which, considering the time and place of their origin, were mind-blowing. They created a perfect backdrop to the equally avant-garde cinematic creations he was working with, for instance, the films of Jan Švankmajer.

Liška’s output, in particular his 1977 collaboration with the Czech director Jan Schmidt, has now been recontextualized by Tarnovski, a sound artist who has worked in the past with gems of the Czechoslovak audiovisual legacy; tweaking, twisting and turning the historical works into modern day homages. His latest mixtape, Osada havranů includes reworkings of three Liška scores: Osada havranů (Settlement of Crows), Na veliké řece (At The Great River) and Volání rodu (Call of the Tribe) all of them made in 1977. “Zdeněk felt the need to banish the whole sonic realistic construction, dispensing with most of the real atmospheres and sounds, instead trying to create them from loops. This resulted in strange howling, flicking, and this he mixed together… To all of this he then composed music,” recollects the director Jan Schmidt. Tarnovski’s reworking of the rhythmic structures, disembodied voices, sounds of birds and waves manifests the brilliance of both the source and recontextualisation.

The Budapest contingent has been keeping itself active with a steady string of releases on local or international labels, many documented by this very column. Aside from the well-received Norwell & S Olbricht collab, the latest batch of Pestian sonic offerings include a cute split between the 15 year-old Alley Catss and the aforementioned Martin Mikolai (aka S Olbricht). While Catss’ A-side pursues an eclectic, epic direction—incorporating elements of jungle, rave or breakbeat—the B-side is a more forlorn, abstract affair.

Metal and noise musicians who make techno and dance/able electronics could fill a chapter of its own in the story of modern music, but I’ll leave you with the latest addition to this macabre canon—the mysterious Slovak producer, BDY. ~

For more editions of Eastern Haze, click here

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Eastern Haze: July 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. 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.  ~

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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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