The rituals of the ZVŮK festival
4 weeks ago, 23 September 2014  ·   4 notes

ZVŮK has launched its journey across Bratislava urbanism in September 2013. It was then that Jonáš Gruska, the head of the Slovak label LOM which gathers artists from various corners of experimental music, chose the spot under the bridge Apollo in the capital for his event. This year, it moved several kilometres against the stream of the Danube, into the precious biotope of the Pečniansky wood. The sonic intervention into the space of the abandoned army bunker Šterkovšitě, forested with wildwood type of nature, apart from acoustic and aesthetic qualities, also created an unforgettable atmosphere.

Each such abandonment of closed club spaces and venues, eschewing the familiarity of the known centre of the cities gives the sound the possibility to spread in an environment, to communicate with it, in this case decompose amid the indented walls of the bunker, fall into the open holes and escape through the shooting range into the wet forest. The club space gives way to the genius loci, accentuated by the dim light of the candles, omnipresent mosquitoes, 100 percent humidity and solar electric energy – the festival keywords were: outdoor, DIY, drone, sound art, solar-power, in the end.

Music thus becomes part of the biotope, frees itself, this has been its historical wish – to become a part of a bigger whole. Everyone who wants to listen to it, has to make this short trip from the centre to the periphery - to reside in this biotope for a little while, to the border (both figuratively and literally, since the aforementioned bunker is situated on the Slovak-Austrian border). The subtitle sonic blessing festival perfectly embodies the need for this kind of nomadism, the purification from holiday tourism of Bratislava streets. To find music in remote areas, through which it is possible to reflect upon the state of the experimental scene of the centre of the capital. The LOM festival enables this alternative, and the people around Gruska are able to actualize this idea to great results.



The festival programme was inaugurated by the Bratislava-based Matumaru with his vision of rhythmic noise drawing on the ruins of his techno-oriented alter ego Makkatu. Deconstructed rhythms placed in a claustrophobic space, flowing through a mass of bodies, the only thing that is missing to ritual exaltation, is higher volume. Under the expressive name, Smrt (Death), one of the members of the local label Nomad Sky Diaries (moniker 900piesek, 900piesek.blogspot.com), oriented on various extreme noise expressions, also took to the stage.

Shorter acoustic industrial performances on steel, wooden sticks and metal instruments conjured the image of a passenger, who carries a plate of metal through the city and later, a dark forest.

The Viennese duo Burlin Bird, composed of members of Bird People and Burlin’ Mad unleashed their repetitive, tribal drone folk mixing electronics with acoustic instruments (a whistle made out of funnel, primitive string instrument and a dunkar – a ritualistic shell-like trumpet) mostly expressed the poetics of the place. Long tones of the dunkar spread across the surrounding forest. The improvisations of the trio, based in Vienna also under the name Arn-Rehformen-Weikinger, armed with a cello, acoustic and electric guitars, alternated quiet passages with noise orgies. Culminating drone sections were coupled with Rosi Rehformen’s almost inaudible squeaky voice.

The apex the bunker had been dreaming about. The evening was brought to an end by 21st century troubadour András Cséfalvay, amid candlelight and poetry. The LOM label ambassador, Slovak visual artist, fiend of eclecticism, who surprised everyone with his album Funeral the Musical and another tabletop opera last year based on Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, continues with his intimate miniatures, replacing piano for acoustic guitar and clarinet this time, resulting in introverted freak folk, unheard of in Slovakia.

PS: In the past, there were ownership legal disputes around the area of the forest. The ZVŮK festival thus acts as an example of a creative reclaiming and reviving of peripheral parts of a city, which are not frequented by local residents.

By Jakub Juhás
This article was supported by the Intenda Foundation.

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State of Emergency: Dizzcock’s AL
1 month ago, 16 September 2014  ·   3 notes

Whereas in his other project, Lightning Glove, the sense of urgency and pervasive feeling of impending omen, was created largely via the lyrics of his brother, the editor of one of the few proudly modern left-wing Czech magazines A2larm Jan, Ondřej makes a statement on his new solo record via the sonic. Apart from the anodyne “This is an emergency” sample in the second track, though the rolling bass professes this with heightened sense of paranoia. 

Though my favourite are probably the atmospheric and languid two versions of The Call. Slow with a gradual build up, an anticipation of a digital storm.

His debut solo album AL was inspired by the 90ties computer game System Shock, which offers a pessimist version of the future, where technologies enslave humans. 

The release comes out on the label he co-founded, called Red For Color Blind, and apart from original tracks, also encompasses remixes by Czech and international artists, including Gnod’s Dwellings, the grime producer Filter Dread as well as Czech projects Střed Světa and Space Love, who strip the source material off its inherent darkness and replace it with their own idiosyncratic quirky touches - in case of Střed Světa, resulting in a manic lysergic voyage which he commands like the Wizard of Oz. 

"The message is in the nature of how the theme was processed. It has a certain narrative, it is tribal, bass-driven and futuristic, at times grime-like," says Ondřej Bělíček aka Dizzcock. "In grime music, futurism looks into the future, which thanks to technology, escapes the doom and gloom. On my album, it is the other way, it is a futurism, which is dystopian. Technology enslaves you,"

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Transient zones of sound
1 month ago, 2 September 2014  ·   2 notes

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Transient Zones is a festival that took place earlier this year in Prague. Over a few days, a group of artists moved and shifted from one location to another, creating temporary autonomous microzones of sound, reclaiming the public space for a brief moment from its functionalist nature - a space to shift from the 9-5 to shop or sleep, a sonic détournement.  

For instance, Susanne Kass’s voice piece on Námestí Republiky, one of the centres of commerce in Prague, has several layers of voices reciting the offers of stores located in the nearby shopping mall. Michal Cáb rubbing his polystyrene stick onto an advertisement stand is a bona fide perverse “desacration” of this commercial object which had hijacked the public space even before. 

There is something charming in the playful performances, battery noise in a passage way or a concert at the station with passing trains behind, creating not only the visual, but also the sonic backdrop, salvaging the urban space from its super seriousness. Embracing glitch and imperfections, a sort of ad hoc dilettantism, but in a good way. 

"Temporary shifts of the sound character of the place are created, sort of transient zones, through defamiliarization, animation, anesthesia, highlighting, appropriation, disruption, the use of public space as a musical instrument, etc.."

You can check the archive of the recordings and videos from the event here.

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The Blank Stare II - Jonáš Gruska, БРАДА, STS
1 month ago, 29 August 2014  ·   5 notes

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The Blank Stare is a “project focused on mapping the Slovak experimental music scene through series of documentary movies”. Technically, the second episode easily beats the first one. While the first episode (starring Urbanfailure, András Cséfalvay, Triple Sun and Jacques Kustod) was drowned in dialogue, this time it follows a simple plot - three live concerts of three experimental music projects, and after each concert a short interview with the musicians follows. All three gigs were shot in one evening in Cvernovka, an industrial hall in Bratislava, formerly a textile factory, now an artist space which hosts artists studios and a gallery, even rehearsal rooms in the past. It is also a historical industrial monument facing a pending demolition.

The first slot of the new edition is dedicated to Jonáš Gruska, a Bratislava-based sound artist, known for making his own electronic instruments (such as the Elektrosluch, a device allowing to listen to electromagnetic fields), site-specific compositions (like his compositions for ventilation pipes or bells in streets of Bratislava) and running his own experimental music label LOM. In this movie, you can see him operating a pair of ventilators dynamically controlled by electronic circuits, or a tape echo made from old reel tape recorder. His concert with all those modular synths, blinking LEDs, cosmic bleeps and half-ambient buzz reminds of operating a spacecraft panel or a science lab.

The second concert is provided by the experimental duo БРАДА (“beard”). The first member of the project is Boris Sirka, born in Snina (east Slovakia), known mainly as a visual artist, also the former member of the audio-visual project BIOS combining noise, black metal and medieval aesthetics. Nenad Branković was born in Serbia, but since he studied visual arts in Bratislava, he now lives in Slovakia, and is mostly known as a visual artist and graphic designer. The two got together because of their common interest in dark music (even black metal, for instance), and their name points to their common orthodox Christian background (beard like symbol of orthodox pop, but also because “the beard never stops, it always grows”). Despite their visual arts background, this time they don’t use any visuals. Their show consists of slow, dark drones with a slight post-metal atmosphere using a tape player, gramophone, bow-played guitar, synths or processed vocals, preferring analogue sounds to digital.

The next concert stands in sharp contrast to БРАДА’s gig, and definitely is the most accessible one for the uninitiated listener - Sky To Speak provides us with steady rhythms, in a more optimistic vein and dreamy atmospherics, a sort of cross between minimal techno, dub and shoegaze with a bit of psychedelia. Sky To Speak is in fact a two-member audio-visual project, but this time we get to see only the “audio” part of the project, personified by Matěj Kotouček concentrating on his laptop and a few synths or controllers. Though he is originally from the Czech Republic, he moved to Bratislava because of his connections with the experimental scene in this town. He has also released an EP on Exitab label, a Slovak label focusing on experimental electronics or experimental rock releases.

by Samčo, brat Dážďoviek

This article was supported by the Intenda Foundation.

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Mirt’s Modern Electronics
2 months ago, 22 August 2014  ·   1 note

There is a science surrounding modular synthesizers, attracting modern alchemysts of sound, eager to tweak something worthwhile out of the cold steel, dreaming of wires.

The Warsaw-based producer Mirt has been making music in various formations for 15 years. He is a musician, graphic designer and also a publisher and journalist aside from running his label cat|sun and being involved in the Monotype imprint. His musical modus operandi is closely tied to analogue electronics, making use of their relative shortcomings in comparison to the endless possibilities of modern software: “It is limited in comparison to computer and DAW and much more demanding, but eventually it works better for me, it makes something straight - for example, you can’t edit a track to death,” he says. His fascination with modular synthesis lead him to building and design of modular equipment as part of the XAOC Devices.

In comparison to the other Polish modular freak Wilhelm Bras, his output is more sedated, in a good way. Mellow and almost gentle, the beat encompassed by swirling melodics. His Modern Electronics is a three track EP, with succinctly named tracks - the eponymous Modern Electronics and its anti-thesis and rejection of the concept Fuck Modern Electronics? “Maybe it is a little provocative. Maybe it is about electronic music eating its tail. How underground/experimental/alternative music is melting in pop and mainstream.”

The gem is hidden in between - Modern Electronics II. Starting off with a sample, a field recording, it veils the listening experience into hazy oriental atmospherics, a gradual build up with subdued percussion in the background, menacing in a very subtle way - in some ways it reminds me of Marina Rosenfeld’s Warrior Queen collaboration. 

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