In search of Belgrade’s sonic underbelly
4 years ago, 10 October 2010  ·   49 notes

First impressions of Belgrade from Avala train.

September’s melancholic mood with last few glimpses of sunshine offered a perfect backdrop to our first Balkan-bound journey in our project. It couldn’t have been more different to our preceding journey to the relatively clean-cut Poland where the music scene is dispersed into several cities from northern harbor town Gdansk to tourist-infested Krakow in the South, Serbia is more centralized with Belgrade and Novi Sad as the primary music and cultural hot-spots. What’s more, the Central European countries like Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland or even Romania don’t have to confront their fairly recent dark patch on their history as is the case with Serbia. The political and socio-economic context is tangible in every conversation we lead.

The war “monument”.

Belgrade is not a polished, shiny city like Prague, it still retains its rawness and Balkanic chaos. Theoretically, cities like these - as is/was the case with all your Berlins - are usually bustling with creativity and have a strong music scene. Somehow, this, admittedly cliched assumption, didn’t actualize with the Serbian capital. 

On the first night, after an arduous 12-hour-train journey (the route of 530 km), completely wrecked but utterly determined, we headed to the promo party of the  Dispatch Festival’s, the electronics festival which is set to commence as we speak. Funnily enough - and perhaps tellingly - most of the people we subsequently spoke to were present at this small party. We met Woo, one of the city’s successful musicians who under the auspices of Dispatch crisscrossed Northern America on a 30+ tour this year and frequently plays abroad.

Wo0 - When The Night Hits by Wo0

Aside from his more ambient-flaired solo act, he is also part of the improv collective Belgrade Noise whose short gig we get to experience on our final night at KC Grad, Belgrade’s leading alternative arts venue, where they played alongside UK dream boy Chad Valley. As for Belgrade Noise, we also met the outspoken and very likable Dusan Zica who is also active in two other projects - Shining Shitbox and Temple of Stone.


We meet Luka Ivanovic, aka Lukatoyboy - another clubber present at the party - on Belgrade’s castle ruins. On the backdrop of river Danube, we speak about his sounds and inadvertently end up reminiscing of the 90ties, Serbia’s dark times. For music and nightlife, however, the political and international isolation that the Milosevic regime dragged the country into, proved to be one of those times - perhaps like Weimar in the twenties Germany - when hedonism was an act of resistance, or simply a necessity how to survive the abnormal conditions (no school for six months, etc). Nowadays, the local music scene seems to be in a sort of limbo with the political situation relatively stable - albeit still messed up, as we’ve repeatedly heard with the economy proving to be the major problem now. There’s a persistent lack of funds and support/interest for non-mainstream musical endeavors. 

Another person in attendance at the Dispatch Night was the English transplant Toby, and former British Council music programmer, the proprietor of the bass-oriented imprint Svetlana Industries with an artist roster ranging from Serbian dubstep (Piece of Shhh.. through Slovenian glitch hop/techno Maya ‘8Bitch’ Medvesek. Interestingly, similarly to another British emigré whom we met in Romania, Eastern Europe despite its many drawbacks outshines their motherlands in the possibilities that it nurtures for their respective fields of interest - for Tom Wilson it’s journalism and for Toby label managing. Nevertheless, Toby and his associate Andrea remain fiercely internationalist and global and defer each of our questions about Serbia.  

Svetlana Selekta by Svetlana Industries

One of the most memorable encounters happened on a sunny morning in the vicinity of Belgrade’s National Theatre. We strolled in the labyrinthine streets in a leafy residential area to meet the Nigerian musician who works under the moniker K.O.F.Y. Ahman started as a crack dealer in his home town Lagos, Nigeria in the late seventies, but soon got involved in politics: for engaging in various activities against the rule of General Obasanjo, he had reportedly spent a total of seven years in prison, where he once allegedly shared a cell with the great Fela Kuti. During the eighties, Ahman fled Nigeria and moved first to Kingston, Jamaica and then to Miami, Florida, where he got his moniker K.O.F.Y, working as a doorman in a Latino gay bar,” reads the biog on his Myspace page. A former Nigerian crack dealer and con-man living and producing dub-tinged tunes about Mugabe who chose Eastern Europe as his current home, hm, we were surely intrigued, to say the least.

K.O.F.Y vs MKDSL - Berlin by KOFY

Belgrade’s noise and experimental label is Ne-Ton. The name, a pun on *TON labels active in socialists Yugoslavia (Yugoton, Diskoton, etc), also expresses the music it presents - un-tone, non-music. Having been created as a label to put out releases of Klopka za Pionira, a band that many hail as Serbia’s only noise-rock project, it also started to release other projects as well. Its founder, Damian Brkic, a guitarist in Klopka za Pionira, and a noise producer under the name Brkic, is starting another project - a fictive quartet called BELI4.

BELI4 - Waves by easterndaze

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Poznaň hyperactive
4 years ago, 18 September 2010  ·   0 notes

Napszyklat in the building where their current studio is located.

The Poznaň music scene was probably the most interconnected and interesting from any Polish towns we had visited during our trip. Not only is Poznaň the home of many Pink Punk projects and also the hometown of Pink Punk’s godfather Konrad Smolenski, it is also a town where many other music producers live, work and collaborate.

In the cold morning of Monday the 30th August we met up with the guys from the Napszyklat project. Marek and Robert took us to their current working place - a backstage of a gallery turned into a recording studio where their new album is being prepared. We spoke about originality in the context of Eastern EU music projects, about the way how their new electronic hip-hop album will sound like, about Marek and how he creates samples from anything that emits sound in his backyard.

NP Poduszkowiec 1&2 by npmusic

Later on we managed to hook up with Monika Pich, a punkish electronic music producer whose earlier solo output was a techno-influenced sound overlaid with Monika’s occasional singing or spoken word resembling an angsty and existentialist version of Antye Graue Fuchs’ project AGF. Now Monika is working to develop her new project Molotov’s Cocktail - a collaboration with more musicians coming from diverse backgrounds which she describes as a techno meets trance meets bass and rock music. An artistic internationalist, another of her projects in the pipeline is a collaboration with London-based grime MCs. 

That day we also speak to Radek Dziubek from the project Grobbing Thristle. Radek explains to us that the wordplay in the name of his band is a nod to the UK stalwarts Throbbing Gristle and other pre-industrial and post-punk projects. Radek goes to great lengths to explain that even though the sound of his last record is dark and drony sludge which is released on a dark ambient / doom Polish label Beast of Prey, GT’s sonics should not be associated with any negative emotions. Grobbing Thristle are currently working on a new record.

The Wroclaw-based experimentalist Dawid Szczesny, apart from his solo work, is also affiliated with the project Niwea, a collaboration with the charismatic personality that is Wojciech Bakowski - a poet, visual and sound artist whose obsession is to work with his voice and words. We visit Wojciech in a concrete block of flats, an identikit East European building, a relict of the Communist times most of us here live or have lived at some point in our lives. Wojciech, dressed in a tracksuit bottom which contrasts with his glossy shaven head, shows us his latest work - both musical and conceptual, as he is also a successful artist - that he puts together in the “tiniest studio in Poland”. On the surreal backdrop of Niwea's coldwave-influenced music and seated in his guestroom-bedroom, we speak about Niwea's surprising commercial success in Poland and also about Wojciech striving to merge two aspects of speech - the sound and symbolic levels in his ouvre.

Darkness descends on the grey and gloomy Poznan as we meet the young and determined Iwona, a cultural management student who’s active as a singer in Hellow Dog, but whom me meet primarily because of her electro-pop project Rebeka. We speak with about her ambition to be dedicated only to music in future, about promoters offering no money for shows in Poland and also about a new live-act she is currently preparing.

The next day, another cold and depressing morning, we leave Poznaň for Berlin by train. The ride takes only two and a half hours during which we exit Poland and thus end our music exploration there. Writing this from a chaotic and polluted Belgrade, only in retrospect we are able to see Poland as probably one of the most westernized Ostblok countries we have visited so far.

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poland photos
4 years ago, 14 September 2010  ·   0 notes

get more: Easterndaze @ Poland

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Gdansk’s young blood
4 years ago, 1 September 2010  ·   0 notes

Our last day in Gdansk was quite eventful due to a meeting two local musicians - who are as similar as they are different. Michal Hoppe is a 24-year-old musician and biotechnology student. Sporting fresh holiday tan, Michal spoke about his two projects - his solo post-rock act No One Wished to Settle Hereafter and Enchanted Hunters, a band composed of several members - including Filip “Fight!Suzan" who we unfortunately never get to meet (but who nevertheless sent us a preview of his new album and its just great!).

11 Fight!Suzan - Youth Jugend by easterndaze

Interestingly, when I talked to Borys from Nasiono Records the previous day, it seemed that this group of people is not yet so integrated in the Gdansk’ scene, perhaps opting for global rather than local. The young generation is still oriented towards the West, looking for inspiration and audience.

08 - No One Wished to Settle Hereafter - Scarce Christmas by easterndaze

The encounter with Jacek Kulesza couldn’t have been more different. The vivacious musician with an image of a French magician told us about his musical modus operandi - he became known as the guy who plays with the suitcase and has Guns’n’Roses member play on two of his tracks. As we listened to Jacek’s deep drums in his car and as he spoke about his plan to go to the States next year and drive through the untamed landscape, we realized that it was time for us to go too - albeit not to Athens, Georgia but to Poznan, Poland.

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Nasiono: Planting a seed in Gdansk
4 years ago, 29 August 2010  ·   0 notes

Gdansk is a city imbued with a strange vibe for an Eastern European city. It doesn’t possess any of the typical “Ostblok” architecture in the centre, rather it’s a typical “Hansa stadt" in the vein of German or Dutch city ports. Gdansk is also the birthplace of Poland’s anti-communist movement Solidarity, who had their opulent 30th anniversary celebrations while we stayed here (interestingly, these days Solidarity is cut away from the alternative scene, investing huge amounts of money in mainstream culture, as I’m later told). In terms of music, it has a fertile ground in the form of the yass movement - a mixture of punk and jazz coupled by eerie industrial milieu. 

Nasiono, a record label composed of acts who all know each other and collaborate on a friendly basis whose objective is to promote alternative sounds of Poland’s Tricity area (Gdansk, Sopot, Gdynia). Its predecesor was the Salut Records (2005-2008), while its roots date back to 1998. Its roster is sonically varied - from postrock of KarolSchwarz, to Datadisk’s more straightforward electronics,

Datadisk - Aceton Girl by easterndaze

to Asia i Koty’s singer/songwriter stuff, to Prawatt's analogue escapades, 

to the noise courtesy of Szelest Spadajacych Papierkow who rocked this year’s Off Festival. 

  Szelest Spadających Papierków - Heino Live by easterndaze

While talking to Nasiono’s core-member and artist Borys Kossakowski on a windy day in Gdansk’s tourist-infested old-town center, I’m easily infected with Nasiono’s ethos.

Borys Kossakowski - Waking Up by easterndaze

The artists who release here even pay for all the manufacturing costs of their record and even though they could easily do it without a label, they remain faithful to Nasiono. 

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