An interview with sound artist Svetlana Maraš
1 month ago, 22 June 2014  ·   5 notes


Establishing experimental and improvised music in Belgrade is a challenge: there are just a few funding opportunities, a conservative music education and a missing infrastructure. But musicians as the sound artist and composer Svetlana Maraš are moving back to Belgrade after years abroad and build up a new scene – with enthusiasm, good ideas and international collaborations. In this interview Svetlana speaks about her enthusiasm of living in her home town again, how she uses the laptop as an instrument in improvised music, and samples that attract her. Interview by Theresa Beyer from Norient.

Svetlana, six years ago, after your studies at the Belgrade music academy, you decided to leave your home country. What were the reasons at this point in your life?

At this time, Belgrade wasn’t really the best place to be. Music studies in Serbia were quite conservative. I wanted to learn things that weren’t possible to learn in the academic environment. I also felt that the system was slowing me down. I had a lot of creative energy and I felt that I could progress much faster in some better environment. That’s why I needed to go abroad. I found the Media Lab Helsinki, a school where I could learn about contemporary music in relation to new technology and sound arts. It turned out to be a wellspring of knowledge and ideas and one of the best decisions in my musical career.

Two years ago, after finishing your Masters, you decided to come back to Belgrade. Has the city changed?

Yes. The atmosphere in the city was getting pretty good, so I decided to stay in Belgrade. There appeared to be many other people who came back from their studies abroad. Although having different fields of expertise (some of us being sound artists, composers, instrumentalists), we all had a good academic background, lots of experience in playing improvised music and – what’s most important – we had this enthusiasm to establish our own music scene in Belgrade. With joined forces we are nowadays promoting experimental music, e.g. by hosting artists in our monthly series ImprovE.

How this growing scene in Belgrade is different from traditional centres of experimental and contemporary music like Berlin, Paris and London?

Belgrade surely is no hotspot. There are not so many things happening here or least not so often and there is also very little or rather no money for culture. So we can do projects just on a smaller scale and with a lot of effort. However, we are on the European experimental music map: we all work a lot abroad and there is a lot of exchange. More and more young people are interested in improvisation, noise, sound art and also the audience - created around events as Ring-Ring Festival or ImprovE - is getting bigger. These are all good indicators: Belgrade has the potential to become the leading place for experimental music in the region and wider.

Let’s speak about the work you create in this stimulating atmosphere. It is mostly based on samples. Where are they coming from?

I started building my sample library years ago, spontaneously, and I keep adding new materials when I find them interesting enough. I also modify the old ones until they become something new and I classify them very accurately. I use mostly these glitchy, digital sounds and the recordings of amplified objects. I also use field recordings and I sampled prepared guitar and no mixing input board, as long as I edit these samples up to the point that I can’t recognise anymore where they are coming from. At a certain point they start to be something else. Step by step my library became well defined in terms of sound. I think that gives a certain stamp to all of my works.

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The trippy world of Triple Sun
1 month ago, 11 June 2014  ·   4 notes

Just before I started to listen to Triple Sun's latest album on the recently launched Forum Absurdum imprint, related to the Bratislava-based DIY club Fuga (one of the best industrial venues in the city), I’d heard the new Plastikman album.

For some reason, it seemed as if these two were distant relatives of the lysergic lineage. Trippy, abstract electronics, digitally polished and ruminating, wandering and getting lost in subtle echoes, like on the former’s “Macro”, a labyrinthian maze of sounds, the Minotaur hiding in a Plato’s cave.

In its sonic experimentalism, it sometimes alludes to the heydey of the 90ties IDM scene, the Autechres and whatnot, but it is far from an epigon of a bygone era. It has its ebbs and flows, it’s menacing and mellow at the same time.

Triple Sun is a new project which emerged on the ever-vibrant Bratislava electronic scene, composed of active musicians armed with modular synths and plenty of vigour to explore the offbeat side of contemporary electronics.

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Paweł Kulczyński / Czarny Latawiec - Split
2 months ago, 23 May 2014  ·   4 notes

The split between two of Poland’s leading electronicians appears on a slightly lesser renowned, but nonetheless noteworthy imprint - compared the Sangoplasmo or Mik Musik - called simply BDTA after its owner Michal Biedota. Paweł Kulczyński, better known under his nom de plume Wilhelm Bras, has mastered his modular synth, tweaking and twisting them to get an undiluted analogue extract building and adding new sounds and layers, usually ending in a technoid rhythmachinism. The recording on this split was taken at the Canti Illuminati festival, an emerging, Wroclaw-based independent event happening roughly quarterly.

It’s kind of work in progress snapshot as I’m trying to shape the territory of my interest, not an easy job, since there’s a lot of low quality ‘experimental’ music around, quite possibly mine included,” he says. “Each time it is really different, as I’m shaping the set freely. My initial hope was to make a dialogue with some drony field recordings I made in the country side last summer, including noisy harvesters’ sound bounced back from the hills, huge swarms of birds, close-up recs of bees foraging on the big pile of rotting fruits etc.”

The other side of the release is in command of Czarny Latawiec, a very interesting, and so far underrated Polish producers, whose mangled chopped-and-screwed offerings have previously appeared on Mik Musik (more about it here). Compared to the high octane stuff we have been used to from him, his Pradziady is dark and sinister, paranoid in a subtle way, as the austere slabs of piano emerge, accompanied by male samples, building up slowly and mercilessly.

Both of the tracks are experimental in a BBC Radiophonic Workshop kind of way, there is something old-school and timeless at the same time in this release - especially Latawiec’s part, conjuring images of mad sound scientists experimenting with different sonic ventures in their time-forgotten studio/lab, a genuine no-frills sound adventure

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Check Czech - a new compilation of up-and-coming electronics from Prague and beyond
2 months ago, 20 May 2014  ·   6 notes

What is a sound of a country? House, techno, folk, trap, rap, hip hop or jazz? Of course, such simplistic generalisations are superfluous, though it is still interesting to hear what a certain group of musicians from a certain geographical context might produce, influenced - either consciously or subliminally - by the surroundings (or is this plain determinism)? Of course, we are not talking about Eurovision type of national/istic trite, but genuine music created at a certain time, in a certain place.

The new compilation entitled simply and boldly as !CZECH2, presents the up-and-coming producers based in the Czech Republic (there is also a Mexican and an American artist both based in Prague included). This is already the second instalment (read more about the first one in our interview here) of this initiative and its aim is to present “contemporary local progress”. The sound focuses on electronics, experimental, dance-oriented, weird and uncanny. Some names have been around for a while - but present themselves in a new light, such as Reverend Dick or Selectone. Then there are those who have appeared on the sonic radar recently, such as the Baba Vanga-affiliated Střed Světa and Traktor , or Space Love (check out their eye-watering videos here) and Dizzcock, the last two mentioned renowned for their collaboration with Tesla Tape’s Lightning Glove.

You can download the compilation, mostly composed of exclusives, for free here.

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Lanuk: I don’t believe in perfect music
3 months ago, 30 April 2014  ·   10 notes

Last week, we brought out our fifth release on the Baba Vanga imprint. And similarly to the previous releases on the label, the decision to release it came very quickly. Following in its own idiosyncratic path, Arpád Gulyás’ music, similarly to Somnoroase Pasarele or Střed Světa, exists in its own sonic universe without necessarily rushing to please anyone. Music that emanates from a need to express a certain personality, an artistic catharsis.

How did you start making music?

From my very early childhood, music would be played in my house, first from vinyl later from tapes. My dad listened to Hungarian beat bands, singer songwriters. My brother would listen to rock music: Jimmy Hendrix, Doors, Metallica. I liked these records a lot. I was 14 when a guy visited me, whom I knew from school. He told me about his rock band and that they didn’t have a bass player so he asked me to play. I agreed, and started to make music. My brother bought me an old bass guitar, and I strummed it day and night. I started to become interested in the various music genres. There were times when I only listened to jazz (John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jiri Stivin, Charles Mingus..). Then later at the end of 90ties, I got into Fugazi, Jesus Lizard, Goz of kermeur, Blurt, Skeleton Crew…

I played in more bands, punk noisy stuff on a guitar, bass guitar, harmonica, harp, I also sang. In the beginning of 2000s, I started to experiment with computer sounds. I recorded stuff from TV, radio, etc. I created compositions, but just for myself, I didn’t want to show it to anyone at that time. I would listen to these before going to sleep on headphones.

Once, something terrible happened. I was half asleep, and was listening to one such composition. Suddenly, my eyes opened but I couldn’t move, my arm, my leg just couldn’t move. I felt pressure on my chest, a panic fell upon me. I was scared, I felt something dark around me. I’m not sure how long I was lying in that state. At some point, it was over. I sat up on my bed and decided, that I’m not going to do such thing again. Few days later, I showed the recording to a friend of mine. He said such music has an audience. He took me to the Xperipheria festival in 2002, which impressed me. I started to collect my first synths.

What is the most important thing for you in music?

I think that music exists on its own. I don’t believe that you could transform the sounds of nature or industry into the language of music. I don’t believe in Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons either. There are factors which can encourage the music-
making process, but I think music doesn’t need anything but itself. I just let it come to me.

Could you say something about yourself?

I am from Érsekvadkert, a small settlement in the north of the country. I am married and have a daughter. I like to live in the calmness of the countryside. I don’t have a TV or internet. I like to run and ski in winter.

How did you make your new record vV?

Most of the time is taken by patches and setting up the instruments. Then I programme my controller. I start to play around with a certain theme, get to know its specifics, how it reacts to changes of settings. Then I press record and record everything live. There is no pre-recorded sound, everything is created live on spot. I have 4 synths and a sampler at the end of the chain, I also sample live while playing. It is all very playful and introspective.

You improvise a lot, which is a one off experience. Why do you like this way of working?

I feel it’s authentic this way. There is this magic of the “one-off” experience in it. There are fixed things, which I can play more often, but my music is created within a framework. I do not dwell about how to develop a certain topic. I do not believe in perfect music, I know that every music has mistakes.

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