It may seem ironic. Finding a Bulgarian producer can be an easier task if you choose to look outside, rather than within the borders of our country. They seem to be thriving out there, unburdened by our homeland’s troublesome past, absurd present and ever so uncertain future. One such producer is MANASYt – one of the most accomplished Eastern European industrial electro producers in the last decade, with an impressive volume of releases for various labels and monikers /incl. Sam Lowry/, for imprints such as Legowelt’s Strange Life Rec. or Andrea Parker’s Touchin Bass. MANASYt emigrated in the late 90s to a wonderful life moving across three continents, and a dream come true – music. He has recently put most of his output on bandcamp, after having a sort of musical hiatus for a while. When I approached him for this interview, he was surprised that anyone from Bulgaria would be interested in his works as an artist. Here is the record of our short virtual encounter.
Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Petar Tassev, 36, living in China, born in Bulgaria.
Listening to the Slovak producer Stratasoul is like a hot air balloon ride – floating and sinking into a magic aural stratosphere, bumping into a chunk of beats here, catching on a string of clinks and clanks there…so easy and carefree.
“I remember feeling fascinated when I first heared a sampled amen loop on an Atari ST computer,a gift from granddad. Without any musical knowledge or experience I set myself a goal to make music, out of fascination with something indescribable, which grew inside of me and I still could not explain, but I’m getting some hints now.”
Rarely does one come across a beatmaker whose music in not overtly dominated by the beat. It serves more as a backbone, a gentle anchor pulling together the invisible strings of infinite ethereal sounds and melodies that form probably the most pleasant sonic chaos your ears have ever met.
“Usually I’d start with some synth and basic sound design which fits my current mood, and then I’d search for chords with my shitty piano skills. I usually make a sketch instantly, and then edit it in a MIDI sequencer. Here suddenly I find myself in a process which is not of this world anymore and everything comes naturally. It actually takes a short time, but to me it seems like forever until a sketch of a track is made. Then the obsessive disorder takes place and fine-tuning of arrangements, etc.”
Stratasoul’s compositions feel like a dreamy stream of consciousness – a risky modus operandi, for it is only too easy to lose the listener on a trip where the next step is a surprise even to the guide. Here, however, you press play, and before you realize, you find yourself lost in the subtle, yet firm hold of this hypnotizing sound.
What’s the trick? I believe it has to be love, and the sheer joy of creating and perceiving music without burdening this two-way process with a heavy message or complex meaning. This simple, unconscious way of expression has detail and depth that gets richer with each listen.
“When I write my music I feel overwhelmed by something. It’s as if I feel connected to some stream of calmness. I try to give an expression to what I feel at that moment, and that is why I value the very presence. It may sound megalomaniac, but I feel it in an intimate way. My music is an expression of my attitudes, sometimes naive, unsafe, you know luvly isles, honestly just sharing with people.”
Like so many other electronic musicians these days, Stratasoul is mostly drawing the vocal part of his works from 90’s soul and r’n’b classics. Funnily enough, it is the interpretation of this already clichéd source that happens to be the most characteristic and unique trait of his sound. Instead of looping whole words, phrases or riffs, he deconstructs voices into fragments and sifts them through multiple effects. The result is a heavenly love message pronounced in an unknown muffled language, chipped and clumsy and shy, but full of warmth and sincerity.
“I think we are the kids of the onset of information and globalization age, so we are getting connected more and more through other aspects than our geographical or traditional cultural affinity.”
Indeed, Stratasoul’s music does not seem rooted in any realia – be it cultural, ethnic or social. In fact, it does not have anything to do with Earth at all. It is the sound of angels making hip hop on an imaginary island floating in the sky – hip hop from heaven.
by Snezhana Bezus, find her at her blog Beatbucket.
Budapest-based producer Balázs Semsei aka Norwell makes his debut with his psychedelic electronica project on Shabu Recordings. The Farbwechsel co-founder is the third man connected to the fledgling label we featured earlier. Influenced by krautrock, house and electronica, Norwell’s ’I Kissed The Sun’ conveys a bittersweet nostalgia coated by melancholic synth melodies. Listen to it below.
Would you please introduce yourself?
I’ve got involved with electronic music making when I was 19-20 years old after giving up guitar and piano, first djing and later making my own music. Together with my childhood friend Alpár, half of the duo Silf and my other friend, half of the duo Stephan Olbricht we were teasing each other with the latest software tricks and learned music making together as autodidacts until one of us bought a synthesizer. Earlier I had another project called Elbow Room releasing an EP on Ryan Davis’ label Back Home but after a long search for a new sound which I feel more comfortable with, I started Norwell.
What kind of sound were you looking for?
I could never describe the style of my music. Elbow Room was more about melodies and more house-y beats but later when I got my synth and it changed everything. I gave up virtual synths in favor of analog ones and wanted to start a new project: Norwell. By now I’m able to write music on analogue gear, so almost without computer, I only use it for drum patterns, recording and mixing. It’s not that I hate digital but more about how it feels, it becomes real, so it’s more entertaining, not to mention the incomparable sounds. Mostly the creative process starts with improvisation, I start playing on one of the synths to find a sound or a sequence I like and I record it and after couple of drafts it evolves to become a song. But there can be a sound also in my head before sleeping. It varies. I don’t feel my music has any dominant motif, it’s a blend of house, techno and electronica elements.
How would you describe the world of Norwell?
It comes as a mood of old and vintage but with modern electronic sounds. For me it recalls the kraut rock era of the 60s, 70s. I was listening to kraut rock, psychedelic rock. Basically this kind of psychedelic music defines my sound, something old, bittersweet something, not happy, neither sad. I was making sad music before but I changed and I write out less melancholic stuff, but it’s still melancholic. If I’m in a bad mood music making is what makes me feel better, that’s what I like most. Though I have a dual purpose, besides doing what you like you also make an emotional effect on others.
What are your plans for 2013?
After the first Norwell EP there is the second one in the making, via another label. I’d be happy to have one physical release this year finally. And when I’m surely ready for it, I’d like to put my live act together, but before that there’s so much to prove and improve.
by András G Varga, Easterndaze and Electronic Beats Budapest collaborator, you can find him on Twitter here.
New label alert. Plunderphonics is a new digital imprint established this year by the 18-year old Krystian Stebnicki. Since its inception in June 2012, he managed to bring out four idiosyncratic releases ranging from faux French-sung wave/EBM of Cochon Porc, to MOLR DRAMMAZ’s disorienting experiments. The plunderphonic maxim is applied subtly, without obvious allusions to pop culture, recalling the often inherently disturbing sonics of the Residents rather than playfulness of Negativland.
Can you tell us about Plunderphonics, its history? It all started two years ago, when I was sixteen years old. I had heard about the netlabel ‘by?em kobieta’, founded by a friend of my sister from her university. I immediately fell in love with the sound of the label and it is still the case today. Later I started to search for my own experimental music performers. Sangoplasmo records (cassette label) delivered another dose of inspirations. I bought some tapes from this label and told to myself, “I dig the music, so maybe I should try my own netlabel”. I read on twitter of the band Satanicpornocultshop that Dagshenma’s album is the best thing they have heard. I checked this and indeed it was fantastic.
I asked Dagshenma if he would like to release a record on Plunderphonics and he agreed, and it was a hit. I created the site on bandcamp and I started promotion. When my friends listened to his ‘Humane Humane’ they told me:”What’s that sounds?! Some noise and crackles from the speakers …” haha. The interest has increased significantly after the release of the MOŁR Drammaz’s last album: ‘Semperflorens’. Wojtek Kucharczyk was very helpful.
What sort of sound are you concentrating on? I am concentrating on all kinds of experimental music, but I’m open to all genres. I’m just trying to promote extraordinary music. for people who are looking for new musical horizons.
Can you tell us about the releases you have so far? First release was Dagshenma’s “Humane to Humane”. This is white noise from Japan. Second release was WeeGee’s “megatr[ ]nne EP” from the US. This is a very nice, short EP, which sounds a little like chillwave. The third release was by CochonPorc from Poland with an album called: “Tête”. This record aims to mix French arrogance with the brutality of industrial mass killing. The fourth release was MOŁR DRAMMAZ’s “Semperflorens”., a compilation consisting of 10 previously unreleased tracks by Mołr Drammaz’s more electronic period between 2000 and 2004 (and beyond) and 10 songs that were already released on previous albums. This album shows the originality and variety of the work of MOŁR DRAMMAZ
Are you in any way inspired by John Oswald’s plunderphonics concepts? Sampling, reappropriation, etc? Yes, I’m big fan of the plunderphonics phenomenon, but I’ve heard about plunderphonics for the first time when I read a review of the cassette ‘Death Beam’ by Lutto Lento. Maybe someday I will be able to promote an artist in this genre of music.
What are you planning for autumn? Still looking for new interesting artists. All I can say now is that in late autumn I’m planning a Czech surprise.
Having three sides as painter, rapper and songwriter-poet Gazsi Rap Show aka Gáspár Szőke is one of those multi-facetted artists. Gathering attention of the DIY-art scene with his memorable live shows and visual aesthetics of trash art he is finishing now his first album Az Atom Utolsó Erkölcsös Vak Királya (in English: The Last Virtous Blind King Of The Atom).
Tell us about yourself, how did you musical and artistic development happen? I attended a music school as a kid; then later MC Columbo and I founded our first rap band when we were fourteen. We recorded a 12-track album which had a limited edition self-release of one piece, which was lost for years. After the music elementary I went to an art high school and when I was 16-17 we made another rap team called DSP Bradaz which I left later to start my solo career. At that time I also finished up with graffiti and started writing rap lyrics and songs with my friends and my brother.
How do you work together? Some of the songs are produced by them. In the beginning I wrote the lyrics first, then they made the music, but lately it’s been reversed. All of lo-fi quality, but later I wanted to develop the sound a bit after I started to perform it, but I do like lo-fi sounds.
Why do you like lo-fi? I realized that it’s not only my work method, but also I’m much more into trash stuff than clear-cut commercial things. I know how to build up a rap track to be a hit, but I just don’t feel like doing it. I think it’s better to create a stronger impact by my poems and rapping. I know, this way I’m aiming for a niche, but I don’t want to push my music, I’d just better find my audience which is open for it. It might be a bit selfish that I’m doing what I like, but autonomy is important for me even if that of the artist is also questionable in the world of art galleries. I studied art as a painter at the University of Fine Art in Budapest, and I have been taught to think and create independently.
You’re a painter, right? I played clarinet in the music elementary but I reached my limits. After that I applied to an art high school, then to university. It was somehow obvious that I want to become a painter. Visual thinking is important for me, even if I’m busy with music making I don’t want to stop painting.
What artistic directions are you into lately? Lately I’m into trash stuff, aesthetics of tumblr and other web graphics.
90’s influenced visual aesthetics like web graphics, gif’s are very popular on tumblr now, what do you think about this? Yeah, tumblr is a platform which your parents don’t follow and you can post whatever you want. When I was 15, the visual aesthetics was totally different. Today’s visual styles have some influence from the 90’s but it has a fresh taste. I like the fact that technological development allows showcasing yourself and age of the artist won’t be important anymore, because your work speaks for itself. I think this whole thing goes to a good direction; I don’t want to be pessimistic. Interwebz are a huge surface, it’s easier to find something good.
You’ve successfully drawn a recognizable visual aesthetics of your own creative output, especially pertaining your live performance which has an additional atmosphere with surreal screening and costumes I started to set up a show one and a half year ago, before that I just had a mic. So I started to work with Balu (B-Kund), he gave me some clothes to put on, that’s how it became more like a show. And he is also responsible for the screening.
You write poems which you perform in your rap show, what are your lyrics about? Almost you can say I’m setting poems to music, yeah, it’s something like that. I have a lot of notebooks and I cover almost everything, various social problems, family, education, alcoholism, but also spring, autumn, winter, street. I don’t know. Stealing on trains or anything that comes to my mind; travelling on a tram or farting, lots of shit. This serial killer thing (listen to Sorozatgyilkos naplója, Diary of a serial Killer) is something I like reading stories about, there is a cult for this in the US. But I’m also inspired by painting itself, or self-defining in terms of I’m a teacher or painter. I also write about moral things, or what I feel. My favorite topic is environmental protection.
What are your main influences? I have some oldschool rap records from Cypress Hill Temples Of Boom, or I was a huge Wu-Tang Clan and Busta Rhymes, but also listening to lot of Madlib, Mos Def. Sensational’s sick works made a big impact on me, too. But I also like The Knife and Fever Ray, lately I’ve been listening to various kind of electronic music. As for the writing, I’m inspired by Bernard Malamud, Kafka, Vonnegut, Japanese or American writers, but currently I rediscovered Hungary’s pride Attila József.
What are your future plans? I’m readying my new album, it’s titled Az Atom Utolsó Erkölcsös Vak Királya(in English: The Last Virtous Blind King Of The Atom). Cyclops from the comics X-Men was an inspiration for that. I created a layout for the record, many gifs and also a cover with symbols of the title’s words. Atom as Omega, Two Swords as Fight of Morality, White Glasses for Blind, Crone for King. I’m working on the final version and mastering of the tracks, and the album will be out this summer. I also have some exhibitions in Budapest going on.
Gazsi Rap Show live @ easterndaze release party (11. 5. 2012)