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Outsider Music

Published February, 2015
by Easterndaze

The Annual Art Birthday celebration is a worldwide tradition established in 1973. When Fluxus artist Robert Filliou set the celebration day for 17th of January, happenings, concerts and other expressive forms of paying tribute to the alma mater of society’s soul took place. This feast is definitely the best opportunity to honour the musical styles which have never been and never will be popular. The term outsider music is broad, but in general, artists categorized in this sort of metagenre do obscure, unusual and sometimes unpleasant music which goes beyond sometimes boring common understanding of music itself. The Brno based collective Praha/Fórum pro Architektúru a média (media and architecture forum) put together an impressive lineup of cult figures of this scene from the Czech and Slovak Republics. My spoiled ‘been there done that seen that’ approach was eschewed by my curiosity and highest form of musical hedonism that I have managed to develop through years of extensive “crate digging’ and so I decided to travel to this Moravian metropolis where I used to live for some time.  The rainy Saturday day made Brno, a student city, look even sadder that usually and its half empty streets oozed a specific bitter flavour, which proved to be the perfect setting for music, which sometimes may sound tragicomic.

MC Žilina, the first artist has already ignited some thoughts in my head about the morality of this evening. Imagine a nerdy looking guy rapping with a terrible English accent about the most banal topics. Below average flow and toy like beats were absolutely terrible and I guess that is the reason why he was here. My moral doubts were however connected with his approach towards his music. The guy looked deadly serious, every song that he finished had short intermezzos with him preaching about the basic moral values, remembering Brno where he studied accentuating that he has a philosophy degree. When he was finishing with his show, he invited his friends, a stoner type with a guitar who played really primitive bass guitar parts in to MC Žilina’s beats and flow. The track ended in screaming freakout after which the MC left the stage without saying anything. Fortunately, the audience was pretty tolerant and apart from sporadic giggles, nobody verbally attacked the MC’s rapping skills. This made me think about what if scenario. How would MC Žilina react towards a more hostile audience?

The second act, Sprock was a different cup of tea. First of all, when I spoke to one of the organizers about his performance, I was told that nobody knew if he would even arrive to the concert as he didn’t have any money for the ticket to Brno. Sprock lives in southern Slovakia in a small, rural village, basically in complete isolation from modern society. Eventually, he did make it to Brno and when he was asked how he managed to handle it, he retorted that a cosmic energy has sent horrendous amount of cash to his bank account and he could make it to the show. His performance was astonishing. Background music consisting of loops from pianos and Slovak folklore music through layers of reverb was accompanied with his hypnotic recital in Italian language. The way how Sprock worked with his vocals was amazing – the colour of the words and intonation made this performance almost transcendental. The length of it was defined pretty simply. He set the bells and once it started ringing, after half an hour he was finished. A deeply impressive performance from a down-to-earth and honest guy.

Endemit archives is a blog mapping border genres of Czech and Slovak musical scene. The blog’s range is definitely diffused with event’s concept and this short break from sometimes difficult to digest music was informative and content.  Feel free to check the blog, if you can get through Czech language, you can find tons of albums to download.

Abuol/Žena were probably the weakest link of the entire evening – forced weirdness simply doesn’t work. When someone dresses up as a woman and plays loud, dissonant chords on guitar, you don’t have this “true” feeling of experiencing something beyond normal musical comprehension. Also, the music itself didn’t have sufficient cabaret qualities and I stopped paying attention to their concert and I focused more on that marvelous beer that was on the tap.

We have already introduced Andrej Danóczi to Eastern Daze readers in extensive interview. Basically he did his live routine where he is strictly using VST plugins of analog synthesizers. Now he played his piece called “Dovolenka v Arpách” using VST version of legendary ARP 2600. As I had the opportunity to hear this piece before, it has definitely evolved into more refined composition and playing with sound of this great piece of musical history. The second part of his performance was experiment where he composed entire piece without hearing sound of his input. This was with combination of totally random video projection made of shots from old TV footage and Czechoslovak popstars and movies from the communist era. Andrej never takes down his fishing hat and has a virtual wife, whose robotic voice form Google Translate has introduced both of those concepts to the listeners. His musical output would not be complete without his outlandish character and again, the outsider music formula was faithful to its concept.

My current favourite, the Slovak band Depressive Directions played a decent live show, however in comparison to their first public concert that took place in Bratislava, it wasn’t as good. Their primitive three chord tunes played on extremely detuned acoustic guitars with amazingly awkward vocalist were disturbed by guest drumming of Samčo. This additional element was not fitting the music of Depressive Directions, as their stripped down, guitar and vocal only sound has its anti-qualities by itself. Still, the message was delivered, lyrics about frustration, corrupt government and manual labour were sung. The lead singer’s style could be described as Ian Curtis without any charisma and hopefully their initial career take off will help them get more bookings and a devoted audience. Nothing is impossible. After the concert I was already slightly drunk and made an interview for Radio R with the guys. They seemed to be really pleased by this interview and I wish they will not be mislead by their false impression of superstardom.

Standa Filip is a well known figure in Brno, he started to create primitive musical instruments long time ago and recently he was rediscovered by the Bastl collective. His short performance showcasing couple of his instruments was far from standard. Imagine a middle aged guy sitting on the stage, playing with his guitar made of plank and this is how it was. This was actually more of a tribute to Standa’s contribution to the local  D.I.Y. scene, although still valid enough for this kind of event.  

Two following acts, both of them hailing from Eastern Slovakia (basically majority of the artists are living in more rural parts of the both countries) were a surprise, each of them in different way. Samčo is always experimenting with musical forms and incorporates performance elements into his shows, but his 4 piece female choir has created crazy theatrical drama with absolutely uncompromising over-the-top atmosphere.  When watching this entire spectacle in front of you, you could find loads of thrilling moments. An Artauidan aspect was strongly present with this project and again, Samčo surprised and shocked with another face of himself as an artist. But as he is an occasional contributor to this magazine, I will save my praises as it would sound a bit suspicious. Erik Sikora aka Džumelec is Slovak artist who recently tries to create music. His intimate folk songs with playful lyrics are full of hope for humanity and contain warmth that can soothe the soul of even the most nihilist human being on this planet. Probably the least outsider act of the evening, he delivered a beautiful performance combined with his new verbal inventions and theories that sometimes sounded like zen philosophy from Slovak, rural perspective.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the last act (Der Marebrechst), but I heard that it was also great.

With its unique lineup and concerts that will probably not take place in the near future, this event also proved that there is a small, but steadily growing group of people in the Central European region, that can appreciate music not only for its immediate qualities, but that can also embrace the concept and other factors that go beyond the music itself and form something extraordinary.  

By b.arctor (photos by Barbora Linka)