Sunday, September 20, 2009

Electric Fish - (1986) Material Zvok [mc,not on label-re2001,cdr,Coda]

Electric Fish was a Slovenian electro-industrial unit of Matjaž Rebevšek and Ervin Potočnik from a little town Žalec, near Celje in east-central Slovenia. The original incarnation of Electric Fish emerged somewhere around 1983/84 in a fertile climate for audio-experimentalism, when in the Celje region operated such projects as Mario Marzidovšek, Sfinkter [later to become Strelnikoff], Lokalna Televizija, Juhuhu Stric Vinko In Njegovi, White Noise[1]. The period was also marked by a frequent collaborations with Italian improvisational group Musika from Trieste and an organization Coordinamento Musicale Il Posto Della Fragole which resulted in numerous performance happenings throughout Slovenia and the north of Italy, most of which were in the context of Antipsychiatry movement [for example, the closed-down psychiatric asylum San Giovanni in Trieste was a regular venue for these events]. Probably the most famous of Electric Fish's numerous live appearances happened in Udine, on the Friuli stadium in 1985 and on the other hand the most regular gigs were in Celje:

here pictured: Electric Fish [Matjaž Rebevšek - synth, Ervin Potočnik - vocals] performing on a one-day festival with Mario Marzidovšek, Lokalna Televizija, Masaker, Narodni Dom Celje 1983/84

Electric Fish's short 80es engagement was by all criteria - a product of a then-common do-it-yourself reasoning where it a was more important to work and be an active presence on the scene than to actually document what you were doing [not as a matter of a conscious decision of any kind, but more because of the very nature of the zeitgeist]. In that sense, Electric Fish left behind them only one 'official' tape - Optimalni Usodni Minimum [Slovenian for Optimal Humanely Minimum] released in 1987 on Das Synthetische Mischgewebe's own label - Alien Artists, very few rare compilation appearances - such as MML's Condotte Perturbate/Moteno Vedenje [with Marzidovšek, Masaker, Lokalna Televizija, Musika] as well as a 1986 'demo' tape Materijal Zvok. Matjaž and Ervin ceased all activity as Electric Fish by the end of the 1986, never to resurface with any other project. And it wasn't until 2001 and the Mestece Celje - Fantazme Osemdesetih [The town of Celje - Phantasms of The Eighties] exhibition in the Celje Gallery of Contemporary Art - that it was to be heard about them again. Members of the Electric Fish were approached by the exhibition curator Nevenka Šivavec to represent the group with some of its original sound material for the exhibition documenting the 80's local alternative practices and to that purpose the Material Zvok demo tape was transferred into CDR and rereleased in a small number of copies. With the same material Electric Fish was represented on the Oscilacije Zvoka [Sound Oscillations] exhibition in 2005 in Moderna Galerija Ljubljana.

This renewal of interest somehow slowly led to revitalization of Electric Fish's activities and soon enough Matjaž Rebevšek started recording new material and even occasionally performing now and then as Electric Fish. One such occasion was in 2006 on a sculpting exhibition[2] of his former bandmate Ervin Potočnik, nowadays a conservator and a member of Slovenian Academy of Fine Arts. In 2007 Electric Fish released a mini-album Electric Field on Zdenko Franjić's legendary Slušaj Najglasnije! /Listen Loudest! label and with it for the first time in its 25 year history even broke the charts. KZSU Stanford's annual 2008 experimental music charts, that is. Standing in stark contrast with their 80's concrete industrial output, the new aesthetic direction Electric Fish undertook leans towards beautifully textured ambient soundscapes, strange and bewildering analogue modular electronics.

Nowadays, Electric Fish can be found on Myspace:

The CDR / demo tape which I will present to you today - Material Zvok - is containing some of the original mixes that ended up on Optimalni Usodni Minimum [track 1,2,3], as well as some unreleased material from the Udine stadium concert [tracks 4,5]. In terms of style, Electric Fish most of the time plays an entirely synthesizer-based flavour of minimal oldschool industrial, but also has an eclectic edge combining the rather smoothly produced straightforward style of analogue electronics with bits of church chanting, sleazy italo-disco or 80es naiveté pop that renders them vaguely comparable to third wave industrials eccentrics such as Geins't Nait or Cranioclast, when the whole industrial idea-tank still had much gusto left. The CDR comes in a plain see-through sleeve, without any artwork and only with a rather unwholesome white print and ugly lettering on the cd-itself giving the basic information "Electric Fish -1986 - Coda" [Coda being the name of the studio in which the demo tape was transferred]. Ripped by Hogon in 320kbs, August 2009.

Download it - HERE

Enormous gratitude is due to Irena Čerčnik of the Celje Center for Contemporary Arts for sending me the CDR, Matjaž Rebevšek for consenting the interrogation as well as Milko Poštrak of Faculty of Social Work, Ljubljana / Radio Študent.

Optimalni Usodni Minimum tape is still a much wanted item, I would be more than happy to see it on my blog.

[1] -
[2] -

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Aporea - (1988) Na Rekah Vavilonskih [mc,not on label]

The excitement of finding and sharing these kind of things was one of the reasons I started doing my blog 2 years ago. To find anything on this scale of importance in Yugoslav scene was unimaginable at the time when I stumbled upon it and so far, it really can't be paralleled by anything. It is a great joy indeed to share this.

Talking about Makedonska Streljba in the last post was a nice innuendo for this one. On the very fringes of the Makedonska Streljba movement there were several very interesting developments most of whom remained unfamiliar even in the Macedonian public, let alone in Yugoslavia or world. Certainly the most important of these is Aporea or Apokrifna Realnost [or Apocryphal Reality, Macedonian Cyrillic: Апореа/Апокрифна Реалност] from Skopje, a multimedia project whose musical output could easily fit the best tradition of any ritual industrial bands that rose in mid and late 80es era on labels like Nekrophile Rekords, ADN, Touch, etc. What was an important influence for all of the bands from Makedonska Streljba, for Aporea it was a starting ground: the active exploration of the complex relationships with their own cultural and spiritual heritage through a specific postmodern, westernized frame of work - art exhibitions, music distributing, subcultural activity, as means of reconciling their people with the new reality they were heading to, but in the same time - finding an adequate modus viviendi for an individual's own spiritual continuance within the sociological context of postmodern Europe. In Aporea's mythology, the context in which that transition would be made possible is referred to as "New Europe" and it is best described in words of Goran Lišnjić's 1989 article "Lanterna Magica" about Aporea: "Spiritual nation becomes and remains in the spiritual homeland without borders".

Under the spiritual guidance of Father Stefan Sandžakovski of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Aporea was a loose collective of people of whom the most prominent were Goran Trajkoski, Zoran Spasovski, Klime Kovačevski, Metodij Zlatanov and Neven Ćulibrk. The remaining outer core was comprised of painters-iconographers and calligraphers Kiril Zlatanov (brother of the aforementioned Metodij) and Lazar Lečić as well as Predrag Cvetičanin, frontman of the Niš post-punk band Dobri Isak. On the eve of the last ever gig of Padot Na Vizantija, that took place in Banjaluka (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in July of 1985, Goran Trajkovski met an ardent fan of Padot Na Vizantija's work - Neven Ćulibrk (nowadays Father Jovan Ćulibrk, mentioned in the previous post), local alternative culture activist-journalist, part-time member of NEP and literature student with a particular interest in traditionalism and matters of faith. It was this friendship that made Aporea come to life and soon, in August of 1985 the first Aporea get-together was organized in Struga (Macedonia). In April of 1986 the very first public manifestation of Aporea was organized in the Pedagogical Academy of Banjaluka in the form of an art-exhibition that tackled the issues of the relationship between the East and the West, the traditional and the modern, through referencing and juxtaposting the diverse historical avant-gardes that existed in the Balkans in various periods of time [i.e. the art of Leonid Šejka or Ljubomir Micić's Zenitism] that also dealt with the issue. Until autumn of 1986 Aporea made the first and only issue of their fanzine of the same name, followed by the 1987 release of a fanzine-book "Apokrifna Realnost" that had somewhat of a role of a manifest. The only music document of Aporea "Na Rekah Vavilonskih" was recorded and distributed on a cheap cassette tape in 1988 for the occasion of ongoing TV documentary project about life and work of a painter-iconographer Lazar Lečić from Čurug (Serbia), a member of Aporea at the time. Due to the fact that in the brief period after the cease of activities of Padot Na Vizantija in 1985, Goran Trajkoski and Zoran Spasovski got involved with Mizar, Macedonian mega-band, as well as the fact that Neven Ćulibrk lived mostly between Zagreb and Banjaluka, Aporea only made a scarce documentation of its existence. There isn't a strict point in time when Aporea became Anastasia, but it somehow coincided with the abandonment of Aporea's multimedia activity that a new band, a strictly music-oriented Anastasia, followed. In that respect, it could be said that Aporea lasted until 1988 when a performance/exhibition of Metodij Zlatanov's visual poetry entitled "Sveti Jovan Neroden" was held in Zagreb's Lapidarij. Contrary to what I said in the previous post [more specifically on the entry on NEP], Aporea actually never performed live as a music group.

Unlike Aporea, Anastasia not only did perform live, but it also became a life-project of Goran Trajkoski and Zoran Spasovski and it didn't took long for Anastasia to conquer the music world with a amazing soundtrack for the 1994 Milčo Mančevski film "Before The Rain" (Pred Doždot).

The tape artwork is actually taken from a painting by Lazar Lečić entitled "Ratnik" (Warrior). On the tape itself we have song titles in Church-Slavonic assorted in Greek Alphabet (А В Г Д Е) instead of Azbuka order (А Б В Г Д), thus paying tribute to the Greek influence in origins of Slavonic literacy. In an attempt to avoid confusion, I left the songs as "Untitled" on the file names, because I don't think lot of people have Church Slavonic language packs installed on their computers. Although somebody took the time and transcribed the track names to a hypothetical variant of Macedonian Latin Alphabet and even left a tutorial how he did it, I really wouldn't know wheter is it correct or not. Here it is nonetheless:

A1) Dzvjazdo, javljajuštaja solnce - The Star which announces The Sun
A2) Besjada pri vuchode vu Ierusalime: Luke 19: 41-44 - The utterance upon entering Jerusalem
A3) Miru prežde roždestva - The World Before Birth (of Christ)
B1) Na rekachu vavilonskychu psalm 137 - On the rivers of Babylon, Psalm 137
B2) Kondak Sv. Prochoru Pčinskomu - Verses for St. Prochorus of Pčinja

On the cover there is a verse from the Gospel of Luke 19:41-44 written in archaic Serbian Cyrillic:

"And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."

In this tape of mere 19 minutes, we have two faces of Aporea that correspond to the two sides of the cassette. On the A Side side we a have a grave and toilsome atmosphere where the resonance of the sound is prominent more than anything. In the first song "The Star which announces The Sun" - the dripping from the cave walls adds to the suspense atmosphere amid church bells chiming and voices chanting liturgical hymns. After it, the highpoint of A Side "The utterance upon entering Jerusalem" features a perfectly simplistic, crude and sparse, but equally as effective one-string plucking of an archaic instrument which accompanies a voice reciting the verses from Luke 19: 41-44 on Church-Slavonic. This is indeed, apocryphal, catacomb music of the early Christians: those of the persecuted, dispossessed and abandoned. "The World Before Birth" (A3) is a pittoresque, dreamy percussion piece on a xylophone-like instrument with distant, faded flutes and bells that create vague hints of traditional Balkan ethno-motifs. On the B Side, we have a much more traditional song structure. "On The Rivers of Babylon" (B1) is an absolute climax of the tape, the track in question being a rather raw, unpolished and sometimes even unequally paced, but all-together mesmerizing piece improvised on traditional Macedonian instruments. Finally, the "Verses for St. Prochorus of Pčinja" close the album with an example of traditional Orthodox church-chanting. Download the tape - HERE

Okay, everybody pay attention now - the Aporea book is one of the most remarkable documents of the cassette culture era. However, it's not on English: most of it is on Serbian and Macedonian, with a couple of passages being on Latin and Greek. I will dare not trying to give it a proper review, as it requires someone much more articulate than me, but I will just repeat what I was said by the person who ripped it. There are couple of graphics towards the middle that are repeating and that's not an error, it's like that in the original book. It is conceived to be read from both sides as reflected in the opening words/lyrics of a Padot Na Vizantija song - "Početok i Kraj" (Beginning and the End). Being a PDF-scan the full impression of it will not be properly experienced because in places it was hand-waxed and some parts of it are inscribed in golden colour. Download the book - HERE

The tape was downloaded from a Macedonian torrent tracker last year, where a guy ripped it in 320kbs and the PDF-book is a rip from our kind donor from Osijek - Goran Lišnjić. Thanks again to our expert-consultant on the matters of art and tradition - Nikola of Kinovia as well as Goran Trajkoski and Father Jovan Ćulibrk the biographical data provided.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Various Artists - (1988) The Cassette Played Poptones [compiled by Sestra Wazelin - reviewed by Sestra Hogon - 4 in 1]

Back in the days, this tape - The Cassette Played Poptones - was one of the seminal compilations of the so called industrial/experimental camp [huge quotation marks here as none of the bands present even comes close to all of the cliches connected with the particular genre], as it the was an attempt to bring closer some of the really interesting happenings in that part of the Yugoslav underground to a more wider audience [obviously, besides Laibach's and Borghesia's activities, respectively]. In that respect, the tape was one of the rare that was reviewed by the mainstream press [like Džuboks]. The importance of these kind of collaborative efforts in the individualist music scene of Yugoslavia is also mirrored by the fact that the there were so few of them, with the majority of authors usually preferring closely-knit acquaintances [if any] for collaboration and thus a more limited scope of influence, rather than this type of regional samplers. The tape compiler, Sestra Wazelin, was actually one of the participants Goran Lišnjić "Lis" from Osijek [Croatia] with his project Metropolie Trans, the other participants being Autopsia from Ruma [Serbia], NEP from Zagreb [Croatia] and Padot Na Vizantija from Skopje [Macedonia]. The tape came with a second issue of a fanzine of the same name [Sestra Wazelin], which I don't posses. The tape was selfreleased in 1988 in an unknown number of copies, ripped around 2008 in 320 kbps and split into two parts with 60 something mbs each: download - HERE. Originally published in four parts, but later merged into one for comprehension and aesthetic reasons.

A word of thanks must be said to whoever ripped this, Sabrina P. Ramet - whose thoughts and references I used extensively, Nikola of Kinovia for making the creative ends meet and of course Goran Lišnjić for the abundance of information provided.

The first band featuring on this 4-way compilation is Autopsia from Ruma [Serbia], nowadays world-renown name of postindustrial music with headquarters in Prague [Czech Republic]. What can be said about Autopsia that we already don't know? Quite a lot, actually. As the factographical data on Autopsia are particularly scarce concerning their first 10 years of operation and/or mostly coming from local storytellers often prone to memory lapses and hyperbole, this should be taken with a grain of salt.

Autopsia is basically Rade Milinković and whoever he gets to collaborate with. In the early 1980es period these collaborators would often include multimedia artist Slobodan Šajin [from Aux Manir] and one elusive character S. Vukelić engaged in graphic design and music production, yet in the late 1980es colaborators would often include Zlatko Sakulski of nowadays global phenomena from Ruma - Vrelo and Dušan Đorđević-Mileusnić from Belgrade who provided much of the theoretical edge. Autopsia officially functioned as an agricultural art commune, located on a farm in a the nearby vicinity of Ruma often taking participation in art exhibitions throughout the country. Deeply rooted in within the punk scene Autopsia started out as a fringe-fanzine advocating individual selfrealisation and responsibility, but later significantly broadened their scope of activities. Autopsia is still active and can be found here.

Autopsia provided three tracks for the comp, with two of them sounding like rather sketchy blueprints for further elaboration: both Kompozicija za Hor i Klavir [Composition For a Choir and a Piano] and Kompozicija za Hor [Composition For a Choir] respectively, feature a short libretto passage sung over and over again in a loop, creating an effect that quite resembles sampling, but it is in fact suppose to be performed as we are suggested by the track titles [on the other hand - if it is sampling then its really refined and clean-cut]. On the first track the reiterated passage is from Orf's Carmina Burana [Fortune rota volvitur, descendo minoratus] and the on the second its Te Decet Hymnus - from the Requiem Mass [which could be from virtually any baroque composer]. The last Autopsia track "Oh no! Hopeless" is a less oblique affair and definitely more musical than the previous two - we have a dramatic, intense atmosphere of barroom howls intertwining with drums and a sampled voice.

The second band on the compilation is NEP from Zagreb, a loose multimedia collective formed around 1982 by a young graphic designer Dejan Kršić, with the usual accomplices being Gordana Brzović and Jani Štravs. There is a slight ambivalence to exactly what NEP stands for as it can mean Nova Evropa Projekt [or New Europe Project], but also it can mean Novi Evropski Poredak [New European Order]. Whatever the abbreviation actually stood for, the activities of NEP encompassed political & art theory, music, graphic design and film, especially emphasizing the role of medias in contemporary society. During their heyday throughout the mid 80es, they even performed several concerts, with probably the most famous being in 1985 when they opened for Test Department as well as one in 1988 when they had a split bill with a Macedonian band called Aporea, purveyors of anchorite ritualism of whom more will be said on this blog in due time. Somewhere around 1991, when the old country fell apart/into war, NEP also ceased to exist - with individual authors continuing their work on other projects.

A thing in common with Test Dept. and a probably a principal and the obvious most NEP trademark was rather engaged political rhetoric, unambiguously leftist - heavily leaning towards marxist-communism. In my opinion, regarding this kind of explicitly political or totalitarian art engagement as something already exploited by the countries most famous avantgarde art export [Laibach], one should avoid calling all these art-projects that sprung up during the early and mid eighties 'bastards of Laibach', because it was more a matter of a common zeitgeist of the era for all of the artistic and intellectual vanguard in a communist country to be heavily politic. Of all the projects that operated in former Yugoslavia, Laibach, as of the 1982-83 NSK takeover of a outsiderist art-punk/industrial unit from Trbovlje of the same name to a state sponsored project, was not the only one doing this and certainly not the first. Rightfully or not, NSK/Laibach took over and heavily exploited the monopoly for being the prime vanguard on ex-Yugo territory, so we will deconstruct that notion as we unveil all the other interesting happenings in the Yugo scene.

Musically speaking NEP tracks on this comp are mostly unusual, but rather simple tape-looped soundscapes with explicit political content and very clear contexts. The first track (A4) Kada se Forme Lome (When Attitudes Become Firm) is for example taking subject to some of the really interesting happenings surrounding the 1984 UK Miners strike that proved to be crucial in shaping relations between trade unions and government, significantly diminishing the roles of the former for good (which was an essential topic for Test Dept's activities). While (A5) Cultural Struggle seems like a bizarre non-identifiable ethnic music jingle-loop combining passages from some textbook propaganda, in fact what follows it is the high point of the compilation. (A6) Novi Poredak (New Order) is a monumental epic for string instruments, choir and a synthesizer about new winds blowing on the horizon, an absolutely superb piece in every respect. Finishing The A Side of with (A7) Naš Cilj-Komunizam (Our Goal-Communism) is a bit of a humourous relief [with maybe a dash of self-irony] as a familiar voice keeps repeating "our people, our Party", presenting us with a romantic*, tranquil, even meditative vision about how communist utopia sounds like. [*did i mention comrade Tito's voice is sampled? yes, it's that kind of hopelessly romantic].

Opening Side B with three tracks - Padot Na Vizantija (The Fall of Byzantium or often Падот На Византија in original, Macedonian Cyrillic script) is probably the biggest name on this compilation in terms of ex-Yugoslavia [on the other hand - Autopsia would be probably the most famous name on the comp internationally, even if virtually unheard of here] and it's kinda strange that they found themselves here because - first of all - the group wasn't part of a wider industrial/experimental milieu to which majority of the compilation is dedicated to and second - they were defunct for 3 years when The Cassette Played Poptones was released. Nonetheless, their contribution here is precious for its historiographical value, because their discography is less then scarce as the group disbanded without even recording an 'official' studio-demo recording with only couple of compilation tracks and live-bootlegs remaining to testify for the cult underground following that Padot Na Vizantija enjoy.

Padot Na Vizantija was a post-punk group from Skopje, Macedonia. They were formed in October of 1983 by Goran Trajkoski on the ashes of Saraceni - his previous punk-rock group and the line up was Goran Trajkoski on vocals & bass guitar [until 1984, when a separate bass player was introduced - Sami Ibrahim], Klime Kovačevski on guitar [replaced with Zoran Dabić in 1984] and Špend Ibrahim on drums. After two years of performing numerous times on various punk venues and rock festivals throughout Yugoslavia - the group disbanded in 1985, as Goran Trajkoski went to pursue his fortune with Mizar. Although the recordings are pretty much awful, most probably audience bootlegs, Padot Na Vizantija are pretty much well represented on the comp with three of their most famous songs (B1) Početok i Kraj [Beginning and End], a sacralist postpunk anthem with liturgical singing characteristic of Padot, (B2) Noć Nad Jugoslavija [Night Over Yugoslavia] and probably their biggest hit - (B3) Istata Sostojba [The Same Situation].

Padot na Vizantija is now commonly accepted as progenitors of what will later be known as the Makedonska Streljba movement [or Macedonian Barrage], one of the most important currents in art underground of former Yugoslavia, spawning such cult names [of course in more or less local terms] as Mizar, Telonauka Sovršena, Anastasia, Arhangel, etc. This entry would be a nice occasion to tell you more about it, as the information on them are rather scarce and story rather interesting [the mp3's and individual bands information are more or less available, so I'll skip that]

Makedonska Streljba was a revivalist current within the existing post-punk movement in Macedonia and it was certainly one of the most fascinating ones [in the 1980es as well as now], as a it was a subculture movement which sought inspiration in what majority of the subculture movements dare not tread: spirituality and folklore. In the broader context of the epoch, it can also be considered as one of the first traces of Neofolk movement in mainland Europe. A little prehistory is required here - all these bands that came to be Makedonska Streljba and those bands that predeceased it like Padot Na Vizantija, Telonauka Sovršena and Mizar, were under direct influence by above all - Joy Division, and to a lesser extent bands like Siouxie & The Banshees and Bauhaus, because all of the mentioned bands had a certain introspective depth that could be interpreted as part of an inner quest [an inner quest like, for instance, religion is]. Now why Joy Division? Besides the obviously transcendental or even meditative sounding, Joy Division generally has that type of fervor to it that you could easily associate with feeling of religious intoxication [not to mention the fact that Ian Curtis is nowadays the martyr of a semi-official religious cult that has grown around him]. Anyway, there is a interesting essay by hieromonk Father Jovan Ćulibrk on the subject of such inner quests, Joy Division and Christianity to be found here.

One of the most important aspects of Makedonska Streljba was the admiration of the ancient culture of Byzantium that was present on the Macedonian soil more than 600 years ago mostly through liturgical singing and overtones (with traditional Macedonian folk music also proving to be a vital bond), but also through emphasizing the common religious and cultural identity, through the values and heritage of Eastern Orthodoxy which they accepted from the Byzantines. In other words - it was a Macedonian-centred movement, which first and foremost strove to stir the emotions of Macedonian people (for instance Mizar from Skopje and Telonauka Sovršena from Struga were among the first bands to actually release an album entirely on Macedonian language). Makedonska Streljba movement had a strong political and an ideological background as the emphasize of separate national values and identity was regarded as a secessionist provocation by the bureaucratic communist government which didn't chose means to keep order in the politically correct, multiethnic and multicultural Yugoslavia. Therefore many members of Makedonska Streljba faced open boycott and even unofficial persecution in Yugoslavia (and especially Macedonia) because of their views.

Here it would be more than tempting to underline the enormous sociological and culturological differences* in Yugoslavia even within the countries most vanguard factors, such are subculture movements of the separate constitutional nations, by mentioning that opposition to the official state doctrine was also done by the Slovenians and their Neue Slowenische Kunst, but on a whole another level. It wouldn't be too far from the truth to say that Neue Slowenische Kunst was in fact a complete ethical, aesthetic and philosophical antipod of its Macedonian counterpart as they adopted a specific postmodern, futurist world view, firmly rooted within the Western civilization, [with a particular fondness to the concept of German Ordnung], whereas Macedonians looked to a distant past to find inspiration, to their own people and the Church.

[*the differences that, when applied en masse, make the dismantlement of the former state the only logical outcome]

With Macedonia stepping out from Yugoslavia in 1992, the members of the movement found themselves in an awkward situation to be the favourites of the newly established ruling clique and in this new climate some of them adapted and made a commercial breakthrough with the ongoing 90es folk revivalism and some haven't and remained in the dark. In Macedonia nowadays, it is generally accepted that Makedonska Streljba movement is the groundstone of any modern culture.

Last, but not least we have Metropolie Trans of Goran Lišnjić "Lis". Hailing from from Osijek, Croatia's easternmost point and fourth largest city, Lis' very existence is one of the numerous evidences of ultimate triumph of the decentralization process of 80es mail-art network over the concept of traditional of art centres. Metropolie Trans is a project in a 30-year-and-counting string of projects of Lis', one man crusade in struggle for a total art. For him art and culture are not a mere decor for the Polis, but an all-encompassing control system through which inner mechanisms within the modern society are regulated. In that context, the frame of Lis' work was always open (as opposed to "multimedial"), in order to address as much instances of the postmodern society as possible. As for the art making process, it is entirely conceptual and therefore can often endure substantial shifts in form. It is a philosophy that is, certainly not revolutionary or new, but a product of a common 80es subcultural reasoning which spawned such culture-totals as Club Moral, Die Tödliche Doris, Smell & Quim, etc.

Metropolie Trans is the first serious actualization of Lis' ideas and it lasted from 1985 until 1990, occasionally including other people, i.e. Mladen Pavlović. Before Metropolie Trans there was Diskretni Šarm Buržoazije, a tape-loop oriented avant-punk effort which was a more a theoretical unit than a real band. During it's lifetime, Metropolie Trans had five solo exhibitions (most of them in Osijek and one in Zagreb), recorded four audio-works, one of whom is The Cassette Played Poptones, the other three being collected early works in Serija Ranih Radova (1985-87), a collection of mixes and edits entitled Transformer (1989) and a tape Numbers/Order (1990), produced numerous theoretical texts and graphic works and even recorded a film. After Metropolie Trans, new projects such as Nowy Lef, Lebensformer and ultimately Re:Form, the current occupation of Lis', followed.

The three tracks representing Metropolie Trans vary pretty much in style as well as intention. The first Metropolie Trans track (B4) Nowy Lef [standing for Mayakovsky's famous journal] is a rather good tape mishmash including dramatic operatic voices, German military songs and apocalyptic fanfare in the best tradition of any martial/neofolk band that came out from mittel-Europa, some 5-6 years before anything of the sort became a trend. After Nowy Lef we are in for a complete surprise as (B5) Virus is an entirely programmed track, presenting us with a upbeat electro tune in a collaborative effort with Mladen Pavlović [alias Radio Oktobar]. Finally, (B6) Žito (Corn) closes the compilation with a track that could probably be best described as an example of dark ambient.

Friday, May 1, 2009

King Nothing - (1994) Before And After The Silence [mc,Key-A-No Records]

This entry of A hogon's industrial guide was revised on 21.03.2021. The original version of the article is still accessible through the Internet archive via this link.

The release presented here is Before and After The Silence cassette from 1994 by King Nothing, the moniker of the entity previously known as Larynx – the Yugoslav 1980s hometaping wunderkind – who in 1990s was the brain behind the cult noise rock outfit Demencija Prekoks (Serbian for “Dementia Praecox”). King Nothing (née Đorđe Dimitrijević) hails from Požarevac, a small city in east central Serbia that you could hardly call a punk Mecca, but a city that’s mostly known for its political power-struggles as it was the stronghold of former Milošević regime during the 1990s as well as the backbone of opposition movement. While Larynx was a relative unknown for the wider alternative audience in Yugoslavia (though nonetheless a key figure in the hermetic domain of Yugoslavian 1980s cassette experimentalism[1]), Demencija Prekoks on the other hand was a notorious band that was a beacon of the Yugoslav underground throughout the decade – mainly because of their chaotic live shows and noted media presence (several TV appearances, music videos, etc) – and one that had a special place in the popular imagination of the Yugo 1990s underground as everyone’s favourite for affectionate othering or a benchmark of sorts that was often invoked for comparisons due to its perceived excessiveness and outlandishness in regard to the musical standards of the time. Demencija Prekoks was always that band, a threshold to be reached or carefully avoided.

King Nothing came into being in 1990 and in the early 1990s mostly functioned as an adjunct to Demencija Prekoks as the materials originally developed for King Nothing often served as blueprint for future Demencija Prekoks tracks. Although King Nothing had released about a dozen tapes by 1994, these were released on his increasingly diminishing home output LX Music LTD which by the early 1990s became more of a private tape repository than a proper label[2] whereas Demencija Prekoks released its first two cassettes on Take It Or Leave It Records, a professional indie publisher. In 1994, Key–A–No Records became the new generic home label for all endeavours of the Požarevac hometaping maverick with the release of King Nothing’s Before And After The Silence tape as its inaugural release[3]. The material for the cassette was recorded in a strange interregnum for the band in which King Nothing had decreed in the press and around town that Demencija Prekoks ceased to exist on 29.05.1994[4]. Nonetheless, the band regrouped in 1996 and King Nothing found itself again in the sidelines for the remainder of the 1990s with no new releases as King Nothing himself was still fully committed to his primary project. It was only after a short period in the end of the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s wherein Demencija Prekoks gradually slumped into a prolonged period of hibernation[5] that this changed and in 2002 King Nothing took over the primacy in planning and execution at the Key–A–No headquarters. Throughout the 2000s King Nothing was the main Key–A–No project releasing nineteen albums from 2002 and 2007 and had provided a stepping stone for its author’s transformation from a performer to digital audio workstation composer.

In terms of its musical direction, Before and After The Silence tape doesn’t differ too much from Demencija Prekoks’ broadly construed noise rock with atonal overtones, however this was not generally the case with King Nothing as its’ program was much more heterogeneous compared to DP’s insofar as it offered Đorđe more freedom to experiment in different musical directions[6]. In many media appearances as well as fanzine interviews in the 1990s, King Nothing used the term white music to describe the type of sound he was pursuing with his projects[7]. The term had originally came from Western rock press where the division of music into respective black and white family trees was popular at the time and it wasn’t long until the Yugoslavian rock press and music audiences picked it up, too[8]. While the original, racial meaning of the term was not lost to King Nothing – as he invoked it too at times[9] – the concept of white music connected with his poetics and worldview at a particular nexus where lived realities, both individual-psychological as well as broader sociopolitical ones, are juxtaposed onto a magickal-symbolic framework and then affected through a variety of artistic and magickal procedures in a way to achieve personal and collective individuation.

In a 1994 interview in the War Pigs fanzine, King Nothing correlated the beginning of the 1990s with the Alchemical Nigredo (or Blackness)[10], the stage of decay and putrefaction. The context for this sort of framing was provided by a historical event that was unfolding at the inception point of both King Nothing (1990) and Demencija Prekoks (1991): the looming civil war as well as dissolution of Yugoslavia. As the country gradually spiralled into chaos, events became more and more random and this loss of objective ground was especially visible in the media as the truth about the conflict was being pulled apart by competing propaganda narratives. In the vacuum that opened with the collapse of central authority, hearsay and subtext superseded text. A growing sense of insecurity took its toll on the mental health of its populace – even in places like Požarevac that were not directly affected by war operations. Both projects were conceptualized with this event in the foreground: Demencija Prekoks, itself a medical anachronism for schizophrenia, and King Nothing as a kind of a nihilistic sublimation of this experience.

Like many industrial musicians before him[11], King Nothing followed a path peppered by anti-psychiatric theory (in his case R. D. Laing in particular) that theorized that by immersing or redefining oneself through one’s own psychiatric condition a significant amelioration of symptoms can be achieved; in King Nothing’s case in particular, this involved a process of spiritual-artistic self-therapy through which he could exteriorize his deeply felt anguish and confront head on the inner demons that the war had unleashed. The underlying idea was that the magickal role of Demencija Prekoks as a self-described ultra-nihilist force was in a way to respond to the chaos of early 1990s in Yugoslavia with even more chaos of its own (i.e. noise) and in this way accelerate the Alchemic cycle to bring about the Albedo (or Whiteness), the second of the four stages of the Magnum Opus (hence white music)[12]. However, this cathartic drive through noise ultimately leads to silence or nothingness per King Nothing as an expression of his own True Will; not to nihilism but rather No-thingness, the Buddhist Śūnyatā – wherein the chaotic non-entity[13] finally dissolves and finds its peace. Since most of these movements in King Nothing’s poetic are sketched in these sets of pairs (like Nigredo / Albedo, black / white, noise / silence, illness / health, chaos / nothingness) it is entirely probable that a different interpretation could be made by rearranging the relationship between the element pairs.

Unlike much of the early King Nothing repertoire that ended up serving as Demencija Prekoks demo fodder – a pool of ready-made song material to build upon – all the tracks on Before and After The Silence were conceived as King Nothing songs by design because by 1994 Demencija Prekoks had already developed a life of its own and the two projects were thought about as separate entities.

The tape is a dense, cut and paste patchwork of pre-recorded loops and sampled phrases that make extensive use of the studio’s multitrack mixboard recording possibilities. Moreover, since King Nothing is essentially a one-man-band here that plays all the instruments and effects himself, the emphasis on studio-as-an-instrument approach cannot be overstated. Due to a lack of post-production editing on Before And After The Silence, the way these multiple layers are transposed onto each other at times appears to be clunky, but most of the time this clunkiness just adds to the overall charm of the raw lo-fi chaos going on here. While the A side is more on the intense and spastic part of the DIY noise rock spectrum, the B side, on the other hand, has a more turgid, psychedelic atmosphere to it. The imagery invoked in the lyrics ranges from surrealistic accounts of tripping on fly juices (Moj deo muve; Serbian for “My chunk of the fly”) and lurid inquiries into cases of foetal cannibalism (Umetnost abortusa; Serbian for “Art of the abortion”) to autopoetic insights into King Nothing’s metaphystics (Bang every beat). Most of the song lyrics on A side are in Serbian while most of the B side are in English.

All the materials were recorded at Studio Sedlić in Požarevac – where also most of the Demencija Prekoks releases were also recorded[14] – and released in 30 copies on King Nothing’s own Key-A-No Records in November of 1994. The cassette was most likely scooped from either Svi Marš Na Ples forum or FTP Kombinat, an invite only file-sharing FTP server, both relevant resources for Yugoslavian and ex-Yugoslavian alternative music in the late 2000s and early 2010s. The tape was ripped in 320 kbs. An enormous thanks is due to Stevan Lenhart for his amazing archive preservation efforts, King Nothing for his patience and Dr. Srele for the networking.

Download it - HERE.

Notes and references:

[1] - ^ In course of eight years he released more than sixty tapes in limited editions on his private LX Music LTD, five releases of whom appeared elsewhere, with four of them featuring on Marzidovšek's Marzidovšekminimallaboratorium output as well as one on Dragan Pavlov's own Red Phoenix/Crvene Kasete label, namely:
MML 34 Larynx - (1986) Sound Ambients-High Fast Dance
MML 51 Avyakta Sabd - (1987) Divyam Janma
MML 64 Various Artists - (1987) Last and First Music
MML 66 Larynx - (1987) The Golden Age of Meaning
CK 006 Larynx - (1990) The Best of Larynx Music
[2] - ^ In the 1988-1994 period, LX Music LTD’s scope of record label functions was drastically diminishing and the label became an increasingly privatized affair. After Larynx’s 1988 Get Out cassette, there were no automatic copies being produced for new releases and the label’s catalogue was exclusively duplicated on demand. The label had also largely stopped producing artworks for each new release; after 1988 these were for an exception than a rule.
[3] - ^ Not only it became a new home for King Nothing, but Key–A–No Records also became the only label where he would publish his works in the future – since its establishment in 1994, he didn’t publish his works on any other label.
[4] - ^ This announcement can be found in one of the versions of Demencija Prekoks manifesto printed around that time.
[5] - ^ King Nothing’s 29.05.1994 announcement marks the end of the first phase of Demencija Prekoks. After a brief hiatus in activities which was mostly occupied by King Nothing’s solitary ventures, the group continues its work and self-releases three more albums by 1998 (which delineates the end of the second phase of Demencija Prekoks). It is only after 1998 when this hibernation period fully kicks in and it lasts until Demencija Prekoks’ last performance at the 2003 edition of KOMAR festival in Kovačica when the already inactive group ceremonially performed a post mortem concert to call it quits for good. The Demencija Prekoks official discography goes as following:
BTK-003 Demencija Prekoks (Take It Or Leave It Records-Belgrade, 1992)
BTK-020 Plava Grobnica Neba (Take It Or Leave It Records-Belgrade, 1993)
KAN 002 Live in Amsterdam (Key–A–No Records-Požarevac, 1996)
KAN 003 Dance Dance Dance (Key–A–No Records-Požarevac, 1997)
KAN 004 Safe Aids Lips (Key–A–No Records-Požarevac, 1998)
[6] - ^ King Nothing largely continued where Larynx left off in the vague terrain of guitar, drums and effects improvisation, but it also ventured into hero guitar improvs, electro-thrash-metal and even folk music.
[7] - ^ There is an anecdote about how white music first popped into King Nothing’s view: one day in 1990 King Nothing and his friend Aleksandar ’Aleks’ Andrić (from their 1980s enterprises like Lovci Na Tune and Hell Hell Hell & Other Love Songs) were sitting in front of the Beograd department store in Požarevac. At the time the said duo were involved with one of the numerous early incarnations of Demencija Prekoks – of which there about eight or ten with at least fifteen different musicians in the period from January 1989 to March 1991. At some point or another, a common acquaintance, who at the time had been Aleks’ colleague from the steam generators factory and King Nothing’s erstwhile classmate from coal exploitation classes, had approached them. After some initial back and forth, the normie acquaintance inquired about the sort of music they play to which Aleks readily replied "white guitar noise" in pompous but shabby English. Seeing their acquaintance confused, King Nothing intervened and brought it down a notch by saying Aleks was only goofing around and that they only play hard rock. But this epithet of white music – or at times white noise – somehow stuck with King Nothing and he would use it throughout the 1990s to describe the sound of King Nothing and Demencija Prekoks. It is worth mentioning here that one of the very first King Nothing albums was indeed called White music (LX Music LTD-Požarevac, 1990).
[8] - ^ Perhaps the most notable acquisition of this term in Yugoslav bands is found in the album White Music - 2 Ways 2 German Art & Work Discipline (Black & White Tapes-Sarajevo/Slušaj Najglasnije!-Zagreb, 1992) of the Sarajevo noise rock band SCH.
[9] - ^ Asked about the white music epithet in an interview for Vasa Radovanović’s Oprem Dobro fanzine (nr. 58, May 1995), King Nothing himself simply quoted a line from a text titled ABC bele muzike (Serbo-Croatian for “ABC of white music“) by one Josif Ahmed in Delo literary magazine (year 34/1988, nr. 12/December, page 234) as if consulting from a technical manual:
White music is the first subculture of white youth, completely liberated from negro or oriental music elements.
[10] - ^ Uroš Smiljanić’s War Pigs fanzine nr.4 (self-released-Belgrade, January 1994).
[11] - ^ Most notably the Australian industrial act SPK took their name from a famous West German antipsychiatric organization called Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv (German for “Socialist Patients' Collective”) whose motto was Aus der Krankheit eine Waffe machen (German for “Turn illness into a weapon”).
[12] - ^ King Nothing would certainly have preferred the Aeon of Horus to the Magnum Opus as the metaphor since he is first and foremost a Thelemite and the principle would remain the same since Horus is the Egyptian child-god of light and as such it would perfectly play into his white music concept. However this term isn’t without its shortcomings: since the Aeon of Horus stands for an era of mankind’s self-realization and spiritual development that spans several millennia it could not have accounted for small events such as those in Yugoslavia at the time; this is why King Nothing used a more abstract and ahistorical concept like Nigredo to account for the concrete circumstances he was living and creating in.
[13] - ^ The term chaotic non-entity appears in Demencija Prekoks’ manifesto as well as the eponymous song on the group’s eponymous first album (Take It Or Leave It Records-Beograd, 1992) which is – together with Svetlim i nestajem (Serbian for “I glisten and disappear”) – one of the central load bearing pillars of King Nothing poetics. The term features in R.D. Laing’s book The Divided Self – An Existential Study In Sanity And Madness (Tavistock Publications-London, 1960) in his writings on schizophrenia but, in fact, originates from William Blake’s Jerusalem: The Emanation of The Giant Albion (1820) – the central book of Blake’s prophetic cycle. R. D. Laing lauded the term as one of the best literary descriptions of the self-body split experienced by schizophrenics:
However, when the 'centre' fails to hold, neither self-experience nor body-experience can retain identity, integrity, cohesiveness, or vitality, and the individual becomes precipitated into a condition the end result of which we suggested could best be described as a state of 'chaotic nonentity'. In its final form, such complete disintegration is a hypothetical state which has no verbal equivalents.
[14] - ^ All Demencija Prekoks albums were recorded at Studio Sedlić except the first that was recorded at Kod Baba Vuke studio in Belgrade