More than two decades without a misstep in album making. If it weren’t for the unfortunate Fontana years it would be all the way from “Modern Dance” days. Impressive. Father Ubu says: “I got a bit of soul. I keep it in a cage. I feed it parrot food. I keep it tame. Some days I let it fly. Then it’s a bird of prey. It hunts for blood. I let it hunt for blood. It’s not a song you want to sing along to. You don’t want to get these thoughts inside your head.”
Pere Ubu in the seventies introduced several innovations in the rock music scene. Who, according to you, at the moment is really making something new?
I am uninterested in “making something new.” I am interested in mainstream rock as the fundamental voice of the American folk experience. I am interested in exploring the narrative voice within the mainstream. Pere Ubu is mainstream rock. Justin Timberlake is weird experimental music. Robbie Williams is avant-garde. Britney Spears is constantly coming up with something new and innovative. Pere Ubu does the same old thing. “New” is a trap and a scam to dupe student-types and other naive people.
Vol VI: Rock and Pop Music in Beograd in the 1980s (incomplete overview)
*subject to change*
Disclaimer: I used excellent and very informative Wikipedia entries for Serbian Pop & Rock music as framework for this post. Someone’s done great job. I hope the author(s) won’t mind my “cut & paste” butchering of their text. So, check Wikipedia out for more factual (objective) details concerning subject matter! My take on it is quite subjective, as always.
BEOGRAD (1980 – 86)
Beograd, the capitol city of SR Serbia and whole SFRJ, was the biggest and probably the grayest of all Yugoslavian cities. In Belgrade one find himself in ex YU territories outside historical borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its direct sphere of influence. I visited Beograd once or even twice in mid 1980s. I can vaguely remember watching “Electric Dreams” (and some forgotten action movie which was even more retarded) in a cinema (bioskop!) downtown. Then bathing at the open swimming pool on Tašmajdan, visiting sad shabby ZOO, walking on the walls of Kalemegdan citadel and fooling around along the banks of Danube near Višnjički venac (then outskirts of the city) etc. Too young for rock’n’roll.
Introduction 1977 – 80
The punk wave in Yugoslav capitol was late. While some kids, possessed by rumors, newspaper articles and punk-rock records, were feverishly learning their instruments in the sheds, garages & atomic shelters around the city, few slightly older guys from the most promising hard rock band in the city Limunovo drvo finally changed their stance. In the spring of 1980 they appeared as new wave / post-punk band Šarlo akrobata and stole the show, pushing younger teenage punks back in the shadows. Actually there were three of them older bands, which officially formed as new wave acts and became visible in public during the spring ’80. In a similar way as Šarlo akrobata, one part of late 1970’s rock band Hipnotisano pile became post-punk band Električni orgazam. The third new band were Idoli, preceded by short-lived group Zvuk ulice led by guitarist and vocalist Vlada Divljan. Idoli combined “ancient” (late 1950s and early 1960s popular music) & modern (late 1970s and early 1980s new wave). However, for a year at their artistic peak, Idoli were exciting new wave / post punk hybrid that put out one of the best albums from the New Wave period in the whole country and beyond.
In the late 1970’s new hard-rock bands on the rise were Limunovo drvo and Riblja čorba. They could be viewed as two sides of the same coin (hard-rock) or yin-yang of Belgrade hard rock ‘79. Soon to become extremely popular across whole Yugoslavia Riblja čorba were conservative and somewhat regressive in a way Limunovo drvo were not. Riblja čorba successfully portrayed character (basic instincts) of ex YU people through their vulgar hard-rock while budding Limunovo drvo showed progressive tendencies which eventually led them to modernist frame of mind. On the other hand, older hard-rockers Gordi took usual route and developed into premium heavy metal band in Beograd. In 1980 also appeared Tunel, founded by another gang of city’s rock veterans. Young band Bulevar also mixed old (hard-rock) and new (new wave pop rock). Grupa I on debut album “Na svom talasu” from 1980, presented a combination of diverse musical influences, including hard rock, power pop, ska and reggae.
Perhaps one of the most interesting late 1970s name in Belgrade was Igra staklenih perli, psychedelic art-rock group under German influence whose activity preceded and overlapped with new wave happenings. The band (named after Hermann Hesse’s book “The Glass Bead Game” – often obligatory hippie reading material) was formed in 1976 with musical influences ranging from early Pink Floyd & Hawkwind to Can & Tangerine Dream. Having played numerous free concerts, the band established a cult status and was offered to record an album. In 1978 they entered the PGP RTB studio and recorded their debut, self-titled album. The softer second album “Vrt svetlosti” (1980, PGP RTB) was recorded in the period from August 1979 until January 1980. Both albums are recommended.
Kozmetika (coined from “Cosmic Ethics”) was studio oriented art rock band started by painter Vladimir Jovanović in the late 1970s. It had fluid line-up that also included another founding member and bass player Slobodan Konjović (aka Serbian John Peel) & guitarist and multimedia artist Goran Vejvoda. They got self-titled record out as late as 1983. It was patched from studio work that stretched too long in between 1979 and 1982. “Kozmetika” (1983, ZKP RTVL) consists mostly of instrumental stuff comparable to Bowie and Eno.
Pop singer Oliver Mandić was an eccentric “life of the party” type of person into soul, disco and perhaps Ziggy Stardust / Thin White Duke.
At the same time singer-songwriter Dušan Mihajlović “Spira” had given up the acoustic sound, as in folk-rock group Suncokret, turning his head towards the upcoming new wave music. He formed the band Doktor Spira i ljudska bića, which in its initial period had changed numerous lineups. The band recorded the debut album “Dijagnoza” in 1980 at the legendary but technically modest “Druga Maca” studio managed by recording engineer and producer Enco Lesić. Since the local record labels were not interested to release the album, Mihajlović went to London in 1981 and financed himself the printing of 50 copies of the album, which he brought to Belgrade and distributed them to his friends. In 1986, the PGP-RTB editor had become the pop rock musician Oliver Mandić and without any promotion, the album was re-released in a minimal printing of 2,000 copies, and quickly sold out. The album itself is a bit strange. Something like a verbose singer-songwriter’s attempt at new wave styles, reminiscent of Elvis Costello or Joe Jackson, but less caffeinated and closer to pub-rock slow crawl. The backing band (Ljudska bića) got drowned in torrent of spoken (rather than sang) words by slightly quirky vocalist with new wave diagnosis (Dr. Spira).
The legendary “orthodox” trinity (Šarlo akrobata, Idoli, Električni orgazam) of Belgrade’s Novi talas temporarily conquered Zagreb’s Novi val “scene” in winter 1980/81, gaining Jugoton label contracts during the packaged deal blitz.
“Razni izvođači – Paket aranžman (Pozdrav iz Beograda)” (1981, Jugoton), recorded in autumn ’80, was selling quite well due to bouncy ska hits that even small children memorized with awe & some witty and inspired new wave tunes for older folks. This record revealed to the rest of YU what Beograd had to offer in 1980: Šarlo akrobata, Električni orgazam & Idoli.
Šarlo akrobata was a short-lived but seminal Yugoslav new wave/post-punk band that left an indelible mark on the entire music scene of former Yugoslavia. They spawned from the (progressive) hard rock group Limunovo drvo, founded in 1977 by guitarist and vocalist Milan Mladenović and guitarist Dragomir Mihajlović “Gagi”. Following several lineup changes and finally with the arrival of bassist / vocalist Dušan Kojić “Koja” and drummer Ivan Vdović “VD”, Limunovo drvo moved into the domain of new wave rock music. After performing as an opening act for Pankrti in April 1980, Mihajlović left the band and the remaining three members changed their name to Šarlo akrobata. Subsequently, the trio recorded four tracks which were released on the 1981 various artists compilation album “Paket aranžman”, now considered to be one of the most influential releases in the history of ex Yugoslav rock music. In the spring 1981, the band recorded their debut album “Bistriji ili tuplji čovek biva kad…”, after which, owing to irreconcilable differences between the band members, the band ceased to exist. The album received critical recognition and is regarded as one of the most notable albums of former Yugoslav rock music.
Šarlo akrobata – “Bistriji ili tuplji čovek…” (1981, Jugoton)
So, if you’ve been looking for a post-punk or an art punk record with capital p which covers the similar breaking ground in YU as perhaps the Pop Group or Rip Rig & Panic debuts in UK, here is the one for you: “Bistriji ili tuplji čovek biva kad…” (1981, Jugoton). Never mind that Beograd didn’t have many ’77 punks of note. After this piece of anarchic work it was not easy to follow. Three super talented friends with mutable characters (they used to be in a hard rock band!) got together, spontaneously combusted and went separate ways. Hard headed bass player didn’t like god damn keyboards and synths. (10/10)
Very soon after the band disbandment Kojić formed Disciplina kičme and Mladenović formed Katarina II (with Mihajlović). A year later Vdović joined Katarina II as drummer and made guest appearances with other groups on the scene.
Električni orgazam was officially formed in early 1980 as punk rock offshoot and support act of Hipnotisano pile. Hipnotisano pile, which got the name by the line from the Iggy Pop song “Lust For Life”, was established in 1979 having late 1970s rock music in mind. Band members simply switched instruments and realized that this initially planned support act works well on its own. Hipnotisano pile soon split into Električni orgazam and Petar i zli vuci.
The following year, after couple of concerts the band had their first studio recorded songs released by Jugoton on the “Paket aranžman”. The success of Paket aranžman provided the band an opportunity to record and release their debut album under the same label. Actually Jugoton even wasted some precious vinyl on Električni orgazam later on.
Anyhow, “Električni orgazam” (Jugoton, 1981), produced by Ivan Stančić “Piko” (drummer from Film, Zagreb), already featured the band’s authentic sound. Srđan Gojković “Gile” (guitar) and Ljubomir Đukić “Ljuba” (organ, keyboards) were main songwriters or at least shared vocal duties throughout the post-punk phase of Električni orgazam. The debut album got positive reactions by both, the audience and the critics, including a review of the album by the NME journalist Kris Bohn, who stated that the band was one of the most exciting non-British acts. Few copies even ended on Rough Trade Records distribution.
Električni orgazam – s/t (1981, Jugoton)
“Električni orgazam” (1981, Jugoton) is middle of the road post-punk album but not in a negative sense. It brought post-punk experimental aspect but retained punk-rock edge and energy. The record opens with the sound of electronic orgasm and ends with magnificent “Nebo” tied with the barbed wire. There is only one throwaway track on the album: “I’ve Got a Feeling” which could also be seen as a seed of band’s future direction. (9/10)
At some point Električni orgazam met a student from Poland, who arranged the three bands from Paket aranžman to perform in Poland, and after Šarlo Akrobata, in November, the band went on a tour of Poland. The performance at Rivijera Remont club, was recorded on a simple tape recorder, later released on the 6-song Warszawa ’81 EP. It was limited to 2000 copies, being the first official bootleg in former Yugoslavia. The rough recordings were post-produced by Slobodan Konjović, presenting a valid document of the band sound, as well as the audience reaction. During the performance of the song “Konobar”, there was a half-minute sound equipment failure, during which a member of the audience dropped tear gas.
Električni orgazam kept on with psychedelic post-punk phase for one more album: “Lišće prekriva Lisabon” (1982, Jugoton) which is a messy (strange song sequence) album with great eerie atmosphere. This time around again the cover version “Alabama” gets award for the most irritating song (vocal performance mainly). The inclusion of the single “Dokolica” as an appendix was unnecessary despite being one of the best songs. Električni orgazam would have fit nicely in Liverpool.
With changing personnel Električni orgazam gradually became YU rock stars. The “rock” was always present in their material, even during early and arty post-punk phase, for example ill-chosen cover versions that could have been released as b-sides of album related singles. However, the “rock” really started to roll with redundant tribute to their favourite rock heroes “Les Chansons Populaires” LP (1983) which was yet another case of vinyl wasting per band by Jugoton label (see Azra) in the times of economic crises. It was followed with uneven “Kako bubanj kaže” LP (1984) – stoned experiment of tripping on pre punk 1970s vibes: the Rolling Stones junky rock, black funk and original reggae/dub. I like this one although critical reviews at the time weren’t that supportive. It finally worked out on playful “Distorzija” (1986) which is some kind of re-birth of Električni orgazam. Some of their rock music with pop hooks was quite good.
Idoli (aka VIS Idoli) were officially formed in the spring 1980. The first lineup consisted of primary school friends Vlada Divljan (guitar, vocals), Zdenko Kolar (bass), Boža Jovanović (drums) and Divljan’s high school friends Srđan Šaper (percussion, vocals) and Nebojša Krstić (percussion). At that time the band collaborated with Dragan Papić who was a kind of media activist. The band manipulated the media very well.
In general, Idoli were one of the most popular new wave acts in this part of the world. For a short period there was even confrontational edge to their pop tunes. They experimented with the sound in the studio which brought them closer to post-punk side of things. Half of the band consisted of musicians the other half were non musicians with ideas who sang and wrote lyrics for their own songs or played simple synth parts or percussion.
After only a month of existence, the band released their first single with a magazine called “Vidici” and it consisted of two tracks, “Pomoć, pomoć” and “Retko te viđam sa devojkama” a song with a gay-hint. The band recorded another version of the track as a B-side of Maljčiki single, but this time in Zagreb with the producer Goran Bregović (Bijelo dugme). They also played at the 1980 Festival Omladina, where new wave bands from Zagreb and Belgrade met for the first time.
Idoli participated in the project called Paket aranžman with four tracks amongst them “Maljčiki” (Russian for “boys”, a parody on Social-Realist art and propaganda). The promotional video for “Maljčiki” was banned on national television and some radio stations after the Soviet embassy responded.
The next release was a self-titled EP featuring six tracks of which two were cover versions: Chuck Berry’s “Come On” (“Hajde”) and Darko Kraljić’s “Devojko mala”. Film members Mladen Juričić playing harmonica and Jurij Novoselić who played organ made guest appearances. The record was produced by another Film member, Ivan Stančić Piko.
The band started working on their first album in autumn 1981 with Goran Vejvoda as additional member. The recording of the album took more than 400 hours which was a record in former Yugoslavia (not something to be proud of really, from the generally econo-punk point of view of this blog). “Odbrana i poslednji dani” LP (1982, Jugoton) got the name from a Borislav Pekić book with the same title on which the whole album is based. It is a complex concept album dealing with an anthropological approach towards orthodoxy. The track “Poslednji dani” originally entitled “Maršal”, dedicated to former Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito, did not include the last verse due to the record company disapproval.
Idoli “Odbrana i poslednji dani” (1982, Jugoton)
“Odbrana i poslednji dani” (typeset in the Cyrillic alphabet) was voted best YU album of the 1980s by various (Serbian) music critics. Have you ever wondered how the soundtrack for a gender change (DIY style, with a rusty razor blade in a steamy bathroom lit with candles and burning incense) might sound like? Hysterical! (10/10)
Sometime in 1982 short-lived Propaganda (ex Zvuk ulice) released one-off album entitled “Apatija javnosti” (PGP RTB). The lineup included Kokan Popović, at the time drummer for Idoli. Allegedly the few songs were composed back in the days of Zvuk ulice. The mixture of ancient (schlager) and modern (synths) is similar to Idoli only with different ratio, but the songs themselves are simpler and less memorable or important. The album opens with unnecessary cover (lyrics) of a Romani folk song. Nicely recorded album though with interesting synth soundscapes, forgotten somewhere in between “Odbrana i poslednji dani” (1982) and “Čokolada” (1983) by Idoli.
In July 1982 Idoli started recording a new album in London with producer Bob Painter. They changed their style to pop/rock and as a result the new album, appropriately named “Chocolate” (or rather ”šećerna tabla”), went platinum and the title track became their greatest commercial hit. Guest appearances on the album were reporter Vivien Goldman who was a guest vocalist and producer Bob Painter who played the keyboards. The original idea was to release a double EP called “U gradu bez sna”, but Jugoton refused and released it as a long play album. Idoli gone New Romantic! Truth be told, they were under heavy spell of Venus from the very beginning. There are few lovely and lite pop tunes on “Čokolada” (1983, Jugoton) including beautiful “Vetar i zastave” which hinted at white reggae from earlier experimental period of the band.
ARTISTIČKA RADNA AKCIJA
Belgrade 1979/81 (basement punk) generation was documented on various artist record appropriately called ARA recorded in the spring ‘81. It is recommended for listening but approach with caution and patience of benevolent high school teacher. However, if you take in consideration a fact that half of the record was made by kids averaging 16 and the rest by young men fresh out of high-school, it is somehow adequate with all its shortcomings. The youngest bands are originally from the same bunch of kids so it can sound one-dimensional and very basic. Radnička kontrola participated with two skeletal art punk numbers for this compilation and later gave crucial members to new bands in town: Disciplina kičme (bass & drum duo) & Partibrejkers (talented street punk-rock band with garage blues edge that became Serbian rock institution led by iconic Cane). I recommend their first single and s/t debut very much. Another gang of teen punks Urbana gerila split up soon but some members chose post-punk path into the darkness and transformed into Berliner Strasse. They recorded a couple of demo tracks and disappeared. Two of them are now famous persons in Serbia – writer Arsenijević and journalist Rosić. Their drummer Krasavac became the founding member and the first drummer in Disciplina kičme as well as one of the first expatriates. Kebra from Obojeni program (hailing from Novi Sad) was one time guerilla member too. Defektno efektni simply disappeared leaving only two recorded tracks. At least Profili profili became Kazimirov kazneni korpus and left behind minimalist post-punk traces in the shape of ad hoc samizdat cassette (SKC Beograd, 1982). Song material was based on trance inducing repetition principle and jamming. They were sporadically appearing on the city scene until the mid-decade. Petar i zli vuci (ex Hipnotisano pile) crowned their brief life with an inspired ska single.
Various Artists – Artistička radna akcija (1981, Jugoton)
Pasta ZZ songs seemed like main jokers in the package and after their immediate split their members filled in the line-ups of other bands. TV moroni didn’t last longer but from their ranks came band Nesalomivi and famous movie director Srđan Dragojević. Bezobrazno zeleno were indeed greenhorns as most of kids on ARA. Two years later they managed to get a contract for a debut album. It was recorded by changed line-up that lost innocence in the meantime getting high on sex & r’n’r and becoming rude. In their take on new wave rock Bezobrazno zeleno were looking back at the Who rock excesses from the barley mature stance of the Jam. Original line-up of Via talas participated with two cover versions in lite new wave pop style. Two years later as synth-pop duo Talas they put out a decent album. U škripcu pop art numbers were memorable enough and served as intro for their debut – an excellent new wave art-rock or post-punk album issued by PGP RTB the following year.
The closest to expected attempts at punk (usual either Sex Pistols or Ramones blueprint) would be Radost Evrope a punk rock band of sorts that had rehearsals and performed at the Belgrade SKC, mainly cover versions of the Ramones songs, but also had their own material. The band did not leave any recordings, and performed until 1985, when they disbanded. However, part of the material from Radost Evrope concert repertoire appeared on singer Velibor Miljković (aka Toni Montano) debut solo album. There were few other undocumented punk rock bands from that generation like Krvna zrnca i Solunski front. The latter one would become premier hard-core punk band few years later. Something like U.B.R. in Slovenia.
There are many fans of first two LPs by Piloti (formed in 1981 with main singer/song writer Zoran “Kiki” Lesendrić on vocals and guitar) but their innocent earnestness can grate my ears on a wrong day. Song “Ne veruj u idole” from their self-titled debut album became an instant hit, and was included on several new wave compilation records. After the success with their debut album, the softer followup “Dvadeset godina” LP (PGP RTB) produced by Saša Habić, was released already the following year.
BEOGRAD POST ŠARLO AKROBATA
Disciplina kičme is a one of the two spin-offs of the seminal Yugoslav new wave/post-punk band Šarlo akrobata, the other being heated rivals Katarina II (EKV). Musically, they are best described as an aggressive and artistic rhythmic explosion, experimenting and seeking out new expressiveness while finding inspiration in the traditions of punk rock, hip-hop, jazz fusion, funk and Jimi Hendrix.
The band was formed by former Limunovo drvo and Šarlo akrobata bassist and vocalist Dušan Kojić “Koja” in late 1981 with former Urbana gerila drummer Nenad Krasavac “Kele”. The following year Krasavac went to serve JNA and was replaced by former Radnička kontrola drummer (and later famous actor) Srđan “Žika” Todorović. “Sviđa mi se da ti ne bude prijatno” was recorded in 12/’82 and released in very small circulation by Slovenian record label Helidon in early 1983. The album cuts presented Kojić’s dominant bass lines combined with the aggressive sound of Todorović’s drums somewhat smoothed around the edges in the studio.
Disciplina kičme – “Sviđa mi se…” (1983, Helidon)
“Sviđa mi se da ti ne bude prijatno” (I like when you feel uncomfortable) could be a motto of Dušan Kojić Koja, self-proclaimed super hero (approved!), super opinionated loudmouth, relentless creative power, unapologetic contrarian, and in many ways beneficiary of ex-YU underground. Koja’s initial impressions with accidental studio minimalism of “Flowers of Romance” by Public Image Ltd might have led to possibilities of exploring the sound as minimalist bass & drum duo. On the other side of the world at the same time something similar, although more complex and jazz inflected, was developing in Canada, in the basement of Nomeansno parents’ house. (10/10)
After the album release, the band continued performing in major Yugoslav cities, mainly in clubs, and in 1985, they released “Ja imam šarene oči” EP, recorded in late ’83, again with Todorović on drums. Original drummer Krasavac (temporary victim of JNA) appeared only on “28. jun 1984” recorded live at Belgrade’s SKC. Kojić produced the EP himself in “Druga Maca” studio and for the first time included a trumpet in the lineup. From this release onward, all of the band releases were produced by Kojić himself.
The second long play album “Svi za mnom!” released in 1986 by Helidon, brought some lineup (2 drummers & a brass section featuring 2 trumpets and a saxophone) and stylistic changes. After the album release, for the first time in their history, the band were taken seriously by the media and the critics, however, drummer Krasavac left the band, moving to the United States, where he currently resides. The band celebrated the fifth anniversary and released a live album, “Najlepši hitovi! Uživo!” recorded in November 1986 at the Belgrade club Akademija.
Following the disbandment of Šarlo Akrobata, in February 1982, Milan Mladenović (guitar, vocals) with Gagi Mihajlović (ex Limunovo drvo) formed the band Katarina II. Soon the band was joined by the classically trained pianist Margita Stefanović. When the original rhythm section (Dušan Dejanović (drums) & Zoran Radomirović “Švaba” (bass)) had changed, the vacant drummer position was taken over Milan’s former bandmate from Šarlo akrobata Ivan Vdović “VD”. At the same time, in early 1983, Bojan Pečar, a former (Via) Talas bassist became the new band member. In the spring of 1983 the band took part in Zagreb Biennale and received positive reviews. Their material for the debut album material was recorded soon after in the “Druga Maca” studio. Unfortunately, due to low quality the material was unusable.
Later in the year the band took the offer to re-record the material for the debut album in RTV Ljubljana studios. Katarina II eponymous debut album was recorded in 12/’83 and eventually released in 1984. Among the best songs are “Vrt” and “Platforme” written by Mihajlović.
Katarina II – ZKP RTVL 1984 – central post-punk album from BG
“Katarina II” (ZKP RTVL, 1984) could be a pick for central new wave/post punk album from Beograd (from the viewpoint of this blog) although not perfect in itself due to some experimental filler and generally weaker B-side. Ex Šarlo akrobata guitar player was the one who liked music with keyboards. On this record actually there were two exceptional guitarists / authors from the period. Imagine Talking Heads, XTC, and Simple Minds influences mixed with enough live energy that pushes the band toward the styles of Minutemen or Meat Puppets. (9/10)
Soon after the album release, the band went through more lineup changes and the remaining members continued working as Ekatarina Velika or EKV for short. Due to constant SFR Yugoslavia-wide touring, with frequent stops in Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana, and occasional TV spots, the band’s popularity had gradually grown.
At the beginning of 1985, the band recorded their second studio album, or first under moniker EKV, at the Zagreb SIM studio. Well, looking back while re-listening I wish they had stayed in Beograd at least for this album and recorded it live-in-the-studio (old analogue one), with Saša Habić as a sound engineer for example. Recording engineers in Zagreb were good enough but SIM studio equipped with digital technology has not proved to be the best choice for a rock band in essence.
The following year, the new lineup released the third studio album “S vetrom uz lice“. The album was produced extensively using the Emulator II 8-bit sampler. At the time it received lukewarm reviews from the critics complaining about the similarities to the works of the Simple Minds. Despite a couple of good songs (then and now regional hits) the album is very polished and sounds dated. Fortunately there is also full-blooded “Live 1986” album.
EKV – Live! 1986 (1987, ZKP RTVL)
EKV – the beautiful and damned. Lepi i prokleti.
U škripcu were formed in 1980 by Zoran Vulović “Vule” (keyboards), Milan Delčić “Delča” (vocals) and Aleksandar Vasiljević “Vasa” (guitar), who decided to expand the lineup of their former band to Miloš Obrenović (drums) and Aleksandar Lukić (bass guitar), and change their name to U škripcu. At the time of their formation, the band was a part of the Yugoslav new wave scene, the period of work which was documented on the seminal 1981 various artists compilation album “Artistička radna akcija”. With the debut album release, the 1982 “Godine ljubavi”, the band moved towards more experimental post-punk sound, before achieving nationwide commercial success with the release of the album “O je!” & EP “Nove godine!” in 1983, under the influence of New Romanticism. The original lineup recorded yet another album, the synth-pop “Budimo zajedno” (1985), which did not repeat the commercial success of its predecessors, causing the group to disband.
U škripcu – Godine ljubavi (1982, PGP RTB)
Debut album “Godine ljubavi” (1982) is much underrated and fairly forgotten record. I totally dig it because of cool synthesizer sounds (DEVO and Pere Ubu), delicate guitar playing and inspired vocalist. (10/10)
Partibrejkers (transliteration for: Partybreakers) were formed in 1982 and released its first album, “Partibrejkers I” in 1985 in a two guitars, drums and vocal set (no bass guitar!). The band has experienced numerous line-up changes. The mainstays of the band are Zoran Kostić “Cane” (vocals) and Nebojša Antonijević “Anton” (guitar). The band has received steady critical acclaim over the years and is well received by audiences all over former Yugoslavia. Their influences are diverse, such as the Stooges, MC5, early Rolling Stones and New York Dolls, combined with blues, British rhythm-and-blues, rockabilly and classic rock and roll.
They had their first public appearance in autumn 1982. Partibrejkers were often performing in concert and on one occasion, in Zagreb, they held five concerts in three days’ time, Branimir “Johnny” Štulić (Azra) being the sound engineer at the last concert, and even offering to be the band’s producer. The band’s first recording, the song “Radio Utopia”, was released on the various artists compilation Ventilator 202 in 1983 by PGP-RTB. Demo versions of the songs “Hiljadu godina” and “Večeras” were often broadcast on Serbian radio stations, and the newly recorded versions of the songs were released as their first single in 1984.
Partibrejkers – Partibrejkers I (1985, Jugoton)
For the release of the band’s first album, “Partibrejkers I”, produced by Dušan Kojić “Koja” of Disciplina kičme, the band combined rhythm-and-blues with punk rock, bringing anthem status to the band’s songs like “Ulični hodač” (“Street Walker”). The album was recorded at the “O Studio” in Belgrade in June 1984. Despite the success of the debut album, Jugoton declined to release the band’s second album, stating that it “lacked rebelliousness”. In the summer of 1985, drummer Bulatović left the band, being temporarily replaced by Disciplina kičme drummer Nenad Krasovac “Kele”, and in December, the band stopped being active for a couple of years.
Young new wave (3rd generation) demo band Duh Nibor were trying to find its place in Beograd for couple of years. They even played at YURM ’84 in Zagreb.
SYNTH POP DEPT BEOGRAD / CLUBBING IN BELGRADE
Synth department of Beograd is sort of interesting.
The city’s central synth pop band in Human League style would be Beograd. I like their promising first single (two minimal synth tunes) quite a lot. Debut album that followed, entitled “Remek depo” (1983, PGP RTB), is only decent because it lacks good dose of “dirt” or electronic white noise to be excellent. Too much time spent in wrong side of Sheffield. Haj’mo (ex Beograd) were techno-pop band active in the mid 1980s and formed by Ljubodrag Bubalo after he left Beograd. They released one 12” record.
Du-Du-A was formed in 1983 in NYC by Dejan Kostić (ex Grupa I) and Wayne Adams. Their music at the time was a mixture of styles such as funk, reggae and rap. On debut album “Primitivni ples” (1983, PGP RTB) Du-Du-A was presented as slick party collective, not to be taken too seriously. They could compete with NYC mutant disco clubbing scene for sure.
D’Boys were sleazy trendy synth-pop duo. Bravo Jugoton, what a tasty pick! Anyway, one of the boys has pictorial background worth mentioning. The band (!?) was formed in 1982, consisting of two musicians: Peđa D’Boy (Predrag Jovanović on vocals & guitar) and Miško Mihajlovski, who reportedly “played the drum machine” and percussion. Jovanović was previously a vocalist for Lutalice, performed in cafes in France, spent some time on Goa beaches performing with jazz and rock musicians from all over the world, & was a vocalist for the German progressive/krautrock band Jane with whom he recorded their 1980 self-titled album. Mihajlovski was previously a member of the new wave/art rock band Kozmetika and was one of the artists gathered around “Izgled” magazine.
Max & Intro synth pop duo started out promising. The record label was not of that opinion and dropped them after their first (promo) single was recognized as commercially fallible. Couple of early demo tracks are equally good. I like this single much better than contemporary one by Data.
Data was synth-pop band active in period 1980-1985 that left one slightly tepid synthetic single. It was founded by Zoran Jevtić and Zoran Vračević – the pioneers of electronic music in former Yugoslavia. I am looking forward to hearing forthcoming compilation “Could You Find Your Analog Mind?” to be released in Germany soon. Data side projects were The Master Scratch Band, that released Dégout EP (1984) – the first hip hop record ever in Yugoslavia, & girl fronted pop group Šizike.
Laki pingvini were new wave synth pop group with big hit song from their first 12”, sort of suitable for nostalgic parties with pop hits on repertoire.
Talas (synth pop duo version of Via talas) recorded fine pop record with lovely and pretentious title “Perfektan dan za banana ribe” LP (1983) (named after Salinger’s short story – obligatory literature for post-punkers) and then they split drowned. In a way, at the time of album Talas consisted of singer Mira Mijatović backed by Katarina II members. Bassist Bojan Pečar joined Katarina II in the process.
Other side of (a bit older) power pop new wave (or synth pop-rock), popular with the masses, was embodied in Zana (Nimani). Couple of early singles and albums (1980-82) are graced with attractive synth sounds and usual cheap pop tricks. Not bad at all, occasionally.
NEW EASTERN EUROPEAN ROMANTICS / DOWN BY DANUBE
A pioneer of sorts would be a “decadent” cross-dresser Oliver Mandić who liked disco, art-rock singers ala Bowie, pop provocation and Belgrade (drug) parties.
Idoli with their last and disappointing album “Čokolada” (1983) mingled with this crowd.
U škripcu had similar fate and downward slide as Idoli – their interesting art rock exploration in post-punk times ended as bland pop. If the 1982 was the official beginning of their years of love then the 1983 was a populist one and full of promises for a new romance traced over second LP “O je!” and “Nove godine!” 12-inch. Then they lost inspiration and purpose perhaps being preoccupied with New Pop theories or whatever it was in the air or written in UK music press waging wars against rock music.
Jakarta’s elegant take on new wave pop rock with white funk overtones shared some common ground with Boa (ZG), Heroina (NS) and early EKV. Their debut album is appropriately and professionally recorded by Saša Habić.
SOFT POP-ROCK (ex-YU STYLE)
Bajaga i instruktori (ex Riblja čorba, ex Bulevar) were mega popular pop/rock band with plenty of hit singles that never left radio air waves. Bajaga even produced debut by Bezobrazno zeleno prior to his own new band’s debut release. Quite a few new wave bands turned to salable pop/rock format in mid 1980s. There were more than enough of them in Beograd too.
HARD CORE PUNK: RACKET & ROAR!!
Solunski front over the years became an excellent hard-core band with impressive Demo ’84 recorded in Činč’s studio in Ljubljana. Other two earliest hard-core groups in town were: (Herpes) Distress who also left behind them more complex studio demo (recently re-issued as “Izdaja ljudskih prava” LP) & Necrophilia (UK ’82 street-punk: Discharge and G.B.H. thick guitar sound). They were compiled on the various HC artists tape “Buka & urlik” (1983) that had three slightly different issues of which the first one seems to be the best one. Less is more or less similar tracks for the more immediate impact! “Buka & urlik” ’83 BG is as good as “Kaj je alternativa?” ’83 LJ. One of the subsequent hard-core sampler releases titled “Beograd OK!” (1986) presented the second generation with names like Mrgudi, Crist, Yugoslav Sun, Ženmin Žibao, Thrashagain and K.Z.V. I am not familiar with them.
Don’t Look Back vol. VI: Beograd (1-2-ex-YU!!)
VA BG ’81 – Fenomen beogradskog novotalasnog proljeća
Radnička kontrola – Dosada
Urbana gerila – Proces
Šarlo akrobata – Fenomen
Defektno efektni – “D”
Električni orgazam – Nebo
Petar i zli vuci – Kozaci
TV moroni – Moja borba
Bezobrazno zeleno – Beograd
Via talas – Hawaii (najlepši kraj) (cover)
Idoli – Ime da da
Piloti – Ne veruj u idole
Pasta ZZ – Drakula
U škripcu – Južno voće
Profili profili – Nemir živaca
Beograd – Sanjaš li u boji?
Zana – Ti si neko staro lice
VA BG ’82 – Post-Punk Synth Wave
Idoli – Kenozoik
Idoli – Odbrana
U škripcu – Kao u boji
U škripcu – Proleće
Profili profili – Ventilatori
Kazimirov kazneni korpus – Paralitično šizoidne devojke #3
Električni orgazam – Leptir
Električni orgazam – Dokolica
Propaganda – Ponovo u Beogradu
Propaganda – 18. novembar
Kozmetika – Utisci
Kozmetika – Jedne noći na terasi na moru
Beograd – Ulice su noćas
Beograd – Kontrolori
Disciplina kičme – Pečati
Disciplina kičme – Ti znaš da tvoja soba ima 4 ugla
Over and out, the rest of October listening will be dedicated to hard & heavy rock. With some heavy metal thrown in.
Instrumental rock. Slušanje “Anthem For No State” posvetiti domovini. Država skrbi za zaščito, dvig in izkoriščanje gozdov. Država skrbi za fizično vzgojo ljudstva, posebno mladine, v svrho dviganja narodnega zdravja, narodne, delovne in obrambne sposobnosti. Ravna cedalje bolj popustljivo, dopušča se vsa svoboda. Oblast je pri nas ljudska. Oblast je pri nas ljudska. Oblast je pri nas ljudska. *locked groove*
Izađem na ulicu i kažem
Gle, opet jesen!
Sjene su duže baš ko lani i lani i lani
Ali za mene sad to sve više nije važno
O ne, za mene sad to sve više nije važno.
Gdje nestade YU arhivist P. D. Basstapex? Bilo bi lijepo da složi “Don’t Look Back” blogpost na temu Beograd. Izgubio sam polet.
Jesen u koži, dolazi mi jesen
Jesen u krznu, dolazi mi jesen
Mislim na voće i mislim na nju
Mislim na žuto, na hranu i buđ
Vidi da nije možda stigla jesen
Traži i naći ćeš u sebi truo hrast
Gore u nama je bujica reči
Dole u nama je jesenji strah.
Vol V: Rock and Pop Music in Sarajevo in the 1980s (incomplete overview)
*subject to change*
Sarajevo was multicultural capitol city of SR Bosnia and Herzegovina and legendary host of Winter Olympics 1984. It was well known for upbeat humor, ćevapi u somunu (regional fast food (Socialist variety) which beats (at least it used to) hamburger or hot dog any day), TV series “Top lista nadrealista” & for sure many other things I am not familiar with. Citizens of Sarajevo are direct and friendly folks who like to chat over (super sweet) Turkish coffee and cakes that are so full of sugar your teeth hurt.
Firmly settled in folk, hard rock/heavy metal (Bijelo dugme, Teška industrija, Vatreni poljubac, translocated Divlje jagode) & pop-rock district, Sarajevo was not a typical contender for a YU punk-rock city at all. Let’s see…
Opera Lu – “Televizori” SP (1980) – would be the very first new-wave/punk-rock related single from Bosnia. Pretty irrelevant. A-side “Televizori” sounds like power trio hard rock song more than an usual approximation of ’77 UK punk rock. B-side is a reggae tinged blues rock number.
Bonton Baya were the first group of the Sarajevo New Wave generation that got contract with local Diskoton record label. Their only album “Elpi” LP (1983) reminds me of pop-rock or power pop pulled through various new wave filters. Bonton Baya for sure could play their instruments well and I like the sound of the recording but genre hopping across the album is often sign of questionable taste and in this particular case problematic (for example songs “Kraj radne nedjelje” and “Sarajevo Texas Nashville Tennessee“). In addition to that vocal can be quite distracting and lyrics occasionally terrible (including specific sense of humor or rather the absence of it). Well, words give an extra dimension to a pop/rock song but sometimes it’s better to keep them at the functional minimum. I can easily like “Nipon elektronik” for its unexpected strangeness (I was a little taken aback by this fancy video too) and new wave synth sounds.
The closest group to punk spirit to be found in Sarajevo were collective or an art movement known as New Primitives (facetiously opposed to New Romantics). The creative seeds go back to late ‘70s / early ‘80s friendships from the same part of town and Sarajevo’s II. Gymnasium (ha!). Out of the New Primitives proto rock group “Pseudobluz band Zabranjeno pušenje” and associated new-wave/punk “scenesters” emerged band Zabranjeno pušenje as well as rock entertainer Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors and Bombaj štampa. In essence Zabranjeno pušenje were more a new wave garage rock than basic punk-rock band, but awesome one at that, with nice hooks and kitchen sink lyrics Bosnian style. The first demo tape which collects material from their earliest days (1982-83) is upbeat mixture of new wave, punk rock and pub rock. It brings Ian Dury’s new wave album “New Boots and Panties!!” to my mind. The songs from this demo tape ended in new versions on debut album “Das ist Walter” LP (1984) and second double album “Dok čekaš sabah sa šejtanom” (1985). Zabranjeno pušenje became more typical YU pop rock band by the end of the decade.
Central (punk) rock album from SA: Zabranjeno pušenje “Das ist Walter” LP (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović was loyal to rock mythology of the late 1960s and early 1970s and with His Meteors issued two entertaining albums: the conceptual debut “Mitovi i legende o kralju Elvisu” LP (1984) and “Da bog da crk’o RnR” LP (1985).
Sarajevo’s candidate for an arty new wave band would be Kongres. They appeared on the scene together with the New Primitives. At the beginning they brushed with politicized post-punk experimentalism but changed stance under sudden sway of optimism. In other words they opted for few New Romantic or New Pop tricks which showed on their only art rock / new wave album titled in Slovenian language “Zarjavele Trobente” LP (1984). A special guest appearance by Zoran Predin from Lačni Franz (Maribor, Slovenia) didn’t help much. Allegedly, at the time of preparation for sophomore album Kongres singer lost optimistic look on life, which could have brought back some rock filth in the mix… but it was too late. Kongres was kaput.
Eventually in 1984, year of Sarajevo Winter Olympics, Zabranjeno pušenje (Jugoton, ZG), Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors (ZKP RTVL, LJ) & Kongres (Diskoton, SA) got wanted record contracts and one by one recorded their debut albums.
But there was also another new band in town graced with sound name SCH. Looking back, it was more like an art project of Senad Hadžimusić (Teno), with revolving line-up comprised of friendly collaborators, than a stable rock unit. Through SCH vehicle restless guitarist and vocalist Teno projected his amplified bad vibes and distorted nightmare trips. He acquired status of a local scene (court) jester bringing bad news with every opportunity. There were many faces of SCH and it clearly shows in their neurotic output documented one way (demo cassette) or another (video tape).
Surprisingly, SCH got studio recorded material for a potential album as early as ’84 (as their comrades from New Primitives movement) but there wasn’t a record label in Yugoslavia willing to have business with them.
SCH: The Beautiful and Damned – live at YURM ’85 (Zagreb)
Strangely enough, they were included on Diskoton cassette sampler “Nove snage” (1984). (w / Bombaj štampa, Kongres, Mali princ etc.) Years later SCH participated at Novi rock ’87 festival in Ljubljana and perhaps as a result they manged to secure a tape issue for legendary small label FV založba that had been successfully gathering ex-YU misfits and malcontents.
SCH: Brutti, sporchi e cattivi – live at Novi rock ’87 (Ljubljana)
“SCH” tape (1988) is comprised of selected demo songs recorded in 1985-87. It can be regarded as updated third version of demo tape (after two samizdat demo cassettes in row) picked by FV založba for the official SCH release. Teno’s predominant mood was noise / industrial at that moment so all the fuzzed punk rock numbers were left out. In 1989 they went in studio and finally recorded material for debut vinyl album that was later in the year self-released. Prophetically titled “During Wartime” LP (1989), it has become cult.
“Unlike Slovenia and Croatia, where the critical public, humanistic intelligence, independent media and institutions through their hard categorical apparatus, often from the point of Marxism, defended subculture and everything else that exposed false slogans and misery of the system, SCH has always faced a silent wall in Bosnia. The battle between subculture and the ruling ideology, whose consequence would be the making, the survival and the development of positive (political – cultural) values, came down to illusions and suicidal attempts of SCH… On the other hand stands the fact that it never mattered what SCH would do next. It is only important that they do something (and survive). Their significance has gone beyond the meaning and quality of their music. They move beyond limits where everything is allowed (even the potential failures and mistakes). They are their own measure. There is no one else. Their death will put an end to an epoch and the far-sighted graphite will be proven “Teno – Tito”. It was written some time ago on a fence in a neighborhood where they used to rehearse.”
The most important recording from SA: SCH – “During Wartime” LP (1989)
Of course there was so called “school of Sarajevo pop-rock” around but I am not well versed in that. Crvena jabuka (ex Meteors, Kongres, Bonton Baya) were saccharine and very popular with girls. Another unbelievable pop phenomenon was boy band Plavi orkestar specifically tailored for regional taste and YU mass market of mid 1980s.
Bolero were strange pop rock band active in the second half of the 1980s. They recorded two arty and heartfelt pop-rock albums: “Na kraju slavlja” (1986) & “O Jesenjinu” (1988).
Late ‘80s Bombarder would be speed metal continuation of city’s hard rock tradition.
Don’t Look Back vol. V: Sarajevo (1-2-ex-YU!!)
VA New Primitives Sarajevo (1982 – 85)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Penzioneri na more idu zimi (demo) (1983)
Kongres – Djevojka na snijegu (early version) (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Sanjao sam noćas da te imam (demo) (1983)
Kongres – Zabava (early version) (1984)
SCH – Prazan hod (1984)
Bombaj štampa – Jogging (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Put u središte rudnika (demo) (1983)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Magi’s Farm (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Anarhija All Over Baščaršija (1984)
intermezzo: Tema iz filma “Valter brani Sarajevo” (1984)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Neću da budem Švabo u dotiranom filmu (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Supermen (1984)
Kongres – Sumrak (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Mala glupača (1984)
Kongres – Optimist (1984)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Rekla ti je mama (1985)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Lutka sa naslovne strane (1985)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Sva su raja (1985)
Zabranjeno pušenje – Kažu mi da novog frajera imaš (1985)
Elvis J. Kurtović & His Meteors – Krivo usmeren (1985)
Vol IV: Rock and Pop Music in Ljubljana in the 1980s (incomplete overview)
*subject to change*
Well, the story of YU punk-rock officially starts in Slovenia. Punk rock (and strange local branch of RIO) flourished in this Alpine region and encompassed the whole country due to small size of the northernmost and in some ways most progressive former Socialist Republic. The first independent music labels were situated only in Slovenia in the beginning. ‘Novi rock’ festival in Ljubljana had similar function as YURM in Zagreb, giving chance to local talents. In addition to that Novi rock organizers were inviting interesting foreign bands from independent / underground sector and presenting them to Yugoslavian rock public. Igor Vidmar from Radio Študent had the key role in promotion of new rock music (comparable to John Peel’s radio DJ efforts in UK albeit with very modest broadcast range) in Ljubljana/Slovenia.
Ljubljana (Laibach) is a lovely small town, compared to Zagreb or Beograd. However, it was equally gray and dull as the rest, just a different shade of boredom. To an accidental passerby and stranger, like I was, it always seemed sleepy and tranquil.
— punk rock / new wave —
Who were the culprits and catalysts then? Slovenian bastards – Pankrti!
a step back:
Satirical blues-rock of bearded granddads Buldožer (1975-84) that bulldozed and paved the way for critical thought in mid 1970s YU rock (if they didn’t update the sound farther than Zappa) should be mentioned as pre punk introduction note.
Prog punks ’79
Anyhow, Pankrti are proud parents (they were already students close to 25 years of age) of the first independently released punk single “Lepi in prazni” in 1978. It’s nothing to write home about today but way back it was important harbinger of the new. Heavier and typically mid pace recordings that followed sound like the first generation of punk music in general, steeped in garage rock and glam. It’s hard not to like Pankrti. They were consistent on record all the way except for the last album. These days my favorite would be 2 x 7 inch “Namesto tebe” (1981). Pankrti softened already at the time of their sophomore studio album called “Državni ljubimci” (1982). On the next one called “Rdeči album” (1984) the song arrangements became even more complex with ornamental overdubs added and as a result album is upbeat but a bit bloated too. “Pesme spravi” LP (1985) (produced by Angelic Upstarts guitarist) brought back grittier guitar sound and leaner songwriting. Mature effort “Sexpok” LP (1987) is a disappointing closer. Adio Lublana!
Other Slovenian punk primers like Lublanski psi, Berlinski zid, 92 and Buldogi straddled the thin line between old school punk-rock and original new wave.
Berlinski zid (punk-rock group w / keyboards that was developing post-punk approach in songwriting), 92 (punk-rock band with psychedelic organ reminiscent of the Stranglers; keyboards role was toned down later and new-wave elements crept in) and Buldogi (charming ska-punk kids) were included on legendary VA “Novi punk val 78-80” LP (1981) together with Pankrti and few Croatian punk bands.
Sinister punk-rockers Lublanskipsi (I like a lot their songwriting style but don’t know much about them in general) and again primary school punks Buldogi, along the second wave of wild teenage punks from other towns (Kuzle, Industbag, Šund), ended up on the subsequent various artists punk album “Lepo je…” (1982). It was released under coordination of ever-present Igor Vidmar.
At some point in 1981 happened infamous “Nazi punk affair” staged by the System and things got heated for a moment. So, when the creative energy could have really dissipated new generation of bands took over the “scene”…
— post punk —
Here comes the wave of furious post-punk bands: Otroci socializma, Laibach, O!Kult, Borghesia, d’Pravda, Via ofenziva and Čao pičke & very soon after them wild hordes of hard-core punks.
Almost all of them were refined provocateurs whether they chose to operate like an alien cultural organization (Laibach), a sharp-witted individual observer (Otroci socializma & Via ofenziva), a personal rights association (Borghesia) or a group of anarchic idealists (O!Kult).
Otroci socializma were an excellent post-punk band formed after split up of early punk band Berlinski zid. Brane Bitenc, young poet and punk, gave the band distinct individuality that easily separated them from the rest. When I better think about it he had some traits in common with M. E. Smith – stage presence, stature and diction. His sensibilities were different though. At the end (or during the second phase) Otroci socializma started to mess with plastic funk and marred their sharp minimal rock sound with bloody electronic drums in the studio (a bad zeitgeist decision in retrospect, like lazy Jet Black did in the Stranglers). I don’t mind fretless bass, it’s fine with me. Otroci socializma had two indie tapes out in circulation: “self-titled” (1982) and “Kri” (1986). Their members (drummer & bassist) were also guest musicians with Laibach in the studio. Otroci socializma allegedly recorded set of songs for never realized album on ZKP RTVL label – the finished master tapes mysteriously disappeared in transit between record companies.
Similarly focused post-punk band (~ Gang of Four/PiL influenced) with something to say in between lines (and quite directly!) were Via ofenziva,led by another young man with tendency toward poetic expression among punks – Esad Babačić. They didn’t last long but what has been left after them is pretty cool.
Via ofenziva shared split cassette release with Čaopičke, issued on independently oriented and very important Galerija ŠKUC izdaja cassette label (as was the first tape by Otroci socializma). Čao pičke were short-lived drums & bass band with 15 years old punk girl Alenka Marsenič Marsa on vocals. Their brevity and minimalism were mirrored in one minute long no-wave song sketches. After the break up Marsa continued with brilliant Tožibabe, group that moved in hard-core circles. Bass player resurfaced in jazz-rock Lolita in the second half of the 1980s.
O!Kult (from nearby satellite town Medvode) were young leaders of New Left. Early period of their activity under Crass influence was documented on anarcho-punk cassette “Razredni boj je edino gibalo zgodovine” (1983). Few years later they managed to release debut mini LP through German indie label Dossier records. On this overlooked album, divided into 4 long tracks running slightly over half an hour, O!Kult enriched minimalist post-punk with touch of funk groove and repetitive industrial elements. After demise of the band frontman Brane Zorman continued to compose music for theater and art performances.
Borghesia were early on post-punk band with drum machine and subversive collective of multi-media artists simultaneously. At first glance, when portrayed as duo, Borghesia resembled DAF but they were not that similar musically. Borghesia were also notorious for exposing “forbidden” kinds of love, certainly existent but hardly visible during Communist era. Spiritus movens Aldo Ivančić was in addition fully involved with setting up the scene around FV Disco Club and FV Založba indie label. He recorded/produced “Zastave” LP together with Paraf. I am quite fond of Borghesia’s early recordings issued as cassettes (s/t collected early songs; “Clones” was composed of soundtracks for short video films) & debut vinyl album (mostly early material from the 1st tape) titled “Ljubav je hladnija od smrti” LP (1985). In the second half of decade they were making music that could be categorized as (lukewarm) computer generated EBM. I’ve always thought that the sound of not fully controllable analog synths & primitive DIY electronic kits ( submerged in white noise to some degree) depicts general unrest or physicality of rough sex much better than the one produced by earliest digital equipment available. Having said that, I keep “Ogolelo mesto” LP (1988) in collection – I dig dark electronic vibes a la mid 80’s Severed Heads. Borghesia’s passion and interesting ideas were present (boiling under surface) all the time but only partially realized/translated via home computers in the second half of the decade. EBM electronic movement is fine but I am going to stick with period when Borghesia mingled with postpunkers. To each his own…
Laibach (Trbovlje – Ljubljana – London – world) didn’t care at all about rock’n’roll disguised as punk-rock. Their fancy was tickled by Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk. Instead of having strapped electric guitars on, Laibach picked best fitting hunting clothes and old uniforms, shined leather boots, oiled trumpets and horns, dusted off snare drums, trimmed their hair to perfect cow-lick… and stepped down from the small town theater stage to challenge (mock) totalitarian or oppressive system/s of this sad world. Original singer of the band hanged himself. Few bigger scandals happened. The name was banned. The group went into exile… but Laibach prevailed in the end. Backed by bigger contract (Mute) for “Opus Dei” LP (1987), that included successful cover/hijack of Austrian white (cod!) reggae hit “Live is Life”, Laibach immersed themselves in the world of POP media manipulation and later digital electronic music / techno. Don’t know about you but I always return back to unnerving spot by kozelec for some post industrial thrill. All their early recordings are excellent up to 1986. Laibach electronic spin offs 300.000 V.K. and Keller should be mentioned as well. That 30 years later they would have a concert in North Korea of all places is really unbelievable.
Enigmatic and ephemeral d’Pravda were provocative art project as much as amateurish band in between RIO and Dada post-punk. As far as I am informed they recorded set of demo songs in the summer of 1982 and soon disappeared.
— hard-core punk —
Teenage hard-core punk is usually on the margins of this website story telling but there were couple of really interesting and pretty pissed off bands in Ljubljana. Early hard-core sampler worth hearing is “Kaj je alternativa?” tape (Stres D. A. / U.B.R. / Odpadki Civilizacije) from 1983. Even better overview of Slovenian aggressive punk is offered on independently released various artists record: “Hard Core Ljubljana 1985”. (U.B.R., III. kategorija, Epidemija, Odpadki civilizacije, Tožibabe)
Pioneering hard-core band U.B.R. also left behind a cult single EP record issued in Italy in 1984. All girls (post) hard-core band Tožibabe managed to put out one of a kind seven inch EP locally. Initial HC phase by melancholic Niet was released on cassette only.
In other words Ljubljana (& SR Slovenia in general) was big and well-connected punk kindergarten / youth center unlike the rest of the SFRJ (with the exception of Rijeka and perhaps Novi Sad).
— synth pop —
Ubiquitous Iztok Turk (ex Kuzle, ex Otroci socializma) among other things also formed synth-pop group called Videosex. Videosex soon overshadowed any of his previous bands being commercially quite successful. Their self-titled debut is solid all the way through thanks to bits and pieces of vintage minimal electronica. Pleasing (sometimes too pleasing) POP aspect was saved by the remarkable and seemingly innocent voice of 16 years old singer Anja Rupel. The second album “Lacrimae Christi” (1985) got quite strong side A. The best songs are reminiscent of mid period New Order.
Somewhere here I’d squeeze anomaly of Gast’r’bajtr’s (from Brežice, not Ljubljana!) Their debut LP “Ni življenja brez ljubezni” (1983), issued on then newly founded independent label Dokumentarna, offered slightly sterile sounding mix of new wave influenced funk rock with saxophone and drum machine. Gastrbajtrs were not melancholic depressives but high spirited guys and that they were preferring drum box to real drums is quite puzzling to me. They formed few spin offs: arty Demolition Group and Silver Barracudas before returning to more energetic Gastrbajtrs dance-rock format few years later. The second album “Pot v raj” (1988) brought them closer to Miladojka Youneed.
Otroci socializma II (“Kri” 1986) under the influence (Alkohol) were treading synth-pop waters (Mlačna voda) in the late night hours (Noč) too.
— RIO & jazz —
Another very important but less known group that influenced Slovenian early 1980s was RIO type of band with specific folk aspect called Begnagrad. They stirred the city’s RIO scene during their second phase of activity and over the time attracted fans of this genre of music from all over the world. Great and weird debut s/t album (1982) is very recommended!
Na lepem prijazni jazz-rock band, as presented on their only album, lacks a bit of forward pushing kinetic energy which was as crucial ingredient for the time of production as it is today.
SRP crowned years long career with a conceptual avant-garde album that resembles soundtrack for a theater play. Recalling RIO, Zappa (jazz-rock period) and drunken cabaret at once, I doubt that SRP sounded like that on stage in concert. Like d’Pravda they crossed paths with post-punk youth occasionally.
Quatebriga (ex Begnagrad) excluded dissonant folk elements from the mix and recorded two jazz-rock albums in mid 1980s. More straight forward “Revolution in the Zoo” LP (1985) is excellent.
Miladojka Youneed started off at the point where city’s jazz-rock predecessors like Na lepem prijazni stopped and added hard core energy. Cutting down singing a little they left space for bleating saxophones to talk. Early jazz-punk Miladojka Youneed was awesome. Check out their first release issued on cassette only! They were simultaneously free and tight, playing eccentric combination of jazz-funk and punk. Unfortunately, the sound of debut record “Ghastly Beyond Belief” (1987) is produced too aggressively. Perhaps they strove for inhuman machine-like sound wishing to be extra repulsive. Industrial sheen of digital (~ ghastly) recording can sound terribly shrill to my jaded ears on a bad day, especially when it comes to drums. Too bad. With the second album “Bloodylon” (1990) Miladojka Youneed moved too far inside the dance rock territory for my liking.
Otroci socializma could be main protagonists of post-punk chapter in this pretty exciting period of Ljubljana’s rock and pop history. If they had an official album realized it would be for sure put on a pedestal here. Luckily post-punk and other “underground” or “alternative” happenings have been documented through already mentioned ŠKUC izdaja & FV založba small labels. Viva Ljubljana! The three most representative records for a short and intensive retrospective trip would be:
(1) Borghesia “Ljubav je hladnija od smrti” (85) , (2) Various Artists “84” (84) & (3) Laibach s/t (85)