Here is an incomplete review of the second half of the “dark decade” in pop & rock music from Zagreb. Retrospectively exciting in its own ephemeral way.
*subject to change*
Open the box. Release the bats! Release the moths!
v.a. Zagreb [1986-90] vol I: Dark [dark wave, goth (rock), dark psychedelic rock, electronic music, EBM, cold wave, ethereal]
Phantasmagoria (1988 – )
Phantasmagoria, loved or hated Goth princes of Zagreb, are the sole survivalists despite the periods of inactivity and surprisingly little recorded material. Mastermind in the band, young punk rocker Tomi E. Šega (ex Eksodus), had chosen path of “positive punk” which led him to Leeds and right into the heart of everlasting phantasmagoria. These baby steps along the rhythm machine beats are not bad at all. Much better than I remembered. Phantasmagoria won YURM ’90 in category of best new “alternative rock” band.
Demonstration tapes (1988-89)
Grad tihog očaja
Ja gledam svojim očima
Poziv u raj 2
Lepra (mid 1980s – 1990)
Madness. I know almost nothing about Lepra. But I was pleasantly surprised when I heard them for the first time. They are represented with two wildest tracks on “041 Compilation” tape, the only officially issued document that gathered all these bands except Phantasmagoria. Rock critic and promoter Siniša Bizović (editor / compiler of the previously mentioned various artists tape in 1989 & rock festivals organizer nowadays) was a band member at some point.
Endymion (1988 – 90)
Scènes de la vie future (second demo tape, recorded in ’89)
Endymion were dark psychedelic rock band that connected rock foundations from ’69 with pop stylings of ’89. Songwriting (as well as unabashed love of Detroit rock city) was shared between two brothers: remarkable guitarist Igor Polak & bassist Goran “Stražarni lopov” Polak. The dark rock machine eventually accelerated and started to roll. After couple of demo tapes the new studio material was recorded, the interested publisher in Germany was found and then… something bad happened. The electric guitar was the lead instrument in Endymion.
The Man With The Golden Eyes
I Have Control
She’s Only Sleeping
Something’s Gonna Happen (live)
Short lived and forgotten band that cherished ethereal goth vibes channeled through female singer.
The Autumn Song
Nezaboravan san o… (mid 1980s – 1990)
Nezaboravan san o… (demo tape)
Electronic heart throbs and tears. Without glamorous black eyeliner and red lippy. Stripped bare. With tastefully applied wailing of electric guitar. Transcending the inner void. Cold and indifferent Zagreb of the very late 1980s didn’t give a damn. Aura of Nezaboravan san o… has left lasting impression on my fragile mind when I finally listened to complete demo tape few years ago. So they’ve become unforgettable.
Trajanja (grad obojen ledom)
Noći bez jutra
Lamenti blijedih zora
Jozo oko Gospe (mid 1980s – 1989)
Promising electronic duo / project Jozo oko Gospe left legacy of only two recorded and officially released demo tracks, one is terrible and the other is terrific. Breathe in. Breathe out and say Om! If you meet the Buddha on the path of least resistance, just knock him out. Say Ohm! Ω
Various Artists (from Zagreb) – 041 Compilation Tape – FV založba, Ljubljana (1989)
Ljubljana cared if totally disorganized Zagreb didn’t. Thank you FV Založba! Enthusiastic individuals like Dubravko Jagatić cared, of course. He put fair amount of his energy / love in what he did as radio host and booking agent in the second half of the 1980s. His radio-show “Sve prije vinila”, aired on Zagreb’s best radio station “Radio 101” was big support for local demo scene. Electronic duo Ivor The Lord were initially planned for inclusion but due to unfortunate circumstances they missed the chance. In an alternative universe this might have been a very nice vinyl document from 1989, with two tracks by each band.
Crisis! “Crna ruža” (“Black Rose” Sect) or the Socialist Youth in the Dark
Is Zagreb still a city of quiet desperation? (grad tihog očaja)
Vol VII: Rock and Pop Music in Skopje in the 1980s
*subject to change*
This far away ex Socialist Republic was/is situated deeper in the Balkans where Byzantine ways of singing and chanting have persevered in liturgy. Skopje, the capitol city, was hit by powerful earthquake in 1963 and rebuilt in steel and concrete. So, despite relatively sunny climate and warmhearted folk, one could find just enough Socialist gray areas even down there. Well, I can only guess. Macedonia as a land is usually (and superficially) associated with red vine, mutton, blood red poppies & jazz-rock virtuoso Vlatko Stefanovski’s band Leb i sol whose rise to fame progressed in parallel with the new wave happenings. Although Makedonija very often brings in mind sunshine too, where those rock generations really children of sun (Deca sunca) or darkness? It might seem like the majority of them were children (youth) of God: post-punk (or dark-wave or Gothic) bands that operated like mystic sects branched from Macedonian Orthodox Church – bringing religious Sunday school out of the half-secret parochial classes to the Electric Church and rock stages across the country to amplify their beliefs.
The earliest Macedonian punk and new wave bands didn’t leave official recordings behind. They probably lived fast and died too early or transformed into something else. In general, Macedonian artistic spirit of mid 1980s struck a chord with dark wave.
Since I am not that much familiar with the history of rock and pop music from Skopje and SR Macedonia, beside obvious punk rock or post-punk names (Badmingtons, Bastion, Padot na Vizantija, Mizar etc.), here’s the segment from Wikipedia as a brief overview:
The late 1970s saw the emergence of punk rock. The first punk rock band was Fol jazik, formed in Skopje in 1978. During the 1980s other notable punk groups were Saraceni and Badmingtons, both led by Vladimir Petrovski Karter. Later he switched to a more mainstream sound and formed the group Aleksandar Makedonski.
The new wave scene featured artists such as the ska group Cilindar, Usta na usta and Tokmu taka. Tokmu taka’s vocalist Ljupčo Bubo Karov from Kavadarci later became popular as an actor of the comedy TV show K-15, while Usta na usta’s member Aleksandar Prokopiev became a prominent writer. Another influential band was Bon Ton Bend with Dario Pankovski, who released many hits of new wave music.
The synthpop trio Bastion which featured Kiril Džajkovski was one of the most important 1980s acts. Another notable 1980’s act was Haos in Laos (allegedly in a sort of New Romantic style). The pop-rock group Memorija formed in 1984 was one of the most prosperous from this period. The most productive in the country was the post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock scene which included the cult bands Mizar, Arhangel and Padot na Vizantija, the latter led by Goran Trajkoski. Later he formed the neo-folk group Anastasia which became internationally acclaimed with its soundtrack for the Milčo Mančevski’s Academy Award nominated film Before the Rain.
Notable heavy metal artists were the groups Karamela and Concorde, the latter being remembered for their more radio-friendly hit “Visoki štikli i crni čorapi” (“High Heels and Black Stockings”). Its guitarist Venko Serafimov later started a successful solo career.
Noќ nad Makedonija (1981-90)
The very beginning (1980-83) of the dark decade in rock in Macedonia mainly remained undocumented and the scarce demo recordings are unavailable.
Početok i kraj 1983-86
Badmingtones (ex Fol jazik, ex Saraceni) (1983-86) fronted by ever-present punker V.P. Karter played slightly melodic punk-rock throughout the mid decade and even managed to leave a demo tape behind. Now very rare, it consists of earlier recordings done in their own studio and three tracks recorded in professional studio of RTV Skopje in 1985. Their basic punk-rock sound was enriched with electric organ on studio material.
Bastion was yet another smooth ex-YU synth pop combo: drum machine, fretless bass, synths and baby doll singing in Serbian (then known as Serbo-Croatian – the official language in Yugoslavia). The trio was formed in 1983 by Ana Kostovska (vocalist), Kiril Džajkovski (keyboards) and Ljubomir Stojsavljević (bass guitar). The author of their lyrics was the internationally acclaimed film director Milčo Mančevski, at that time a correspondent of the magazine Džuboks. He was also the film director of their music video “Hot day in Mexico”. It’s a shame that at least one single track on their only record was not sung in Macedonian. I remain emotionally reserved to some degree but can understand appeal, there is some beauty in delicate fragility of Bastion’s almost minimal approach. Synth-pop fans that dig albums by Talas (BG), Videosex (LJ) or Denis & Denis (RI) should check it out. The original copies of “Bastion” (1984) issued by PGP RTB are fetching silly prices nowadays.
Energetic post punk (via Echo and the Bunnymen, U2 or Comsat Angels) of short-lived Padot na Vizantija (ex Afektiven naboj) was documented only on a couple of studio/live demo tracks scattered as appearances on three cassette releases (various artists compilations). They split up too soon and freed space for powerful gothic rock delivered by post-JNA Mizar or Mizar II. Surprisingly, Padot na Vizantija toured a bit in their short lifetime and even participated at YURM ’85 festival in Zagreb where they got excellent reviews. If they had managed to record and issue debut album in ’85 it would fit nicely in dark-wave post-punk albums series championed by this blog/site. Padot na Vizantija anthology has been issued by NE! Records this year.
Gradot e nem (1986-90)
Mizar II put out two critically acclaimed gothic rock (or deathrock) albums before the official end of Yugoslavia. The self-titled debut “Mizar” (1988) would be the most important record from Macedonia from the 1980s (if we put Leb i sol albums in separate category). I used to think that the sophomore effort “Свјат Dreams 1762 – 1991” (1991) was significantly inferior but now I realize that I was wrong – it has its own strong points. I can be fussy only about the clean production on both, as usually.
Mizar – Mizar (1988, Helidon) – the most important rock album from Macedonia
Aporea (aka Apokrifna realnost) self-released religiously (spiritually) themed vintage industrial tape “Na rekah vavilonskih” in 1988. The material was recorded after Padot na Vizantija had disbanded, sometime in the between the fall of ’85 and winter of ’88.
Lola V. Stain recorded two albums of ambiental music before crucial member Zlatko Origjanski joined Anastasia. The debut “Ikona” (1990) issued for an independent label from Zagreb (Blind Dog Records) is comprised of two long multi-part atmospheric instrumentals: “Makova polja” & “Rani jadi”. These two complex songs are structured from the interchangeable variations based on either bagpipes, traditional ethnic drum (tapan) or a jazzy psychedelic theme.
Anastasia started as collaboration of musicians from Padot na Vizantija, Aporea and Mizar who composed atmospheric music influenced by Macedonian folk and Byzantine church music. This lineage also represents specific artistic vision of Goran Trajkoski that had started with punk band Afektiven naboj. The first EP “Na rjekah vavilonskih” was released as 12’’ record in 1990. It was introduction of sorts for the film soundtrack “Before the Rain” that would become international hit few years later.
Arhangel was Macedonian alternative rock band formed in 1989 by Risto Vrtev (the first vocalist in original Mizar). Their debut album was recorded during last days of Yugoslavia and even pressed in Zagreb by Jugoton in 1991. However, as an active rock band, Arhangel have been more significant for post YU Macedonia.
As an exception to the “rule” and due to the scarcity of recorded Macedonian bands I’ll add Telo-nauka sovršena who were actually living far away from Skopje – they came from a small town Struga (as local punk band Afektiven naboj). I quite like material from their only official release – tape “Kadis” (1988, SKC Niš) but not so much some sound production choices. Like Mizar, Telo-nauka sovršena often sound better to me live than in studio. One can here ghosts of Joy Division [unknown pleasures] or early New Order buried in the hiss and flutter of an old cassette tape. Never heard earliest recorded material (pre “Kadis”), if it really exists in any format.
I am going to end retrospective tripping on ex YU music with this post and take a small imaginary vacation at some fancy resort on the lake of Ohrid. Seeping cold juice under a huge parasol listening to Bastion would make me good now on the verge of winter. I am kidding comrades! I need to spend some quiet time as a recluse contemplating and meditating in a remote Macedonian monastery (without holy scriptures of any kind, of course). OK, I am leaving you with Mizar, not in misery. Godspeed!
The First Two Revelations of Mizar (from a great Wikipedia entry)
Mizar (Macedonian: Мизар [miˈzar]) is a Macedonian rock band from Skopje. They achieved a status of a cult band, especially in Macedonia and across the Western Balkans.
The group is notable for its first self-titled album, as it was the first popular music in Western Balkans record in Macedonian language. The album was a major success and it is listed among the top ten rock albums ever released in Western Balkans.
Mizar was formed in 1981 in the then Socialist Republic of Macedonia. Because of the band’s avant-garde sound and image, its Christian leanings and support for Macedonian self-determination, they were viewed with certain degree of suspicion by the former authorities. Still, the group received great media attention including numerous appearances on the national television.
The band got its name after Mizar which is a guiding star for orientation of travelers in the deserts. The name was given by Panta Džambazoski.
Mizar’s musical style is post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock. Beside influences such as Joy Division for instance, Mizar also uses elements of Traditional Macedonian folklore and Byzantine music. Another main part of their music is Goran’s (both Tanevski and Trajkoski) vocals which are based on Christian church chants.
In their long history, Mizar has had 5 Revelations, all of them with different singers.
The First Revelation (Risto Vrtev)
Mizar were formed in 1981 in Skopje as an instrumental trio of Gorazd Čapovski on guitar, Valentin Žabjakin on bass and Panta Džambazoski on drums. In late 1981, Žabjakin left the band and was replaced with Ilija Stojanovski. Risto Vrtev joined on vocals soon after. In 1982, the group recorded a demo tape for Radio Skopje. They then sent this tape to Jugoslovenski Rock Moment (also known as YURM), who wrote a short but glowing review of the tape. During 1983, the band then had to break up shortly after due to the members’ mandatory army commitments.
The Second Revelation (Goran Tanevski)
In 1985, when the members of Mizar returned from the army, Čapovski attempted to form a band called Inola-X with Vrtev, but it didn’t work out. Mizar then reformed with Goran Tanevski in place of Vrtev and a new keyboardist, Slobodan Stojkov. They started to use elements of the traditional Macedonian folklore and Byzantine music blended with post-punk, darkwave and gothic rock. This phase of Mizar is known as Мизар – Второ Откровение (Mizar – The Second Revelation). Vrtev later founded Arhangel (Archangel) which was awarded as the best rock act in Macedonia during the 1990s. Arhangel inherited certain features of Mizar but with a more conventional rock approach which is why Arhangel was sometimes referred as the Rock Mizar. In 1986, the band filmed a music video for the song “Stoj”.
In 1986, the band played the “Druga godba” festival in Zagreb, but altercations within the band caused Džambazoski and Stojkov to leave the group. They were replaced by Vencislav Smakjoski and Goran Trajkovski respectively. This lineup played at Festival Omladina, with Vladimir Kaevski on keyboards, and contributed two live tracks to the festival’s compilation. These tracks are the first appearance of Mizar on record. Trajkovski would later be replaced by Sašo Krstevski, while Stojkov was replaced by Katerina Veljanovska.
In 1986 they recorded a few demos and were a support act for Laibach and Disciplina kičme on their Yugoslav tour. In 1987 they were awarded for their unique sound at the most significant rock music festival which was held in Subotica.
They released their first, self-titled album, in 1988 with the following line-up:
The producer was Goran Lisica-Fox. Beside their own songs, the album also included a cover version of the notable Macedonian folk song Zajdi, Zajdi under the title “Златно сонце” (Golden Sun). One of the best known songs from the album is “Девојка од Бронза” (Girl made of bronze).
By 1989, the lineup had stabilised to the following:
This lineup’s first appearance on record was the Demoskop 1 compilation in late 1990, where they contributed two tracks, “Veligden” and “Glas”. Between October and December 1990, the band recorded their second album, Svjat Dreams, releasing it on 7 September 1991, the day before Macedonia split from Yugoslavia. The title of the record is inspired by the song Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics. On this album they covered the traditional song 1762 and a song written by Vrtev, the first singer of Mizar titled “Дом” (Home).
Don’t Look Back vol. VII: Skopje (1-2-ex-YU!!)
Noќ nad Makedonija (1981-90)
Početok i kraj (1983-86)
Badmingtons – Site obični luđe 
Badmingtons – Doađa sabota 
Badmingtons – Moram li jas? 
Bastion – Deca sunca 
Bastion – Mesec u šolji 
Bastion – Molitva 
Padot na Vizantija – Početok i kraj 
Padot na Vizantija – Istata sostojba 
Aporea – Dzvezdo javljajušta solnce [medieval]
Gradot e nem (1986-90)
Aporea – Na rjekah vavilonskih [ancient]
Mizar – Gradot e nem (live) 
Mizar – Stoj 
Mizar – Devojka od bronza 
Mizar – Hoden že 
Aporea – Kondak Sv. Prohoru Pčinjskomu [undated]
Telo-nauka sovršena – Grešnici 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Niz vekovi so grevovi 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Plastična zemlja 
Arhangel – Arhangel ’80 – ’89 (live) 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Son (live) 
Lola V. Stain – Makova polja 1 
Lola V. Stain – Makova polja 2 
Lola V. Stain – Rani jadi 1 
Lola V. Stain – Rani jadi 3 
Mizar – Abja mem 
Mizar – Veligden 
Telo-nauka sovršena – Nebo 
Mizar – Običen čovek 
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.
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)
Vol III: Rock and Pop Music in Novi Sad in the 1980s (incomplete overview)
*subject to change*
Korekcije faktografije, dopune, HQ mp3 doprinos (bilo bi lijepo čuti Ove sezone vedri tonovi!) i slično… su dobrodošli.
Provodim dane u parku nekom, u drugi grad otplivam rekom tu spavam u potkrovlju slepom, rano uveče i posle još
“Došla su tako neka vremena” (La strada)
Novi Sad, the capital city of Vojvodina (at the time autonomous region in the north of Socialist Republic of Serbia) was a multi-cultural micro-center for new wave happenings. As with any other blog post about the ex-YU city “scenes”, this one starts with a domestic punk band too.
Pekinška patka (1978 – 81) was at the same time the first Serbian (or as their singer likes to point out as an illustration – the very first punk band from Christian Orthodox cultural setting). A lot of punk-rock scholars and fans around the world hold their debut album (at least one year late in production) “Plitka poezija” LP (1980) in high regard. It’s an example of entertaining punk with catchy hooks and exactly because of that melodic aspect Pekinška patka can be regarded as an authentic case globally. By the way, their singer Čonkić (Čonta) was a high-school professor at the time! Weirdos.
In Novi Sad there were quite a lot punk bands (Gomila G*, Crkveni pacovi*, Rafal*, Armija Spasa*, Van kontrole*, Dva minuta mržnje, Vrisak generacije, Fluorel Tačkaš*… ) of all varieties stretching the old school punk-rock tag over street-punk/Oi and later throughout whole decade over various versions* of hard-core punk. Looking back (from safe distance) it seems that Novi Sad was also capital city of street-punk/Oi in ex-YU. Obvious pick of the litter would be Dva minuta mržnje (studio demo ’84).
Pekinška patka II (1980 – 81) is yet another example of fairly successful transformation into post-punk band (quite tight instrumentally). However, Čonta’s changed persona hovering above in darker circumstances can grate my oversensitive ears on few songs. It took me years (even decades) to get accustomed. One can have impression that the second album came too soon (with obvious post-punk influences and ideas brought in with new guitarist Bulatović barely toned down) or that Pekinška patka were losing the steam towards the end. That said, I prefer “Strah od monotonije” LP (1981) nowadays.
Original guitarist/sax player of Pekinška patka left the band before completion of their second album to join newly formed young ska-punk band Kontraritam (1980-82). Thanks to exceptional rhythm section Kontraritam could easily bring it on in concert. Lucky kids with happy feet.
New wave / power-pop bands of note in Novi Sad were Pop art* (officially undocumented) and Fotomodel (with a single put out by Jugodisk).
New wave circus rock troupe Laboratorija zvuka hailed from Novi Sad too. They were often novelty guests on ex-YU TV channels playing upbeat songs specifically arranged for children or, at the other side of spectrum, they were offering lascivious tunes for adult public. “Laboratory of Sound” caravan traveled across the country quite a lot. They even had conceptual performance abroad in London at some point in mid-decade.
New wave art project La strada (1979 – 81) led by Slobodan Tišma ended prematurely with formation of Luna. From this early phase they left behind two studio songs recorded in 1980.
Luna (1981 – 84) put out only one post-punk / dark-wave album and then (acrimoniously) split up before LP even appeared in the stores. Group of distinct individuals – great drummer Fece aka Firči (would become part of EKV (Belgrade) gang soon), excellent guitarist Bulatović aka Bale (ex Pekinška patka II), cohesive organ/synth player Mitrušić aka Mina & peculiar poet Tišma (ex La strada; here as stressed-out vocalist on the verge of mental breakdown) – barely managed to keep Luna together to document their intense existence. Film noir scenario! Perhaps presence of bass player would have pushed “Nestvarne stvari” LP to an even higher level… Well, I am being fussy here because this album really is awesome as it turned out. I might be emotionally more involved with Obojeni program and Boye but regarding the post-punk time frame “Nestvarne stvari” (Helidon, 1984) is picked as the centerpiece album from Novi Sad. Recorded in autumn of 1983 it would fit perfectly in early 4AD portfolio of bands (Bauhaus, Birthday Party, Mass, Modern English, Xmal Deutschland, Wolfgang Press) closing the post-punk years of said esteemed label with a record license from Helidon label.
Luna – Nestvarne stvari (1984) – definitive post-punk album from Novi Sad
Luna sank in Danube to be washed ashore (think of some secluded river inlet overgrown with sedge rather than right between sun bathers on Štrand in summer time) as La strada II (1984 – 8?) again. Tišma kept on cooperation with Luna synth player Mina and invited Kontraritam dudes for reformed version of La strada. They recorded eponymous album in 1986 (or was it really Live Aid summer ’85?). It was pressed in even less copies than “Nestvarne stvari” by Luna. La strada were moving away from new-wave / post-punk templates towards literate guitar pop-rock (and 1960s influences). In my opinion Tišma’s vocal performance on La strada suits him better than his attempts at singing on “Nestvarne stvari”. On “La strada” (M produkcija RNS, 1987) album Tišma seemed to be more relaxed although he was unsatisfied with the end results. His brooding voice evokes (Slavonic) melancholia of river plains pretty well. In the flat field people do get bored.
Grad (1981-82) was short-lived post-punk band (DAF, Joy Divison / New Order) interested in synths and cold electronic sounds coming out of Germany.
Boye (1981 – 199?) Enough!!! Enough of street-punk boot-boy bravado! Make space for girls to rock out freely or just dance and play modern pop songs. Or whatever they like to call their style. The Raincoats and Kleenex/Lilliput … might have left an impression on girls from Novi Sad. Boye recorded two excellent albums “Dosta! Dosta! Dosta!” (PGP RTB, 1988) and “’78” (Search & Enjoy, 1990) in succession that were preceded with plenty of tentative synth-pop/post-punk demo steps around Jugoton contract. Allegedly they had enough recorded material for an album even as early as 1984.
Obojeni program (1980 – ) are indeed rock institution from Novi Sad today. Who would say. They formed in the early 1980s, finally recorded debut LP as late as 1990 for newly established indie label “Search & Enjoy” from Zagreb and… remained present. People often find Branislav Babić Kebra’s piercing vocal a required taste but to me he sounds just perfect. Band’s fascination with M.E. Smith & the fall might be constant although not directly evident in their music. I am not sure if Obojeni program were ever captured on tape before unavoidable mid-1980s hiatus (JNA). Allegedly their early years were characterized by punk-funk sound. They continued live activities in 1985/86 with revolving membership and for a couple of years band existed as drum/bass/vocal trio. At the tail end of the decade Obojeni program would find balance with new guitarist and record long-waited first album together with Dušan Kojić – Koja (Disciplina kičme, Beograd) as producer. “Najvažnije je biti zdrav” LP (1990) is legendary around these parts.
Cult postpunk band Ove sezone vedri tonovi (1981 – 83) even appeared at YURM ’82 festival in Zagreb. Velvet Underground, This Heat and RIO bands are usually mentioned as possible influences or just OSVT’s affiliation. It seems that they disappeared without the recorded evidence of existence. Few OSVT members continued with free form avant-garde group Cirko della primavera** in the second half of the decade. Low budget avant cassette label Nikad Robom originated from this group of forward (or outward) looking folk. As a side note, Đorđe Delibašić – Đoka, member of the collective, recorded SexA’s noise-rock album in Novi Sad in 1990.
According to the book “Novosadska punk verzija”Armija kontrasta ltd* were short-lived post-punk band with rhythm-machine.
Neon vojnik* (ex Crkveni pacovi), Krik maske* and Skice* (ex Linija otpora) shared common love of Killing Joke at the different time frames and probably in a slightly different way. Judging by track “Grobar” solely Neon vojnik really had something to offer. After all, Killing Joke used to be popular with UK ’82 street punks and anarcho crowds as well. Do you remember Blitz (UK) boys and their excursion into post-punk waters on their second full length album?
Mitar Subotić aka Rex Ilusivii was an experimental electronic musician and producer.
Art-rock white-funk synth-pop romantics of Novi Sad were called Heroina. Frontman Petar Janjetov is esteemed artist / comics author today. At the time of recording their only album “Heroina” (1985) they had to replace departed drummer with a drum machine. It is somewhat reminiscent of Roxy Music, Boa (Zagreb) or Gang of 4 (during “Hard”). One can easily find couple of attractive songs (nice guitar playing) while in the heart-broken mood.
Ponoćni kauboj* were rock band (with brass section) from the second half of the decade. Perhaps they realized that in “punk-rock” the part that really matters belongs to “-rock”. The only one track I’ve heard by them reminded me of Električni orgazam (Belgrade) and their own R’n’R transformation.
Hip-hop punk rockers Atheist Rap surfaced out of the hard-core punk scene in 1989 and reigned over Novi Sad (and beyond) in oncoming decades. Street-punk/Oi and hard-core in general gained momentum around that time and you get first studio recorded material by Vrisak generacije (Oi punk), Ritam nereda (Oi punk), Mr. Joint (Oi punk/HC), Kapetan Leshi (hard-core), Generacija bez budućnosti (hard-core), KNO / Invalidi uma (hard-core)…
* scarce info about these bands gathered from “Novosadska punk verzija” book
Vol II: RI-Rock or Rock & Pop Music in Rijeka in the 1980s
Rijeka is the largest port city in the bay of Kvarner in the Northern Adriatic. It is (was) famous for its shipyards and quite tall soc-realist skyscrapers built on steep rocks looming above the narrow strip of land where the city center has been squeezed. Rijeka has nothing in common with capital city of Zagreb bar couple of edifices left after Austrian/Hungarian rule over the land. Rijeka used to have more punk rock bands per square km than any place in Croatia, closely following Ljubljana in whole ex-YU. The prevailing spirit of this city was closer to confrontational brand of punk rock played by teenagers crazy enough to raise hell and challenge (actually just tease) questionable communist morality and ethics along the way. Due to geographical position they gravitated more towards leading ahead Ljubljana (Slovenia) than to Zagreb. In addition, Rijeka had a very important focal point in ‘svengali’ figure Goran Lisica Fox, at the time just few years older than an average teenage punk. He was helpful in steering the collective energy towards some artistic goal (in post-punk sense) or eventual record label deal. Later on he founded Dallas Records, a small independent label of sorts.
As the story goes, the first punk band in Rijeka, Croatia (and perhaps Yugoslavia; depending on point of view) was Paraf, a brainchild of teenager Valter Kocijančić. After having read news about thing called ‘punk’ in imported music papers (NME) he decided to form the very first YU punk band. The whole 1977 was spent mostly in the garage and the first official appearance of Paraf happened early in 1978. Their late debut LP “A dan je tako lijepo počeo…” (1980) was recorded with borrowed instruments at the time when band was going through the changes. The guitar tracks were mixed too low which brought extra disappointment. Anyhow, punk rock mission accomplished, mischievous front-man left to finish his studies and become teacher. The band transformed into Paraf II (~ Siouxsie and the Banshees) with significant line-up change & persevered as genuine post-punk band during the first half of the 1980s.
Unlike situation in Zagreb with very weak punk response, there were more late 70s punk bands of note in Paraf’s tow (Zadnji, Termiti, Protest, Mrtvi Kanal, KAOS etc.) in Rijeka.
Termiti (1978 – 1982) were only band from the first bunch of city punks that had enough recorded material for a long play record in the beginning of 1980s. Their sound was from the start enriched by little electric organ with 60’s overtones and the songwriting became more complex at the end. Stage antics aside, punk concerts (performances) by Termiti were pretty wild.
Istočni izlaz (1979 – 81) were high-school punk-rockers with clean-looking mod aspirations. Think of the Jam.
Actually Rijeka had all sorts of bands to offer. Hard-core punk, neither of UK ’82 nor US ’81 variety, didn’t catch on in the 1980s. After the initial punk-rock outbursts from almost every part of the city, Rijeka got veiled in dark-wave gloom. Art decade.
The next record “Izleti” (1981) by Paraf II (1981 – 87) is an exceptional album for the time and place although somewhat patched with silly/playful filler/arrangements. Singer Vim Cola was still trying to find her voice as a young woman in punk. One of their better songs ever called (Državni) Praznik and recorded during LP studio sessions, didn’t appear on the album in the end. Censored? Follow-up album “Zastave” (1984), Paraf’s final release, is indeed Croatian (and ex-YU) dark-wave masterpiece and a definitive (centerpiece) album from Rijeka – a tattered flag of bygone revolutions attached to some rusty flagpole in the remotest city corner, waving in a heavily scented spring breeze to attention of very few outside the inner punk rock circle. It was issued by (adventurous) Helidon record label from Slovenia. At that time a lot of young bands around the world were preoccupied with the ideas about totalitarian society par excellence and/or imminent nuclear wipe-out, wrapped up in a typically adolescent (and self-induced) Cold War paranoia. The small-scale war would happen soon enough though. This captivating album could have been one of the warning dreams.
Paraf – Zastave (1984) – a definitive (postpunk) album from Rijeka
Mrtvi kanal (1979 – 1983) were second best post-punk band in town early on. They stood out of the punk crowd even with the casual first glance due to long-haired accordionist / synth player in the mature line-up. At their last stage, as late as 1983, this bizarre looking group managed to record seven energetic and provocative songs under the Stranglers or Joy Division spell. The recordings were put out on a split tape shared with their comrades Grč. “Mrtvi kanal / Grč” (1983) would be one of the first independently released cassettes on Slovenian label Galerija ŠKUC izdaja, and for sure the first one for a band from Croatia.
Grč I (1982 – 87) evolved in a rabid beast of a band gradually. Early period captured on the previously mentioned cassette presented them as politically charged followers of Pere Ubu, sort of similar to SexA in sound but less arty and more sinister. Over the period of few years they grew heavy body and became scary axe swinging Goths who favoured razor sharp Killing Joke sound (when KJ themselves were going through troubled synth-pop phase!). In a way they shared (confrontational) interests and subject matter with Trobecove krušne peći (Zagreb) too. Recent vinyl reissue of “Sloboda narodu” (1987/2016) is highly recommended. Grč were type of Goths leaving unsavory odor of sweat and stench of carcass after them, not patchouli scent. They were also into pretentious rock performances so common in Rijeka. Truly remarkable sound thou.
KAOS (1979 – 1984) also brought forth two distinct appearing forms: early punk-rock lasting up to ’81 and then synth-punk (1982 – 84). Unwanted loss of drummer worked well for them eventually. The best songs by KAOS are based on rhythm-machine matrix. Dorotea (another exceptional female punk vocalist) reminded of Nina Hagen a bit because of her high-pitched warble. KAOS’s later phase (issued on CD recently) is highly recommended.
Ogledala (ex Istočni izlaz, Kum) (1982 – 87) were brokenhearted young men with healthy power pop instincts and origins in mod-punk band Istočni izlaz. Their direct lyrical expression matched with grandiose and spacey arrangements (Echo & the Bunnymen / U2 / Simple Minds) that included synth, was very close to being over the top. They wore their hearts on their sleeves (instead of zips, chains and badges). Material recorded in 1984 in Ljubljana for potential album that never materialized (unearthed in 2008 for a CD issue) shows fine ideas gone in unpleasant direction sound-wise in the studio (bloody big drum sound!). If they had stayed closer to their live sound it would sound much better today, less pompous at least. It seems that Ogledala often got carried away while daydreaming. Dreams are free, motherfuckers! Excellent drummer, by the way.
Quiet (and quite depressive) new-wave rock band Konjak (1981 – 85) existed on the margins of the city scene until the lead guitarist/singer joined Paraf II and broke up the band for good. They left interesting demo tracks behind (mainly recorded in 1982). Konjak preferred dry (guitar) sound and bare bones rock arrangements. Might have been influenced by Azra a little bit.
Umjetnici ulice (1982 – 83) were balancing between punk rock and new wave while their passionate singer tried to steal the show. He continued his now decades long artistic career with dark-wave group Let 2 (1984 – 86). Let 2 lasted few years as rock spinoff of electronic experimental performance group Strukturne ptice (1982 – 87). In the end they managed to overshadow Strukturne ptice with activity and became a warming up platform for Let 3.
Idejninemiri (1982 – 88) transformed from anything goes punk-rock to an average pop-rock band after collective hiatus (traumatic experience in JNA?).
Fit (1982 – 91) also started early in the decade and went through few developmental phases: from punk-rock beginnings over mid-1980s dark alt rock (usually connected with the likes of Echo & the Bunnymen or U2) to EKV (Belgrade) sisterhood. It resulted with PGP RTB record contract and debut album (Goth-rock; Cult, Mission) produced by EKV boss Milan Mladenović.
Other groups in Rijeka that shared EKV art-rock visions to some extent were Grad and Laufer.
Demo part of the scene in the mid-1980s was captured on independently released VA record “Rijeka – Paris – Texas” (1987) showing the sugarcoated pop melody on the rise. Some of them participants eventually managed to release belated debut LPs and the best one, without any doubt, was by Let 3.
Let 3 (1987 – ) might stand for the third attempt for successful flight. They really did it their way despite having their flight feathers dirty with resin and blackened with tar. As original Grč guitarist joined the group they succeeded the title of Croatian Killing Joke with the difference that Let 3 really ended up mainly as surrealist jokers. The dark and psychedelic phase of Let 3 was short lived compared to circus rock career that followed. They have been into cross-dressing, surrealist exhibitionism & most importantly into Rock Theater as a way of life since then. “Two Dogs Fuckin’” (1989) is a brilliant record thou – as shameless and disturbing as two shabby dogs mating in the middle of Korzo promenade.
Power-pop group with older and experienced musicians with Jugoton record contract and better connections in Zagreb were Xenia (1981 – 85). The first single & “Kad nedjelja prođe” LP (1983) are well crafted new wave influenced pop rock records.
Synth pop duo Denis & Denis (1982 – 1986) gained popularity throughout the whole ex YU thanks to strong voice and sensual sighs of female singer. Their early hits like Program tvog kompjutera or Soba 23 are on par with commercial UK synth pop. Minimal synth demos recorded in 1982-83 are a bit closer to post-punk spirit though.
Pioneering all girl pop-rock band Cacadou (Look) (1983 – 91) might have had hearts in the right place in the beginning but producers slicked their sound on debut LP too much. Too bad.
Industrial rock band Transmisia (1987 – 9?) (Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Killing Joke, Big Black) and post HC noise rockers Regoč appeared on the scene at the end of decade but their debut records would see the light of day in another decade and other countries (Italia, USA, Slovenia) altogether.
Don’t Look Back vol. II: Rijeka (1-2-ex-YU!!)
Paraf – Reforma školstva (’78) – radio session
Istočni izlaz ( w / V. Kocijančić) – Plava koverta (’79) – radio session
Paraf – Visoki propisi (’80)
Termiti – Mama, s razlogom se brineš (’80)
Paraf II – Državni praznik (’81)
Termiti – Kišni razdraganci (’81)
KAOS – Samo prvom klasom (’82)
Konjak – Pretežno vedro (’82) – demo
Grč – Ja imam pasoš (’83)
Mrtvi kanal – U ludnicu (’83)
KAOS – Roboti (’83)
Denis & Denis – 28 minuta do 5 (’83) – demo version