On their third album, in the face of yet more line-up interferences, Zagreb’s auto-bio-core quartet sets out for a pilgrimage of sorts, fathoming out the heart and soul of their music through inspection of references and reflections. Come along, immerse your ears in their revelations! (Geenger Records)
Lottery Score pt. 1
Babies Are Born
Gentlemen In Lingerie
Sooner Or Later
Lottery Score pt. 2
I saw (The) Lesser Men playing short set before The Membranes / Mark Lanegan Band last November. Their music (in which keyboard player is the lead) filled the empty venue and kicked my ass (almost like Simple Minds; which isn’t correct reference, by the way). Yet it made me jump on my feet and get closer to the stage. The sparkle in the night. Southeast at Easter ’18. That sort of revelatory stuff.
ESC Life is a quartet from Zagreb, Croatia, fixated on loud guitars, solos, fast rhythms and pop songs. Heavily influenced by power-pop and punk rock giants like Descendents, Nova Mob, The Hold Steady or Superchunk, they play with cliches of popular music of the 20th and 21st century, but never ironically. “Born To Be Mild” is filled with witty, fast and catchy indie rock tunes about life after 30, love and adulthood!
Say You Will
Fill The Void
Close Without Banging
Born To Be Mild
My hat’s off to you, Zagreb’s premier indie rockers! (škrlak)
Shortparis come from Saint Petersburg (via Novokuznetsk, Siberia). They have the appearance of being on a serious mission. For the first seasonal (autumnal) concert which I saw in the series of concerts at the end of September and during October Shortparis set the bar very high. Fantastic! Shortparis are (already) masterful in the art of performance. They play genuine (Electro) Body Music which defies past & present pop categories. The live show became too physical at some point. It seemed so exhausting even to watch that I wished for more synth sounds / fat techno beats & less manic dancing and body movements. Amazing. Shortparis are scary as well.
Monday 30.09., KSET
Pile are modest rock band (in Capt. Beefheart tradition lately) from Boston. Their earnest songs (from couple of albums that I listened to) don’t stick in my head for some reason but I was curious enough to check them live. They were great in concert. At first I had bizarre sensation of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like I am too old. Pile didn’t disappoint thou. And I was glad in the end. New album “Green and Gray” is pretty good, especially after repeated listening.
BLACK MIDI (England), NEON LIES (Zagreb, HR)
Wednesday 02.10., Močvara
Unlike other sparsely attended concert dates in October, Močvara was packed for Black MIDI. What the fuck!? Boys were great – a tight young band with a great drummer and three reluctant vocalists – the main one mumbles nonsense, the other whispers and the third one shrieks occasionally. Black MIDI were announced like next big thing in Britain but for me personally it’s enough that they are excellent at what they do. It does not bother me that their mixture of styles is not so new. There were many American bands that played similar variants of math-rock / post-rock throughout the whole 1990s and beyond. Good news is that Black MIDI’s angularity is musical, it’s not a mere exercise in sudden breaks, complex rhythm patterns and shouting out. Surprisingly, I like art pop production (Euro touches) of the debut album despite the fact that the role of their excellent drummer was pushed too far in the background for my taste. Was too tired to be focused during crowded concert. Let the younger generations (they were present in public) have Black MIDI. I had enough.
Neon Lies synth alter ego of Goran Lautar was great.
Monday 07.10., Močvara
Had they visited Zagreb during legendary Euro Tour ’89 perhaps more people would come to greet them 30 years later. Even Girls vs. Boys pedigree didn’t help. Anyhow, Soulside played old songs in style. It sounded good (and they looked very vital). But my feet were heavy and my mind was somewhere else for some reason. I loved Soulside music in my late teens and early twenties. “Hot Body-Gram” LP still holds up. It is one of the best records from the late 1980s Dischord catalog.
Wednesday 09.10., Vintage Industrial
OK, this was a psych performance art by psychedelic rock band gone digital / minimal. Different clothes, new approaches. Transvestite style. Föllakzoid presented their latest album in entirety. Stuff that Wire magazine could like. I might check their early albums someday. Missed their concert few years ago.
TUDÓSOK (Hungary), ŽBLJ MOZAIK (Samobor, HR)
Tuesday 15.10., Močvara
Lured by jazz-punk promises and bright colors I came to see them. My fondness for Central / Eastern Europe had a role in deciding too. I didn’t even hear of Tudósok before the concert although they are a cultural institution from Budapest with roots in the 1980s Novi Sad. Shame on me! The attendance was very sad once again (cca. 25 souls) but the band can be joyful with or without their loyal public. They made my day and couple of following days as well. Truly uplifting experience of the very first order. I’ve been enlisted right there on the spot by bleating saxophones. Now I am a fan.
Žblj mozaik guitar & drums duo from Samobor provided short, fast & nice intro.
Wednesday 16.10., Močvara
One more astounding concert that reached Shortparis at the level of intensity and artistic focus. Great psychedelic metalheads Ufomammut sound better live than on records. Tender psychedelic intro disarmed me immediately. Psychosis inducing video slides in the background, perfectly synchronized with heavy metal riffs, were great visual distraction. Ufomammut really proved to be mighty power-trio. But I was simply tired if not doomed. Had to sit on the bench by the bar like an old person with wobbly legs. My very regular biorhythm is not fit for late hours entertainment. Ufomammut’s latest studio album “8” is my favorite one.
ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE (Japan)
Wednesday 30.10., Tvornica kulture
As expected, Acid Mothers Temple delivered an excellent concert. I enjoyed it although I am not familiar with their music (albums). AMT hyperactive drummer reminded me of Amon Düül II’s Peter Leopold in style which is a compliment, of course. Hawkwind synth sounds burdened few songs here and there and I wished for a different pattern. Side effects of general tiredness swept me over and my naturally psychedelic mind got trapped in my painful body. Qi doesn’t flow freely up and down my spine anymore. But it will.
v.a. Zagreb [1986-90] vol II: Art [ethnic forgeries, avant pop, free jazz, jazz pop, art rock, noise rock, pop rock]
*subject to change*
Brojani (1985 – 1987)
Srđan Sacher’s main band after he had left Haustor. The first version of Brojani were Haustor rhythm section (Sacher & Gulić) with Nebojša Stijačić (band leader of Cinkuši) as guitarist. The second version split up in two directions / groups: Waitapu and Vještice.
Cul-de-Sac I (1986 – 1991)
Free improvisation group founded by late Dragan Pajić (guitar) and Damir Prica (sax; ex Haustor, ex Tkp) with a revolving door of musicians from Zagreb. By the 1991 they recorded few cassettes and one of them was “The End Of The World And Other Songs (Including Hit Single)” issued by FV založba in 1989. The Zagreb-Amsterdam-Zagreb anthology (1987-2006) titled “L’Equipe Extraordinaire” (2xLP) has been issued through Dirty Old Label this year. Rhythm & sound (noise) for cleansing mind & soul.
Other Songs (Including Hit Single)
The End Of The World
Dee Dee Mellow (1987-1989)
Jazzy trip initiated by Jurij Novoselić (alt sax; ex Film) and then fully realized with Srđan Sacher (bass player; ex Haustor) and Srđan Gulić (drummer; ex Haustor). Their repertoire consisted of jazz standards covers, reinterpretation of world music songbook and few original songs. FV založba opened collaboration with new bands on Zagreb’s “scene” with Dee Dee Mellow “Live” (1988) tape. Working in parallel with other bands, sax player and drummer joined Disciplina kičme (Belgrade) while bassist left his band Brojani to dedicate more time in newly formed Vještice.
Dee Dee Mellow
Kruha i jogurta
Ozo spi (cover of Hungarian folk song)
Waldorf (mid 1980s – 1990)
Kindergarten funk mixed with white noise or something like that? Regression into unbridled childhood? Don’t know yet. Various Artists “Ča je život vengo fantažija” (Search & Enjoy, tape, 1994) would help but it’s not at my disposal. Waldorf participated at YURM ’85 festival.
Sin Albert (1985-1990)
Some sort of arty rock band with post-punk foundations fronted by guitarist Daniel Šuljić. Before breaking up they recorded few songs in the studio which were issued by “Search & Enjoy”, new independent publisher in town. Sin Albert are dry sounding and swift but somehow tired too on their eponymous debut. It does sound like they are singing themselves to sleep through Velvet Underground lazy vibes but one can discern kinetic potential locked in. I should hear samples from their earlier work to get a better picture.
Sin Albert – Sin Albert (1990) 7″ EP
Ja želim čuti
Tri mala dodira
Short-lived post-punk band comprised of two bass players and a drummer. They hardly left their rehearsal space in 1989. However, the members were present on the fluctuating “scene” before and after Boxer. Bassist Josip Suić joined Phantasmagoria and Svadbas, drummer/vocalist Robert Bušić (ex Sin Albert) later played with Brujači and Kojoti & bassist/vocalist Hrvoje Crnić collaborated with performance group Montažstroj and soon started to compose music for theater/film. Boxer managed to record few demo songs during their brief existence which I quite like so here they are – tracks from the attic:
The House Painters (mid 1980s – 1990)
Funkified art-rock or just modern pop band. Don’t judge them by cassette cover. The House Painters don’t sound like The Smiths. Talking Heads were one of the starting points regarding their possible influences. More I listen to The House Painters more I like ’em, especially guitar parts. The vocals are too high in the mix for my own aural pleasure but what the heck. “Music For Leopold IV” tape in format of an imaginary mini-LP:
A side: SIM Studio ’87
Paint The World
B side: TROOLY Studio ’89
I Woke Up In A World Of Light
Waitapu (1987 – 1990)
Waitapu, led by guitarist Hrvoje Danilović, continued creating and refining sophisticated pop music influenced by reggae & afro-pop from the point where his previous band Brojani arrived at. They did record studio material but being a perfectionist, the guitarist destroyed all the master tapes. So the story goes… I am intrigued.
SexA II (1988 – 1991)
Lustful noise-rock boars on the prowl – live in Galerija SC on a lovely late spring evening. Tender mating calls (with the occasional grunts) in the din of thick sounding electric guitar. “No Sleep ‘Till Pussy / Fuck Piction” vinyl debut was issued by Idle Valley / FV Založba at the same time as release of this tape.
Vještice (1987 – 1996)
Three-headed band comprised of members from Azra (drummer Leiner), Film (guitarist Juričić) and Haustor (bassist Sacher) moving up and towards the light, and out of the blind alley via recording deal with a “major” label. In 1989 Jugoton issued their debut album “Totalno drukčiji od drugih” – distillation of world music / folk / ethno influences into optimistic pop-rock which appealed to a larger audience. Small independent publisher from Osijek “Plavi pilot” somehow managed to release their second album “Bez tišine!”. Remain in light!
Cul-de-Sac’s music is based on improvisation, with elements of free improvised music, free jazz, noise, avant rock, electronica and contemporary music. Sometimes it is structured and very often it is completely improvised.
Cul-de-Sac was formed by Dragan Pajić – Pajo (el. guitar, effects) and Damir Prica Kafka – Capri (reeds, keyboard) in 1986 in Zagreb. The first line up included Predrag Dubravčić (drums) and Nino Markovac (bass). From 1987 to 1991 the group was joined by Igor Pavlica (trumpet), Neven Jurić – Nenchi (f. horn), Mario Barišin – Bara (bass), Ivan Marušić – Klif (drums), Darko Rundek (bass, effects) and Nikola Santro (trombone). Visual artists Nicole Hewitt and a little later Nikola Vincelj – Jinks worked with Cul-de-Sac, Hewitt producing posters and tape covers, and Jinks creating slides, posters, tape and CD covers.
During that period Cul-de-Sac published few audio cassete tapes and made the soundtracks for Nicole Hewitt’s films “Herman’s Burden” and “Notes of continuity”, and for two of Boris Matas’ films “Mr. Elliott trip” and “Transplanta”; as well as collaborating on projects with D.B Indoš House of Extreme Music and the contemporary dance group Gesta.
Cul-de-Sac performed concerts in Zagreb, Belgrade, Ljubljana, Copenhagen and Berlin. The last performance of the original line up took place in June 1991 on the balcony of the skyscraper on the main square in Zagreb. A few months later war broke out in the former Yugoslavia.
From 1993 to 2000 Cul-de-Sac worked in Amsterdam and played in a formation of duo or trio with Ivan Marušić – Klif (drums), and Andreja Košavić (vocals, trumpet), as well collaborating with Nikola Vincelj – Jinks who created posters and covers for CDs and slide shows for the gigs. At this time Cul-de-Sac became part of the improvised and experimental music scene in Amsterdam and played in clubs and venues like :“OCCII”, “Villa Omval”, “Dijk Theater”, “Gallery W 139”, “Vrij media cafe”, “Entrepotdok”, “Zaal 100” and in the squat “Tacheles” in Berlin (1993).
After his return to Zagreb in 2000, Pajo and the long term members of the group got together with a younger generation of musicians and Cul-de-Sac evolved into a large collective Cul-de-Sac Accelerated Evolution Orchestra, including sometimes up to 20 musicians. In recent years the Orchestra has performed at the No Jazz festival Žedno uho and the festival of Contemporary music Showroom of Contemporary Sound in Zagreb, as well as performing in Austria (Klagenfurt), Bosnia (Sarajevo Winter Festival), Macedonia (Prilep Jazz Weekend 2015 and Gevgelija Bosh Festival) and Serbia (31st Belgrade Jazz Festival).
Dragan Pajić – Pajo died on the 23rd of February 2014. Pajo was one of the first improvising musicians in the region. His musical influence on the experimental and improvised music scene is great, and he has left behind himself a large musical legacy.
Cul-de-Sac Accelerated Evolution Orchestra has continued playing after Pajo’s early demise as nonet.
Te večeri spika nam je bila malo bezveze
Bio je to više strah od šutnje
Rastali smo se ispred kućnog broja 8
Najduže ulice u našem gradu
Krenuo sam kroz pasaž, čitaonica Britanskog konzulata bila je zatvorena
Dvorišna zgrada, KUD Pavao Markovac, scenska grupa, događanja
Mračno, memljivo i erotski vlažno
I glas Nade Subotić s prvog kata:”Hajde, idi, kreni”
Ali kuda, kamo, kuda
Kad je sve oko mene
Kad je oko mene sve
Halo!? Centar za krizna stanja?
Koga sam dobio? Sestru Margaretu?
Kako što mi je? Pa ja sam u slijepoj ulici!
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)