Well, obviously Unsane cannot be killed easily. They are like the city pest they summoned for the previous album “Wreck” (2012). Impossible to shake them off and get rid of them. And there’s no reason for that because Unsane excelled on “Sterilize”. Alongside self-titled debut (1991) and “Scattered, Smothered & Covered” (1995) this would be my favorite Unsane album.
Electric Wizard surprised me as well. I was bored with sprawling tedium of “Time to Die” (2014) and almost wrote them off. I was wrong. “Wizard Bloody Wizard” is brief and lean appearance for Electric Wizard standards, and indifferently evil as always. In the meantime I’ve also realized that I like Electric Wizard more than Sleep. I am especially fond of the second line-up with Lady Buckingham as additional guitarist.
(lately I’ve been reading the Red Riding 1974-1977-1980-1983 Quartet by David Peace, and although the background soundtrack for “1980” is comprised of Throbbing Gristle, Joy Division, A Certain Ratio, The Pop Group, Cabaret Voltaire, Whitehouse etc., these two recent bloody albums have similar impact on my twitching nerves)
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
Sve češće se spominju Gnod – free form rock kolektiv iz Manchestera (Salford). Ne, ne sviđa mi se baš cover art, ali je privukao pažnju. Gnod muzika se pak u potpunosti uklapa u soundtrack ove blog kolumne. Gnod – triple repetition psych noiseniks on fire. Comfort food (for thought). “Stick in the Wheel” ~ the Ex w / David Byrne kanalizirani kroz mentalne smetnje i rhythm & (white) noise.
Ne Ne Ne, sve što uvek volim reći jeste Ne Ne Ne!!!
Sag Nein / Nein Nein Nein / Negativ Nein / Das Leben ist nicht bunt / Geballt gehen wir zugrunde / Sag Nein / Nein Nein Nein / Negativ Nein / Doppelnein / Drei mal Nein / Aber Nein / Nein Nein Nein / Sag Nein / Nein Nein Nein / Negativ Nein / Sag Nein / Negativ Nein / Asyl-Exil / Hier nicht und da nicht / Frag mich nicht ich weiss es auch nicht / Aber Nein / Nein Nein Nein / Aber Nein / Hauptsache negativ Nein / Negativ Nein / Mit einem Schrei geht es zugrunde / Mit meinem Schrei / Sag Nein / Sag negativ Nein.
Noise-rock prepad na rastrzani sredovječni živčani sustav! “Why Love Now” je usprkos agresivnoj nasrtljivosti na površini ipak fino strukturiran album i nadilazi prosječnost nekog novijeg uratka utemeljenog na odavno shematiziranom američkom standardu gitarističke buke. Jedan od glavnih uvjeta da uopće zadržim polusatnu pažnju u dotičnom žanrovskom odjeljku rock glazbe bio bi da NE čujem the Jesus Lizard kombinacije pretjerano ili nedajbože Shellac minimalističke dekonstrukcije (što bi bilo još problematičnije). Toliko sam oguglao na dobro poznati format da na Pissed Jeans nisam odreagirao promptno tj. nisam ih imao želje provjeriti kada se potpisivanjem za SUB POP etiketu globalno pronio prvi glas. Kriva procjena! Naprotiv, ne samo da je iznenađujući Ginn/Black Flag utjecaj na gitarista izvrsno uklopljen već i (besposleni) vokalist ima sasvim dovoljno tragikomičnih frustracija i situacija za podijeliti sa slušateljstvom. Recimo da asocira na nećaka Michaela Geralda (Killdozer) kojeg krasi i pripovjedački talent “ujca” (American grotesque after Gerald!). Pissed Jeans predstavljaju rijedak primjer recentnog banda koji me je zadivio i inspirativnom bujicom riječi (poput Protomartyr u njihovom neopostpunk miljeu) kao i umjereno prljavim zvukom kontrolirane buke. Uniđi pod korporativni krov (u slučaju RH to je najčešće kvazi-korporativna mediteransko-balkanska verzija istog) i ostavi dušu na ulazu. Budi kuš i budi tup. Vrišti! (kada nitko ne vidi i ne čuje). Sve je pod nadzorom. HaHaHahahaaaa…
Ah. Grow up, Teenage RnR Adult! Grow up and die off.
Sex, I mean funk, is almost gone. A bit of dull pain remains. Can’t dance it all away.
I’ve managed to catch Trobecove krušne peći in concert only once since they have started playing live again in recent years. They were OK then. At this moment, or as captured on “Ether”, Trobecove krušne peći sound significantly better. I am pleasantly surprised.
Actually, the band never really disappeared into thin air. The spirit of Trobec (-ove krušne peći) was in the ether all the time, whether transformed in short lived Alpski rudar, or just buzzing around as Brujači during the 1990s, or for a brief period in time in the 2000s as seductively stylish Viva Glorio. It seems to me that minimal elements for keeping said haunting spectre active would be the throb of Bara’s bass playing and Bega’s vocal vitriol – ethereal energy of this creative bond has always been enough to attract all other dissipated band players and friends.
For those of you who are not familiar, Trobecove krušne peći are a sort of avant noise-rock band (with post-punk origins) but not the type with electric guitar in a role of lead instrument. Their newest recording “Ether” can be presented as an update of successful combination of the TKP studio album from ’85 & the live tape from ’87. In current incarnation all the instrumentalists – bassist Barišin, guitarist Vinski and (welcome) sax player Prica – compete for the space or coexist in the void above steady rock rhythm of drummer Dorvak. The songs mainly follow the tension building pattern without cathartic release in sight (or hearing range) apart from arresting sax squeals, slightly more dominant guitar parts or/and propulsive bass playing that can interchangeably bear elusive liberating role for a moment or two. Frontman Begić is in a dour mood from the very start. However, this time (or just for the LP song selection) his vocals are under control. With mature coolness that doesn’t allow straying into chaotic roar, Begić’s voice simply commands in mean monotone hovering above the simmering band. Black bile put into words and loudly pronounced may even have the therapeutic cleansing effect if one is in appropriate contemplative mood (for example pacing back and forth around an empty and cold apartment while music is playing, warming up the chilly air). The angry and bitter allure might pull you inside the vortex and then let you drift along with the tempo of music. It does soothe my soul, my unending case history. The truth is cruel. It hurts. Like that heavily prostituted word “love”. Take it in and spit it out. Once the record stops spinning, the ominous silence stays hanging there for a while. It can’t leave the room easily. Certainly this album is not a perfect present for the weak of heart or for those with short attention span or penchant for cheerful sing-alongs. Why do I like it. Am I just a masochist? A sadist!? Perhaps both!!
Potential foreign listeners that don’t understand Croatian language will definitely miss out an important TKP aspect. Nevertheless, the rhythm / sound of music, enriched with harsh Slavonic voice flavor, speaks for itself more than enough. “Ether” for sure deserves some attention outside the Croatian borders as well.
I had two passing associations while listening to the record: recent reissue of Grč “Sloboda narodu” & the latest album by Blurt “Beneath Discordant Skies”.
The sound of “Ether” (recorded live in Split in winter ’15) is massive and impressive.
Great album. Highly recommended, yet again.
Step in. Don’t be afraid.
(the first impressions review, in Eastern European broken English, is intended for accidental foreign visitors of this site that are curious enough to give it a try!)