Washington DC: 1983-85

*subject to change*

Intro: ZG / DC

Ta krvava prošlost. Bez kraja i konca.

Winter 1990–91 in Zagreb was super exciting for young people and promising in many ways but full of omens too. Fearful whispers about imminent war spread around the ex-country like viruses. The usual reply or passing thought was, “No, no way it would happen here.” It did. Where were you in ’90? And what to do (about it) in ’20.

Fugazi, Live in Galerija SC, Zagreb, Hrvatska, Jugoslavija, 22.10.1990.

FUGAZI SC Galerija

“Good evening, everybody! Damn good to be here, in Zagreb.”

[intro]

Reclamation

Sieve-Fisted Find

Greed

Turnover

Runaway Return

Bulldog Front

Shut the Door

[encore]

Repeater

Exit Only

[outro]

Fugazi were the first DC (punk rock) band that played in (the Socialist Republic of) Croatia. In the late 1980s, records by Fugazi (and already mentioned Nomeansno) were held in high regard, and they circulated around town between all the punk rock subcultures. As it often goes, love of Fugazi led to interest in Dischord records and label’s artists other than Minor Threat or hard-core bands in general.

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Dischord cofounder Jeff Nelson (ex Minor Threat) liked 9353 (almost forgotten band outside DC) so much that he reissued their albums with additional material on CD on his own small label Adult Swim. I got familiar with 9353 later, but they were my first preview of Washington, DC’s dark side, alongside the book of photos “Banned in DC”. I still have it. Dischord House had its share of punk rock weirdos (Beefeater!) for sure, but this book was full of photos of completely unknown bands (hardly heard in the age before the internet) that sported a messy goth/glam image. So here is a blog post dedicated to the unsung side of Washington, DC, from the early and mid-’80s. Kudos for the ever-present logistical support by Don Zientara and Inner Ear Studio, too.

[Nobody ever mentions the new wave “failure” of the Urban Verbs. Generally, the late 1970s stuff was rare and homebound, mostly documented on Skip Groff’s label, Limp Records.]

Banned in DC 1983-85: Dark Corners of Washington D.C.

I moved into the city in September 1984. I went to the payphone across the street and the payphone had “Nazi punks rule! Oi Oi Oi!!!” It made me very happy to be in punk rock Washington. (Mark Andersen, Positive Force activist)

12 05 20 006

Bad Brains had sailed to NYC in 1981, and they let the kids grow up with their hard-core punk. Moving fast and furiously, by the summer of 1983, most of the first and second wave of Dischord bands had broken up. At the time, Dischord was a very small (shoestring) hardcore punk label that could not even completely cover its inner circle of friends. The Faith played its last show in the summer of ’83, and Minor Threat broke up soon after. From that point until the summer of ’85 (Revolution Summer), it was very quiet and even slightly depressed around Dischord, especially during the gap year (1984). Scream, Marginal Man (ex-Artificial Peace), and Government Issue soldiered on, either staying with the label or moving on to stay afloat. The young men that formed the great Gray Matter slowed down the music’s speed, introduced melody, and shared stages around town with those bands. Tesco Vee, an old friend of the label and a punk-rock senior, moved into the city and formed the Meatmen’s DC lineup, revealing his secret fetishes (hard rock/heavy metal and ABBA) to budding punk crowds.

There were only a few records put out by Dischord in that period: the last recorded material by the Faith and Minor Threat, Scream’s debut LP, and Marginal Man’s 12-inch, followed by Beefeater, Rites of Spring, and another Scream LP in the second half of ’85.

But post-punk and post-hardcore in the wider DC metropolitan area (encompassing very quiet Baltimore, MD; Arlington, VA; Annapolis, MD; and the suburbs in between) existed, even if it didn’t thrive, in that period. It was documented on the Fountain of Youth (FOY) label (akin to Homestead Records in aesthetic) run by Derick Hsu (ex-Exiled), and occasionally by the bands themselves on their tiny samizdat labels.

I never worked my label (Fountain of Youth) like a business. My purpose was to get the record out. I just wanted to do it. I never really thought, “What are we going to do with the record now that is out?” I just figured everything was going to work itself out. And it didn’t.  (Derek Hsu)

To start, I’ll pick some interesting tracks from the various-artists compilation Bouncing Babies. Actually, I’ve simply omitted the hardcore punk-related tracks from 1981–82, even though a couple of them are pretty OK.

Black Market Baby – Suzie Dear

Mid-tempo punk-rock dudes, leather jackets and boots, etc. Almost written out of DC history for being in the no-man’s-land between Skip Goff’s label and Dischord. Belated debut album issued by FYO in 1983.

Braille Party – Terrorist

A multi-part hard-core song from a band I know nothing about.

Body Count – Bull in a China Shop

Just to remind you of No Trend’s Fuzzy Dice (More, 1988). And that ska punk was great initially.

Lucky Pierre – Looking Back

More sax (played by Jeff Nelson’s brother Brian, who would later join No Trend under the name Johnny Ontego), from this otherwise unknown band.

Underground Soldier – Sunday Slaughter

Doug Birdzell moved on to play in Beefeater, as a terrorist bassist using a slap technique.

Crippled Pilgrims – Black and White

A Paisley Underground pop-rock band on the East Coast, in DC. (Other janglers of a similar ilk were picked up by Homestead in the same period, circa ’84). Crippled Pilgrims’ music is lovely, reminiscent of the early dB’s. FYO issued their excellent mini-LP, which was followed the next year by an album. The very dense LP added some dissonance to the mix, if not more melodies. These records are out of print (lost masters) but have been saved from complete obscurity by Reaction Recordings’ CD release: Down Here: Collected Recordings 1983 – 1985.

9353 – Ten Witches

An even-better alternate mix of an already-great song.

Reptile House – Talons and Claws

The very best early song by Reptile House that I’ve heard, sound-wise.

Government Issue – Dead Dog

Metal-punk take on slow, heavy-riffing doom.

Glee Club – Disguise

Government Issue guys in disguise play Throbbing Gristle records in the basement. The fun just never ends…

Death Camp 2000 – Unknown

Don Fleming’s (Velvet Monkeys) side band that specialized in making noise. Their only recording.

1/2 JAPANESE (Uniontown, MD)

I am traditional in many ways, so let’s begin with the band of elders. Compared to DC’s 16-year-old hardcore kids, Half Japanese were “punk dinosaurs,” whose involvement in music stretches back to the mid-1970s bedroom activities of the brothers Fair. Strangely, Half Japanese wanted to feel like they were in their early teens most of the time, and they approximated it with unprecedented style. Many of the early recordings were issued in Europe, so Half Japanese might be the best-known name here. But not too popular. One can tag them as no wave, new wave, post-punk, or punk rock, but they are simply all of these at once and beyond categorization. Half Japanese’s 3xLP debut annoys me, although it comes across as charming when I am not feeling too moody. For my own spastic pleasure, I would edit it to a single LP. I have problems with the “songs” they recorded when they regressed to the age of 8 years old or so.  Loud is a treble racket that I like just fine. But the series of full-length albums recorded in 1983–85, Our Solar System, Sing No Evil, and Charmed Life (belatedly issued in 1988), are truly fantastic works of art in a world of their own. The Fair brothers daydream about pretty-girl athletes and have nightmares full of monsters and zombies from B movies.

Our Solar System LP 1984

hj1984

 

Dance When I Say Dance

Too Much Adrenaline

Fire To Burn

Electricity Respect

Knocked Down On the Dance Floor

You’re Gonna Miss Me

Sing No Evil LP 1985

hj84

Sing No Evil

Firecracker Firecracker

Dearest Darling

Rub Every Muscle

Too Bad About Elizabeth

House Of Voodoo

VELVET MONKEYS

Velvet Monkeys were another band of slightly older guys, led by Don Fleming. The studio material from said period is stylistically closer to a smooth new-wave sound even more than it is to murky DIY post-punk. The Velvet Monkeys in concert rocked pretty hard, though, with a full guitar sound hearkening back to Detroit. Spooky stuff and all, the Velvet Monkeys were also soul mates of Half Japanese, or so it seems when looking back and making assumptions. In the second half of the 1980s, Don Fleming moved to NYC and formed an indie superstar lineup of the Velvet Monkeys along with his main new band, B.A.L.L., which included Mr. Kramer of Shimmy Disc on bass.                

Future LP 1983

vmf

What Can I Do?

Future

World Of

You’re Not There

All The Same

“Colors” SP 1985

Colors Part I

Colors Part II

“Spooky” SP 1985

Spooky

Trance Band Process

NUCLEAR CRAYONS [1981-85]

Fronted by scary-looking Lara Lynch, Nuclear Crayons were DC’s earliest art punks and total misfits to emerge in the midst of the hardcore crowd. The epitome of local no-wave frustration, Nuclear Crayons’ diffuse songs were just barely held in place by inspired bass lines. (A parallel would be Tim Wright in DNA.) Following the example of Dischord, the band founded its own label, Outside Records, which issued Nuclear Crayons’ material and also managed to pull together an excellent V/A record, “Mixed Nuts Don’t Crack”, which documented hardcore and post-punk outcasts in the fall of ’82. Some of the negative energy accumulated by Nuclear Crayons was transferred into the sinister electronics of Lynch and guitarist Darin Drake’s next project,  The Earth Hell Band.

The only Nuclear Crayons show I played sober was at Gay Pride Day and that’s because the beer was on the other side of P Street Beach and I was still on my crutches and I couldn’t make it all the way down there. (Bernie Wandel)

Bad Pieces Seen Delivering The Foretold Conclusion Spin All When After Consummate Pieces Open LP 1984

Noisemaker

Anarchy Posers / Take Away the Faith

No Car

Blinded Youth

What’s Wrong With Us?

Street Noise

THE EARTH HELL BAND  Witches On Holiday LP 1986

Seen It Too

Devil’s Skull

Termination

CHALK CIRCLE [1981-83]

All-girl art-punk band influenced by Rough Trade feminist punk and post-punk. Just like Nuclear Crayons, Chalk Circle tried to make a place for themselves in public among the hectic hardcore bands and zigzagging underage punks. In the final stage of Chalk Circle, just before splitting-up, Sharon Cheslow joined Colin Sears’ band Bloody Mannequin Orchestra, comprised of punks that gathered around WGNS studio / label.

As the DC hardcore scene became more macho and less about a tight-knit group of friends, we found greater support with an older group of people. We always thought of punk as having no rules, but when hardcore became more popular there developed a code to which Chalk Circle didn’t adhere. Nonetheless, Anne and I loved hardcore and went to all the shows. We went to all the Minor Threat, S.O.A., GI, and Youth Brigade shows and loved to dance. (Sharon Cheslow)

The Slap

Subversive Pleasure

Their attempts (demos, Inner Ear sessions, live tracks) were recently collected on “Reflection” LP (2011) on Mississippi Records / Post Present Medium (USA). Support this one-off release!

ccreflection

NO TREND [1982-88] (Ashton, MD)

Post-hardcore, post-punk, antagonistic band battling against everything, while also giving heartfelt tips for teens. Their sound-as-weapon was initially built on PiL and Flipper templates by guitarist Frank Price, and often directed at annoying hardcore brats by the wicked leader of the No Trend Troupe, Jeff Mentges, aka cowboy Cliff Ontego. Voluptuous sex vampire Lydia Lunch moved in their circles, too. Through various core and expanded lineups, No Trend changed a lot during their five years of existence. But the fiery energy and bile stayed with them until the end, no matter how unhinged or “pop” they became. It’s a mystery why No Trend never ended up on Alternative Tentacles.  If it weren’t for the “Tritonian Nash-Vegas Polyester Complex” album, issued on Touch & Go in 1987, they would probably be even less known than they are today. Watch out for the Drag City delight: “Too Many Humans/Teen Love”, a box set anthology of recorded material from 1983–84. Highly recommended! Fingers crossed for No Trend Box Part II: 1985–86.

Take a look inside and decide: Too Many Humans/Teen Love Box Set

No Trend EP 1983

Mass Sterilization Caused by Venereal Disease

Cancer

Teen Love

Too Many Humans LP 1983

Fashion Tips For the ’80s

Reality Breakdown

Too Many Humans

A Dozen Dead Roses LP 1985

All Of Nothing

Tear You Apart

Karma Nights

When Death Won’t Solve Your Problem LP 1985 (compilation album)

One Last Dream

Killing Me

Two Seconds Till Non Existence

MISSION FOR CHRIST

Post-hardcore band that existed on the margins of the margins. Their sole single, on No Trend’s tiny vanity label, shows a UK post-punk influence, but the other tracks not chosen for the record reveal hardcore roots. Mission For Christ were friends with No Trend, so I assume they were pals within a sea of adversaries. Spread the Gospel, love thy enemy!

Pennies From Hell SP 1984

mfc

Pennies From Hell

Penny Dub

The rest of the ’83 Session:

Psycho

He and She

Smash the Rich

Poseur

Stay the Course

Kick Me

Nancy Reagan

You can easily find the cool CD collection “The Complete Sessions” (2012) for very little money, on hardworking Ektro Records from socialist Finland. Fuck vinyl; CDs are reliable and cheap products!!

UNITED MUTATION

Basement hardcore band with bizarre psychedelic touches and growling echoes of future death metal. If the players hadn’t heard the Meat Puppets or Rudimentary Peni during United Mutation’s gestating phase, they must have been intrinsically deranged. Or they were just dropping a lot of acid in the practice space. Unlike other DC hardcore groups, United Mutation rarely played live. However, they managed to self-release two essential and singular seven-inch EPs. The first one, Fugitive Family, from ’83, was issued as a split release with Dischord.

Fugitive Family EP 1983

Fugitive Family / Plain Truth

Final Solution

Passout

I Know a Place

Own Way

Lice And Flies…

Rainbow Person EP 1985

Infinite Regression

Fat Louie

Take Your Pick

Zone

Manna

Here is brand new LP collection of United Mutation’s recording sessions from 1982-83 put out by Radio Rahim: Dark Self Image (2020).

UM2020

9353

Another group of drugged-up malcontents in a psychedelic, Day-Glo world of their own. They loved punk rock, the post-punk music coming from the UK, and the glam rock of their childhoods. They hated the macho side of hardcore, with all its adolescent-testosterone vapors in the air, as much as the ominous atmosphere of the Government-Army-Media triumvirate that was seated in and around Washington, DC. In Bruce Merkle Hellington’s words, The Stranglers & Punishment of Luxury were some sort of guiding sound to turn to as the starting points for 9353’s art adventure. They were also in awe of Killing Joke. These young freaks produced two smooth (but haunted!) records. And, judging from the extended CD versions of those albums, 9353 were almost as prolific as the Smiths or Hüsker Dü during a brief, two-year period. Every single song is worthy of your short attention span. I dare you! Great stuff, highly recommended!

What 9353 was? It was me and two clowns, Vance and Jason, and a drum box. We played 6 shows that way until Dan Joseph joined the band. I ended up doing all the flyers, all the managing. By the time Dan joined the band I was already burnt. Dan joined at the end of May ’83. (Bruce Merkle)

To Whom It May Consume LP 1984

With All Respect

Color Anxiety

Ghost

Famous Last Words

We Are Absolutely Sure There Is No God LP 1985

Spooky Room

Bypartizoa

Who Does What & Why

Americana Schizo

GRAND MAL (Würm Baby) [1983-85]

The simple sex beat and moderately dark overtones of Grand Mal’s plodding garage rock had real potential. But by the time of their only recording, the post-punk influence had partly faded away. Unfortunately, they didn’t become rhythmically more diverse. The goth side of the band, Linda LeSabre (drums) and Don Diego (bass), would move to LA and continue in style with Death Ride 69, while singer Joe Aronstamn and guitarist Marc Lambiotte would surface in the Holy Rollers , who joined Dischord in the late 1980s. Malcolm Riviera (from the Velvet Monkeys) also played guitar.

We went to Washington Cathedral with t-shirts that said “Jesus lied” on the back. We got into philosophical arguments discounting the existence of God. It was totally packed. (Joey Aronstamn)

Binge Purge mini LP 1985

DNO

Fear To Feel

Fever Dream

Live at Wilson Center, Washington DC 01/28/1984

Hollywood Babylon

Binge Purge

Ice Age (Joy Division)

Grand Mal Bandcamp.

TROUBLED GARDENS [1984-1985]

Short lived and (mostly) instrumental post-punk trio led by multi-talented Dan Joseph (guitar, synthesizer and drum machine programming) who played drums in 9353 and Crippled Pilgrims at the same time. Troubled Gardens left behind “Troubled Gardens Cassette” (collection of 4-track bedroom recordings) & slick sounding mini LP “Eden Revisited”, which can recall late period 9353, On-U Sound and 4AD (Dif Juz). Dan Joseph is a free-lance composer, curator and writer based in New York City nowadays.

troubled gardens

 

Voice Carryovers

Silent City

Domination Dub

Troubled Gardens Bandcamp.

MADHOUSE

Madhouse was Monica Richards’s midperiod phase in a long line of artistic realizations with gothic inclinations. She traveled from her hardcore punk roots in Hate From Ignorance to the death rock of Madhouse to Strange Boutique’s art-rock sophistication and farther away still… Madhouse could be seen as an energetic American youth’s crude, raw take on Siouxsie and the Banshees’ post-punk done, so it comes out closer to death rock than to the British pop stylings that the band might have idolized. However, Monica’s channeling of Siouxsie is quite spooky. Strange Boutique was a continuation and refinement of Madhouse, with the late Fred “Freak” Smith (ex-Beefeater) as the guitarist par excellence.

We played Wilson Center and I really made a mistake ‘cause it was new generation of skinheads. We were playing and they were throwing lit cigarettes at me and saying things like, “Take off your shirt”. I’d written an anti-rape song and I said “This next song is about rape, which I’ve been through”. These stupid boys, who just discovered their penises, all said “Fuck you!” Man, I was so angry. That made me never want to play or go to a hardcore show again. (Monica Richards)

Madhouse mini LP 1985

Repulsion

Cries

Toss Up

Your Fear

REPTILE HOUSE (Baltimore, MD)

Art-punk band from Baltimore, a somehow nonexistent city that, in terms of punk microcosms, was always stuck in the shadow of Washington, DC. (Am I wrong?) Their debut seven-inch EP was released as a split between Dischord and the Druid Hill label. As captured on tape, the bass lines were still heavy post-punk, as was some of the guitar playing. But an upbeat vibe from the power-soul vocals of Daniel Higgs (then known as Daniel V. Strasser) and the swift drumming of London May (who would join Glenn Danzig in Samhain the following year) led them away from the shade of those gothic mansions in Baltimore’s historic quarter. This EP is an intro to DC’s Revolution Summer ’85. Years later, the mighty Lungfish and its modern, psychedelic rock slithered and crawled out of Reptile House’s remains, in a surreal feat of cosmic zoology.

Keel Haul Love

Social Champion

Mrs. Rain

Sleekstak Weather

PUSSY GALORE

In their earliest phase, Pussy Galore were antagonistic garage-rock wannabes who brought sex back into teenage R’n’R (as resurrected by the Cramps, amongst others), while melding it with Euro metal-bashing. Not-so-distant echoes of the car crash in No Trend’s “Teen Love” are present in the grooves. Hello, Junkyard America! The white noise of Pussy Galore’s first seven-inch EP is a more-than-appropriate intro to their very primitive rock, with Jon Spencer’s European influences still audible (EN, MES & Brix, Nick Cave). Soon after, Pussy Galore left DC for NYC. Over the years, they became better and then worse, or just jaded. (Their slightly disappointing and bluesy swan song, Historia de la Musica Rock, even waved goodbye with a tune referencing “Revolution Summer.”) By the next decade, PG had finally split into three very cool fractions: Boss Hog, Royal Trux & The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

Die Bitch

HC Rebellion

Constant Pain

Car Fantasy

THE OBSESSED

The Obsessed were legitimate metal torchbearers in the metropolitan DC area, giving off similar vibes to the premium local doom band Pentagram. Mastermind and legendary guitarist-vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich crossed paths with DC hardcore punks and, although he is first and foremost a metalhead, he loved to attend shows by bands such as Bad Brains and Void. At some point, even Vance Bockis (soon to be 9353’s glamorous bassist) sang for the Obsessed. In 1983, the Obsessed put out a crippled but nevertheless beautiful debut s/t EP on their own. It sounds weak (especially the rhythm tracks), but that murkiness gives it an extra gothic aura. A demo tape from ’84 and sessions for a long-playing album, planned for 1985, fared better. However, the boss of Metal Blade Records proclaimed the Obsessed to be obsolete and hardly marketable (compared to Slayer and the thrash metal brigades), and so the label declined to issue Purple Tape ’85. Disillusioned, Wino broke up the band and accepted a call from Saint Vitus, with whom he spent the second half of the decade as a born-too-late rocker. When he reactivated the Obsessed in 1990, his home state was full of heavy new bands. Maryland’s branch of Doom America bore fruit: Internal Void, Iron Man, Unorthodox, Wretched, etc.

We heard about a recording studio that was ridiculously cheap from our friends in Pentagram. Catch A Buzz Studio. We made an appointment for two days: one day to set up and get levels, the next day to record. The second day the engineer was gone and there was a note that said, “Got tickets to the Superbowl but my brother is gonna engineer”. Well, his brother didn’t know shit but we recorded anyways. I was told somewhere that the snare sound is like an empty pizza box, but we believed. We had a radical printer who was the Marines’ printer so he laid out a beautiful wraparound cover and we had our own label: Invictus (Victory). We believed. One day my new boss said, “Hey, they reviewed your record in the new Kerrang”. I was excited and jammed down to get it. It was reviewed by someone who is now my friend but it was a review that left me sad and disheartened…still I believed an carried on to fulfill my dreams. (Scott “Wino” Weinrich)

The Obsessed EP 7” 1983

Iron & Stone

Indestroy

Sodden Jackal

Concrete Cancer (Promo Demo Tape) 1984

Concrete Cancer

Feelingz

Mental Kingdom

Hiding Masque

The Obsessed s/t LP aka Purple Tape (recorded in ’85, released in ’90 by Hellhound)

Live at the Bayou ’85

Ground Out / Feelingz

Concrete Cancer

Mental Knigdom

Iron and Stone

Indestroy / Kill Ugly Naked

UNREST

unrestep

Unrest EP 7” 1985

So You Want to Be a Rock’n’Roll Star
Scott & Zelda
The Hill

 

Well, this post maybe isn’t ideal for month of June (in Northern Hemisphere) but come back after the summer, in October!

EDIT: The earliest recorded material (debut EP and cassettes from ’85) by important local anglophile band Unrest, led by Mark Robinson of Teenbeat records, wasn’t included initially because I don’t have it in my digital archives. But I decided to add Unrest anyway. I am finally being proactive! Looking fwd into the near future. I couldn’t leave out Troubled Gardens as well so they are in now. Infantile fun just never ends…

 

 

 

 

 

Siberia

Diaframma ‎– Siberia (1984)

siberia

Pop consumer confession again: I am not well versed in Diaframma’s work. It wasn’t destined for export, like Italian hard-core punk. Diaframma remained inside their homeland boundaries.

“Siberia” is recognized as capolavoro of Italian new wave / postpunk. Upon initial listening I wasn’t impressed but once I started to recognize signs of life underneath thin copertina of icy reverb the picture fell into place. Eight songs in half an hour, quite fitting for a Sunday afternoon indoors in allegedly depressive month of January. (Finally with some snow and chill in the air outside, as proper winter should bring.  Where have all the seasons gone? You can have six months of fake summer. I want four seasons back!) But as I said, “Siberia” isn’t immediate listening experience and an impulsive savage/naturalist in me wished for the rough mixes or 8-track garage recording of instrumental tracks.  The studio recording gives aura of the group scattered across a large freezing empty space with the strongest echoes emanating from the singer. Synthscapes are very tasty but barely audible on few tracks. Bass slaps I dig, as usually. The leader in the band, prolific songwriter / guitarist (in later line-ups on vocals as well), Federico Fiumani, decided to suppress the rock ego and toned down the role of guitar in this arty stage of Diaframma. And although the songs gathered for their debut LP  have wintry pace, the group energy captured on other recordings generally reveals lively and forward oriented shape-shifting dynamic. I wouldn’t say that Diaframma were bunch of depressed Italian youth thou. First and foremost, their main muse seems to have been Venus. Followed over the span of the decade, they can be valued as Italian contemporaries of Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cure, Simple Minds and The Wedding Present. I suspect that they were cherished on a local level. Early Diaframma shares some common ground with Pingvinovo potpalublje too. In mid 1980s their vocalist was very distinctive Miro Sassolini who gave Diaframma touch of romantic glamour. But for the purpose of “Siberia” even he was a bit down. (on songs like “Elena” or radio friendly “Tre volte lacrime” which followed after “Siberia”, he flies despite the heartache, and pulls the band higher off the ground).  I might check other albums by Diaframma one day. I hope I won’t be disappointed by overtly populist moves. Diaframma =  drama.

Neogrigo

Specchi d’acqua

Desiderio del nulla

Siberia

 

diaframma

Diaframma pre 1984

Ortodossia II°

Sunday morning in a commune house in the outskirts of Reggio Emilia with communist art-punks CCCP-Fedeli alla linea. Listening to their punk filosovietici. Slowly sipping prime quality espresso (instead of doing it properly in two fast gulps, like all true Italians do) & getting flashbacks (some of them mildly disturbing).

cccp

CCCP-Fedeli alla linea

CCCP-Fedeli Alla Linea Ortodossia II° ‎(12″) Attack Punk Records 1985

ortodossia ii

Live In Pankow

Mi Ami?

Spara Jurij

Punk Islam

I like this red 12” and all CCCP-Fedeli alla linea records that I’ve heard so far. “Ortodossia II°” is thrilling art-punk achievement, recommended for all lost cases who dig rhythm machine postpunk in the frontlines, side by side with The Three Johns, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and Italo-American band Grande Nero among the other comrades. I wasn’t aware of  CCCP-Fedeli alla linea existence back in the 1980s. Their music wasn’t spread on tapes and listened in my hometown. Perhaps few copies of original LPs still could be found in record collections of older punks from Ljubljana, Pula or Rijeka. As a side note, in 1984 the same small label Attack Punk Records issued hard-core punk EP “Corpus Delicti” by U.B.R. from Ljubljana and made it part of international HC community even more.

Live in Mosca, live in Budapest
Live in Varsavia
Live in Praga, live in Sofia
Live in Pankow
Haupstadt der D.D.R
Haupstadt der D.D.R
Haupstadt der D.D.R

Compagni est-europei
Uno sforzo ancora
Dalle sale da ballo
Un po’ più che di merda
Un’opinione pubblica
Un poco meno stupida
Dalle sale da ballo
Un po’ più che di merda

Voglio rifugiarmi
Sotto il piano di Varsavia
Voglio un piano quinquennale
La stabilità
Live in Mosca, live in Budapest
Live in Varsavia
Live in Praga, live in Sofia
Live in Pankow

Ost Berlin, West Berlin
Ost Berlin, West Berlin
Ost Berlin, West Berlin
Ost Berlin, West Berlin
Trance Europa express
Trance Europa express
Trance Europa express
Trance Europa express

 

I am glad that there isn’t a line “live in Belgrado” in the song text. I did appreciate belonging to non-aligned Third World and having a passport. At the age of sixteen I could hop on a bus and go to Trieste (window) shopping for records without problems. In addition to that, I am thankful for all the modest products of Socialism available at home – licensed new wave and punk rock albums from US/UK major labels which were generally well pressed by Jugoton label. Those days I’d look in any direction but cold and frightening north-east where CCCP sprawled. Today: Voglio un piano quinquennale. La stabilità. New Europe without solid welfare state is utterly pointless. Trance Europa indeed. Tanz debil / ganz debil.

The Ex ‎– 27 Passports

theex27pass

27 passports almost like 27 long years or cca. 27 albums… great new CD (56 min) by The Ex flew in. It took some time for new vocalist / guitarist Arnold de Boer to fit inside well oiled band-machine. Or it could rather be that some fans needed more time to accept G. W. Sok’s departure from The Ex.  His (anarcho-syndicalist poet on the dole) vocals (and word play) used to be band’s signature as much as Terrie’s sharp sounding guitar strings’ wrangling and Katherina’s style of drumming.

OK then, on “27 Passports” Arnold de Boer shines like he’s been one of super-fit The Ex veteran musicians for decades. Looking back and re-listening, “Catch My Shoe” (2010) brought along inspired energetic playing and complex songs but as an album in its entirety partly suffers from excessive length.  Perhaps I slightly more prefer sax led “Y’Anbessaw Tezeta” (2012; Getachew Mekuria w / The Ex ) & “Enormous Door” (2013; The Ex & Brass Unbound). It might be too early to  say definitively but “27 Passports” appears to be even better product than all of these recent The Ex issues! (although “Y’Anbessaw Tezeta” collaboration belongs to a league of its own).

Take off you old Doc Martens shoes (with slippery soles) and dance barefoot! Wait wait wait … ček ček čekaj … Teške se kiše spremaju. Kroz tvoj se prozor samo jablani vide. Nad gradom munje sijevaju. A doma nema goluba da te miluje.

Soon All Cities

Footfall


may 049

Young and cocky anarchists The Ex burning music newspapers in ’86…


Listen to the Painters – listen to G.W.Sok!

A collection of tracks (recorded between 2009 and 2015) with G.W. Sok on vocals.

side A

Two Pin Din – Listen To The Painters

Zoikle – Illusies 1

Surplus 1980 – The World’s Still Here

The And – The Heart Of Everything

L’Etrangleuse – Writer’s Blog

side B

King Champion Sounds – Ghetto Of Eden

Action Beat – Spoonfeed Hell

Cannibales & Vahinés – No Can Do

Chapi Chapo & Les Petites Musiques De Pluie – Here We Go Again

The Bent Moustache – The Sound Of Sirens


 

Take a look inside The Ex Shop.

 

Don’t Look Back: Ljubljana (SR Slovenia)

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!

dolgcajt

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 Lublanski psi  (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.

otrocisoc2

Otroci socializma

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.

viaofenziva

Via ofenziva

Via ofenziva shared split cassette release with Čao pičke, 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.

okultjane_stravs8

O!Kult

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…

borghesia

Borghesia

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.

laibach

Laibach

 

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!

begnagrad

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)

 

 

 

 

 


Don’t Look Back vol. IV: Ljubljana (1-2-ex-YU!!)

VA Post-punk Ljubljana (1982 – 85)

Otroci socializma – Lublana (live) (1982)

O!Kult – Molitev (live) (1982)

d’Pravda – Socijalizam (1982)

Laibach – Rdeči molk (live) (1982)

O!Kult – Mi!Mi!Mi! (live) (1982)

Laibach – Država (ver.) (1983)

Via ofenziva – Minimalni ritem (1983)

Otroci socializma – 700 usnjenih torbic (1983)

Borghesia – Divlja horda (1983)

Čao pičke – Pesem B (1983)

O!Kult – Tovariši (čigavi?) (1982)

Otroci socializma – Vojak (1983)

Via ofenziva – Proleter (1983)

Laibach – Mi kujemo bodočnost (1984)

SRP – Svuda ljudi, svuda zastave (1984)

O!Kult – Collective Consciousness (Kolektivna zavest) (1985)

download.


VA Punk (punk-rock, new wave, hard-core) Ljubljana (1978 – 85)

Pankrti – Anarhist (1978)

Lublanski psi – Anti proti (1980)

92 – Kontroliram misli (1980)

Berlinski zid – Po cestah mesta (1980)

Buldogi – To ni balet (1980)

92 – Od šestih do dveh (1980)

Berlinski zid – Revolucija (1980)

Pankrti – Gospodar (1981)

Lublanski psi – Neumni, odpisani in prazni (1981)

Buldogi – V kotu sveta (1981)

Pankrti – Za železno zaveso (1982) live

Otroci socializma – Hiše so sive (1982) live

Via ofenziva – Jugoslavija (1983) live

Pankrti – Slavni razglas (1983)

U.B.R. – Utrujenost (1983)

Stres D.A. – Domovina (1983)

Niet – Umiranje (1984)

III. kategorija – Za tebe (1985)

Odpadki civilizacije – Vojna-smrt! (1985)

U.B.R. – Zgodovino piše zmagovalec (1985)

Tožibabe – Dežuje (1985)

Pankrti – Sistem svobode (1985)

download.


VA Queer (synth-pop, minimal synth, EBM, industrial) Ljubljana (1983 – 87)

Borghesia – Ljubav je hladnija od smrti I (1984)

300 000 V. K. – TV generacija (1983)

Gast’r’bajtr’s – Tu mač prežr (1983)

Borghesia – Secret Affair no. 2 (1984)

Videosex – Ana (1984)

Borghesia – Noćne šetnje (1984)

300 000 Verschiedene Krawalle (V.K.) – Policijski hit (1983)

Laibach – Brat moj (1984)

Borghesia – Secret Affair no. 3 (1984)

Otroci socializma – Možgani (1985)

Videosex – Sivi dan (1985)

Otroci socializma – Moj svet (1985)

Laibach – Die Liebe (1985)

Keller – Senza amore (1986)

Borghesia – Ni upanja, ni strahu (1987)

download.


VA Jazz Ljubljana (prog, jazz-rock, avant, RIO, jazz-punk): TBA

 

 

 

 

Don’t Look Back: Novi Sad (SR Serbia)

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.

pekinskapatka

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.

strah

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

LunaNestvarne 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.

lastrada

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

**read more thoroughly about other side of Novi Sad on this extraordinary blogspot guide: Other Novi Sad Scene of the 1980s


Don’t Look Back vol. III: Novi Sad (1-2-ex-YU!!)

Pekinška patka – Biti ružan, pametan i mlad (’79)

Fotomodel – To nisi ti (’81)

Kontraritam – Obojeni grad (’82)

Pekinška patka II – Monotonija (’81)

La Strada – Sat (’80)

Grad – Gradsko šetalište (Maske) (’82)

Rex Ilusivii – Zla kob (’83)

Neon vojnik – Grobar (’83)

Luna – Fakir (’83)

2MM – Terorizam (’84)

Boye – Mikrosvet (’83)

Heroina – Zaigrajmo (’85)

Rex Ilusivii – Arabia (’85)

La Strada – Došla su tako neka vremena (’85)

Ponoćni kauboj – Mesec (’88)

Boye – (Gde) možemo se sresti (’88)

Atheist Rap – Atheist Rap (’89) uživo

Obojeni program – Kosmos u tvom srcu (’90)

Ritam nereda – Suton (’90)

Cirko della primavera – Sveti Mihajlo u laganom afričkom kasu u kozinom stilu ubija sedmoglavog apokaliptičnog zmaja (’89)

 

Don’t Look Back: Rijeka (SR Croatia)

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.

paraf

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.

izleti

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.

zastave

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.

grc

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.

Idejni nemiri (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.

let3

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

Xenia – Vjetar u kosi (’83)

Cacadou (Look) – Sama (’84) – demo version

Ogledala – Kako ti je sada (’84) – live in Split

Paraf II – Nikad nikad nikad (’84)

Let 2 – Ne trebam te (’84)

Grč – Crne rukavice (’87)

Transmisia – Šume umiru (’87)

Strukturne ptice – Zbog zvuka i pobuđivanja (’87)

Grad – Grad (’87) demo

FIT – Rijeka (’88)

Let 3 – Sam u vodi (’89)

JAN ’17: Trobecove krušne peći “Ether” LP

It’s alive!

Sax is back. Rejoice!

tkp2015

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!)

The Dunedin Sound: Some Disenchanted Evening

Throughout New Zealand, a generation of youth during the 1980s and early ’90s revelled in the fact that something had been created in Godzone that we could truly call our own — the original Kiwi DIY rock form. There was no aping of foreign sounds or looks; this was home-grown music to the max. Meanwhile, overseas, fans of indie music throughout the UK, Europe and the US recognised that something new and very special was emanating from the most unlikely of places — a small city at the bottom of the world hitherto known only (if at all) for its university, its architecture, and penguins.

Volim Novi Zeland i dotični gradić. Kroz glazbu i zvuk, naravno. Bilo da se radi o psihodeličnom pop-rocku ili post-punku suptilnog gotičkog štiha južne hemisfere. Da ne bi bilo zabune, Novi Zeland je puno više od takozvanog zvuka Dunedina. Osobito cijenim avant noise ogranak: Xpressway. Drugi gradovi (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch) i njihovi bandovi su također bitni  faktori u cijeloj priči. Tally-ho!

Već prije desetak godina bilo je potpuno jasno da je i u Hrvatskoj postojalo dovoljno raznovrsnog glazbenog materijala za potencijalnu nezavisnu izdavačku kuću i to na samom početku osamdesetih. Zahvaljujući informatičkom dobu  (i trudu nekolicine entuzijasta iz šire regije) brojne zaboravljene ili zapostavljene novovalne (i kasnije) pojave odnosno njihovi radovi izašli su na svjetlo dana i napokon postali barem djelomično dostupni na jednom mjestu (internetu).  Interesantnih bandova iz Zagreba, Rijeke, Pule, Požege, Osijeka i Splita (uz pojedinačne slučajeve iz manjih mjesta) nije nedostajalo od kraja sedamdesetih nadalje. Ekvivalent etiketa poput Rough Trade, flying nun ili SST, koji bi logistički popratio bljesak lokalnog glazbenog stvaralaštva, gotovo da se i mogao dogoditi u oskudnom socijalističkom uređenju (pritom mislim na nešto organiziraniju verziju od, svake hvale vrijednog, pionirskog kazetnog izdavaštva u Slovenaca). Šteta.