петак, 09. мај 2014.

Dancing under socialism: rare electronic music from Yugoslavia (Part Two)

Some of the most extraordinary Yugoslav electronic gems recently rediscovered through a bunch of existing and upcoming compilation releases in Europe and the US, take two. Read the part one here
Illustration by Blanka Boskov
Slovenian Electric Dreams
Considering the early 1980s electronica in Slovenia, one has to acknowledge not only the underground heroes but also Miha Kralj’s pioneering role in bringing the synthesized tunes to the masses. Kralj’s instrumental full-lengths, Andromeda (1980), Odyssey (1982) and Electric Dreams (1985), heavily influenced by the likes of Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre, sold in tens of thousands. In the mean time he also made sure, through this recognizable theme, that millions of viewers of 1980s TV broadcasts of Planica ski jumping competitions got used to its electronically sounding trademark tune. Moreover, he produced tracks for Cice Mace, an early 1980s teenage disco-pop girl group from Serbia, including their attempt at singing to his track Embrio from Andromeda:
Cice Mace – Foto Model (Serbia 1981)
While Borghesia, Laibach, Marzidovšek and the rest are justly considered more innovative in their musical (and visual) approach than Kralj, he remains a giant of Slovenian/Yugoslav mainstream ambient space electronica. Check out the man himself in this multilayered theatre-in-the-snow music video he put out in mid-eighties:
Miha Kralj – Electric Dreams (Slovenia 1985)
Electronica Proper
It was obvious by the early 1980s that some people in Yugoslavia didn’t think electronic music was just a flash in the pan. Željko Luketić maintains that the first group in Yugoslavia which actually decided to start producing only electronic music, in today’s sense of the word, was Belgrade’s Kozmetika. Although their first and last album appeared in stores as late as 1983 due to unfortunate circumstances, they had been working on that material already since the late 1970s. Can we secretly hope for their earlier, unreleased material to come to light in the Diskoteka series? Not sure yet.
But just to be on the safe side, we got Luketić to confirm that rare high-quality masters of some other cool electronic producers are to be released in the series. Here’s a list. First, the track ‘T.V.’ from 1981 single of Beograd, a band which holds the title of the first officially released electronic music artist in Yugoslavia:
Beograd – T.V. (Serbia 1981)
Second, while Luketić found “good masters of Data’s (1984) cult single ‘Neka ti se dese prave stvari,’ which will be included as well,” some of their amazing unreleased tracks have surfaced online, including the 1985 ‘Soldier Boy’. This is pretty awesome since Data’s official discography is comprised only of two songs from the above mentioned single. From the unreleased stuff though, the following early career treasure might be recommended:
Data – Video Heroj (Serbia 1981)
Third, you can count that “some rare recordings of The Master Scratch Band will be included.” This is good news because there are many people out there who would like to own high quality tracks from the first Serbian electro breakbeat/hip hop crew. If no unreleased tracks are available, I root at least for the two cassette-only tracks from their sole Degout EP. You can listen to one of those here and then turn your full attention to one of their rare music videos:
The Master Scratch Band – Computer Break (Serbia 1984)
Fourth, “in the disco section, an interesting Vesna Mimica’s fitness tape will appear.” More to the point, the tape in question is a must-have bizarre early 80s aerobic exercise cassette produced by a famous Croatian composer Alfi Kabiljo and adorned by voice, as well as breathing, of a dancer and choreographer Vesna Mimica. Get off your ass and stretch for this one!
Vesna Mimica and Alfi Kabiljo – YU Aerobic br. 1 (Croatia 1983)
Fifth, we can confirm that one of the compilation CDs will include “Dee Dee Mellow’s song ‘Crni Djeda Mraz’ which, though a hit, has never been released.” I opt here for the English-language version and funky music video of this not strictly electronic yet dancy Talking Headish tune:
Dee Dee Mellow – Black Santa Claus (Croatia 1990)
Finally, the Diskoteka records “will include little intermezzo segments for which 30-second interview fragments from Jugoton Express record series will be used. Jugoton Express were Jugoton label’s promotional vinyls which would be released before the actual records and sent solely to radio stations. They featured interviews with artists and were always pressed in no more than 10 copies,” Luketić informed me and added that particularly “Oliver Mandić’s interview fragment will be interesting to listen to since in it he explains his (at the time notorious) appearance and cross-dressing.”
Primitive Dance and Women Producers
So, do I have any other wishes? Loads! They are ranging from underground tapes of industrial cult bands like Autopsia and early electronic tracks from Boye and Laboratorija to rare remixes of cheesy, italo-disco obsessed Moulin Rouge and breaks of ZZ Up. However, I’m pretty sure most of them will be fulfilled in the near future. Especially since even my inquiry about a special collection of electroacoustic jewels from the late 1950s onwards did not catch laborious Luketić off-guard. On the contrary, he is already “planning a special project on Yugoslav avantgarde and electroacoustic music.”
In addition, he is co-authoring the aforementioned documentary on Yugo electronic music, Primitivni ples (Primitive Dance), which deals with the avantgarde scene as well. Incidentally, the documentary was named after Du Du A’s 1983 electro pop song/album:
Du Du A – Primitivni ples
In terms of funding, the film has already been given a green light by the main Croatian film institution and is supposed to be finished in 2013. There’s a chance that Primitive Dance will also be distributed in a TV series format due to the amount of footage filmed. It will feature “interviews with giants of course,” says Luketić, “but also with authors that we find relevant. Miha Kralj for example is very important here, as well as people like Denis & Denis’ Davor Tolja, Borghesia’s Aldo Ivančić, producers Zoran Vračević and Ognjen Bogdanović etc.”
How about some women producers? There seem to be almost none in Yugoslav electronica. “As far as women are concerned, they are represented on Diskoteka and Synth Yugoslavia compilations; mostly as performers/vocalists though, much less as composers,” says Luketić in response.
“In avantgarde music there were even fewer, however,” he adds when I mention Serbian composer Ludmila Frajt. Let her electroacoustic rarity therefore serve as an important reminder of women’s position in electronic music production.
Ludmila Frajt – Nokturno (Serbia 1976)
All in all, rare Yugoslav electronic music is definitely returning from its early grave. Not least in terms of its market value, since, lately, the prices of original records have started skyrocketing in online shops. Hopefully, this brief and very incomplete history will serve to some of you as a reminder of the wicked times you had back then, while to others as an introductory course to weird gems folks were dancing to under socialist self-management. While waiting for the future official releases, feel free to explore further of course. It’s guaranteed you won’t be disappointed.
*Read Dancing under socialism: rare electronic music from Yugoslavia (Part One)

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