sabato 31 dicembre 2016

AFRO KOLEKTYW - "PIOSENKI PO POLSKU" (2012)

Afro Kolektyw was a strange hip hop band from Warsaw, who played their own background tracks, rather than using samples and computers. After releasing a few albums, their creative ambitions drove them away from the world of hip hop.

"Piosenki po polsku" is the first album of their indie pop phase. Their musicianship is indeed remarkable, with jazz chords, articulate riffs, and beautiful melodies. The arrangements are littered with jangly guitars, a range of different keyboard instruments (organ, piano, synthesizers, Mellotron), and funk rhythms. 
Both relaxed and danceable, this chilled out album is one of the best emerged from the local scene in the last decade. It reached no. 30 on the Polish chart, being their first and only entry there.


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martedì 20 dicembre 2016

NIEMEN ENIGMATIC - "NIEMEN ENIGMATIC" [aka "NIEMEN", "CZŁOWIEK JAM NIEWDZIĘCZNY", "CZERWONY ALBUM"] (1971)

Known for its numerous titles as it didn't receive an official one at the time, this is the only album released under the Niemen Enigmatic name. It was the band's second album though, as they had also played on Czesław Niemen's "Enigmatic", from which their name was taken.

Niemen composed seven songs out of eleven, whilst the remaning were penned by band members Tomasz Jaśkiewicz (guitar), Jacek Mikuła (organ, piano), and Zbigniew Namysłowski (flute).
Some of the lyrics were written by poet and Polish music legend Wojciech Młynarski.

If you liked "Enigmatic", there's no reason not to try this one, as it represents its perfect sequel. Exciting progressive rock, distorted jazz-rock jams, excellent musicianship, and dramatic soul vocals by one of the best singers ever.

Even though it didn't generate huge hit singles as Niemen's previous works did, "Niemen Enigmatic" was the top earning Polish album of 1971, with around 80.000 copies sold. 


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martedì 13 dicembre 2016

SBB - "PAMIĘĆ" (1976)

SBB have been one of the most important Polish bands of the Seventies. They were founded near Katowice by Józef Skrzek (vocals, bass, keyboards), Apostolis Anthimos (guitars), and Jerzy Piotrowski (drums).

The power trio started its career as Czesław Niemen's backing band. In 1974 they released a live debut album titled "SBB" and based on a couple of jam sessions. Their second work, "Nowy horyzont" (1975), was recorded in studio. It presented the band as a strange hybrid of jazz fusion and symphonic prog. Influenced by both Mahavishnu Orchestra and Emerson Lake & Palmer, the album showed a strong potential but was ruined by a poor production (the bass parts mixing was particularly weak).

Both records sold well, and at the third attempt Skrzek and his friends could rise their ambitions. Not only "Pamięć" is their first album with a good sound quality, but it also contains their most structured compositions up to that moment. The vocal melodies are just beautiful, and blend with exciting keyboard solos. Both complex and atmospheric, SBB's jazzy prog rock had reached maturity.

"Pamięć" was released on 27 September 1976 and managed to sell 65.000 copies by the end of December, consolidating the band's popularity.

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sabato 26 novembre 2016

KATARINA II - "KATARINA II" (1984)

This is Ekatarina Velika's debut album, released when the band was still called Katarina II.
It is a transitional work, that sounds a bit like Šarlo Akrobata (but without their experimental tension), and a bit like Ekatarina Velika's atmospheric efforts (but without their epicness). Still, it contains some great post-punk songs and Milan's voice is simply majestic.

Milan Mladenović - lead vocals, guitar
Dragomir Mihajlović - guitar
Bojan Pečar - bass guitar
Margita Stefanović - keyboards, vocals
Ivan Vdović - drums, percussion

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sabato 12 novembre 2016

DAMIR IMAMOVIĆ'S SEVDAH TAKHT - "DVOJKA" (2016)

Damir Imamović - vocals, tambur
Ivana Đurić - violin
Nenad Kovačić - percussion
Ivan Mihajlović - electric bass 

Damir Imamović is a Bosnian folk singer and part of the sevdalinka current. Sevdalinka is considered by some the Balkan equivalent of blues, which is obviously a simplification, given the complexity and diversity of this musical phenomenon.

Produced by Chris Eckman, from American slowcore band Walkabouts, this is the new album of Imamović's project Sevdah Takht. 
Imamović is changing the face of sevdalinka, by removing its most important instrument (the accordion) and adding alien elements (a jazzy electric bass, Africa-influenced percussion, dark sounding violin melodies, even some Western indie music atmospheres).
It is indeed one of the most beautiful, important, and better played folk albums of the last few years.

P.S. Damir's grandfather, Zaim, was already one of the biggest names in the history of sevdalinka; he contributed to its popularisation in the postwar period.

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martedì 25 ottobre 2016

OLIVER MANDIĆ - "ZBOG TEBE BIH TUCAO KAMEN" (1982)

Propelled by the jazzy post-disco sound of the hit single "Smejem se, a plakao bih", Oliver Mandić's second album is known to be one of the most popular Yugoslavian releases of 1982 (even though I can't find its sales figures anywhere). 
Among the collaborators are the celebrated session man Nenad Stefanović "Japanac" on bass and the popular singer Bebi Dol, whose ethereal backing vocals characterize the ballad "Sve je propalo" and the dreamy funk sound of "Neverne bebe".

Mandić plays the electric piano and composes seven songs out of eight.

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martedì 18 ottobre 2016

LEB I SOL - "LEB I SOL" (1978)

Leb i Sol are without a doubt the most important Macedonian band ever and, in my opinion, one of the best jazz-rock bands of the planet.
They were founded in Skopje in 1976, by electric guitar virtuoso and occasional singer Vladimir Stefanoski, keyboard player Nikola Dimuševski, bass guitarist Bodan Arsovski, and drummer Garabet Tavitijan.

Recorded in 1977 and released the following year, this debut album had sold around 25.000 copies by the end of 1979. Leb i Sol would have enjoyed real fame only years later, but this was a promising start to their career, considering that six tracks out of nine are instrumental.

Despite spending only a few days in the studio, the band did an amazing job. Every song sounds crystal-clear, the musicianship is outstanding, the melodies are rich, the rhythms diverse, and there are plenty of parts which are perfect for air soloing.

If you like progressive rock and jazz fusion this is a must have, but I would recommend it even to those who appreciate world music, because of its strong Macedonian folk influences (i.e. the odd time signature of the opening song, "Devetka").

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lunedì 10 ottobre 2016

OLIVER MANDIĆ - "PROBAJ ME" (1981)

Although he's often the object of the tabloids' attention for his public life as a celebrity rather than his artistic work, Oliver Mandić used to be one of the most important Serbian musicians back in the early Eighties.

This debut album was recorded between Belgrad and Bern, with the help of Swiss producer Peter MacTaggart. Most of the songs were arranged by session man and keyboard player Slobodan Marković, and composed by Mandić himself, who also contributed to some keyboard parts.

Mandić had already recorded a couple of relevant singles in the late Seventies, but it was only thanks to this LP that he earned universal appraise. To promote it, they recorded a beautiful, futuristic TV special, titled "Beograd noću", where Mandić had the possibility to present his ambiguous and sexually provocative persona. 

"Probaj me" is a superbly played album. With the help of a high tech record production and a bunch of great songs, it became a classic of Yugoslavian pop-rock.
If you like funk-and-fusion influenced albums of that era, you really can't miss this one. Oliver Mandić ranks up there with Japan's Tatsuro Yamashita and Italy's Pino Daniele.

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sabato 1 ottobre 2016

PRLJAVO KAZALIŠTE - "CRNO BIJELI SVIJET" (1980)

Prljavo Kazalište were founded in Zagreb at the end of the Seventies by guitar player Jasenko Houra and singer Davorin Bogović.

This is their second album, which marked a departure from the raw punk sound of their eponymous debut, embracing post-punk, new wave, power pop, dub, ska, harmonized vocals, and alienated atmospheres. 
It was recorded in Milan, Italy, and produced by Ivan "Piko" Stančić, one of the most important producers in the history of Yugoslavian music (Grupa 220, Idoli, Aerodrom, Film, Električni Orgazam, Psihomodo Pop, and many others).

"Crno bijeli svijet" sold 200.000 copies in its first year of release, establishing Prljavo Kazalište as one of the most popular bands of the nation. Brilliant ska numbers such as the title track and "Mi plešemo" are among the biggest hits of that era, but my favourite is probably the frantic "Neki moji prijatelji", with its beautiful liquid guitars.


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mercoledì 31 agosto 2016

BAJAGA I INSTRUKTORI - "PRODAVNICA TAJNI" (1988)

Bajaga i Instruktori were founded in Belgrade by Momčilo Bajagić "Bajaga" after he left hard rock quintet Riblja Čorba, where he played the guitar. Luckily, Instruktori proved to be much more interesting than his old band. 

This is their fourth and most accomplished work. As far as I know, it is also the best selling album in the history of Yugoslavian music, with around 700.000 copies sold before the start of the war (please correct me if I'm wrong).

Despite its enormous popularity, it doesn't sound trivial at all. On the contrary, it is a refined, beautiful anthology of songs which encompass post-punk epicness ("Tišina"), local folk tradition ("Verujem, ne verujem"), psychedelic synth pop ("Plavi safir"), mysterious ballads ("Ruski voz"), and funny calypso numbers ("Život je nekad siv nekad žut").

It's exciting how it goes from silly refrains to suffocating atmospheres in the space of one song. A must hear for anyone who loves pop-rock music from the Eighties.


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venerdì 29 luglio 2016

DOLPHIN - "SUSHCHESTVO" (2011)

Original title: Существо

While "Zvezda" and "Glubina rezkosti" will probably remain Dolphin's two most celebrated works, I think the maturity that is shown on "Sushchestvo" represents the peak of his production.

Always sided by multi-instrumentalist Pavel Dodonov, Dolphin creates a wonderful art-rock album, where hypnotic rhythms, harsh guitar solos, and tragic melodies intertwine each other. 
It's without any doubt one of the best Russian albums of the new century.

P.S. If you speak Russian and you wish to translate some of the lyrics, feel free to contribute by posting in the comments section.

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venerdì 22 luglio 2016

FLAMENGO - "KUŘE V HODINKÁCH" (1972)

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Vladimír Mišík is one of the most important figures of Czech music. After having left Blue Effect, he joined Flamengo, who were formed in 1966 by guitar and bass player Pavel Fořt

Despite having released some singles before, this is their first and only album. By the time of its sessions, rock music was stricktly forbidden in Czechoslovakia, but Flamengo managed to use a professional studio to record these songs, with the help of Josef Kainar, poet and member of the communist party. 
Kainar was by all means involved in the project, as he wrote seven lyrics out of eight. Four songs were composed by Jan Kubik (who played flute, sax, and clarinet), three by Mišík himself, and two collectively. Fořt arranged most of the album.
Mišík is the main vocalist, except on "Stále dál", which is sung by keyboard player Ivan Khunt.

"Kuře v hodinkách" (lit. "The Chicken in the Wristwatch") was released in limited edition at the time, as its audacious lyrics didn't get approved by the government. It was finally reissued in 1990, after the end of the Soviet regime.

Flamengo disbanded in 1973, but they played some reunion shows in recent years. Many regard their album as the pinnacle of rock music from Czechoslovakia. It is indeed a progressive rock classic.


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mercoledì 15 giugno 2016

MARIA PESZEK - "KARABIN" (2016)

Maria Peszek is Poland's most controversial artist, hated by many and loved by some.

Produced by a talented multi-instrumentist such as Michał Król, this new album debuted at no. 2 in Poland, staying in the top 10 for a couple of months.
I consider it an art-pop masterpiece, and I love how electronic rhythms are perfectly balanced by guitars and acoustic piano.

Peszek's lyrics are stronger than ever. I want to post some verses from "Modern Holocaust", one of the most shocking tracks of recent years.

A letter, letter, letter in a white envelope,
someone, someone threatens me with death.
You smell of a lesbian, you leftist scum,
dumb bitch, Jewish hooker.

Today, today someone texts me in the internet.
I'll destroy you, fuck you up and flush you in the toilet,
you smell of a lesbian, you leftist scum,
you're stupid, bitch, i'll find you for sure.

[...]

The big furnace of Polish hate burns,
there's nowhere to flee, nowhere to run away.
It's like a gulp of dirty vodka,
Polish modern holocaust.


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martedì 31 maggio 2016

INDEXI - "THE BEST OF" (1971-1980) [Released by Muzički Magazin in 2011]

Indexi was a Bosnian rock band active from the early Sixties. From 1967 to the mid Seventies they were the country's most important band. The huge popularity earned them the nickname "the Yugoslavian Beatles". 

On this anthology you will find all the anthems they released during the Seventies (the only big hit missing, "Predaj se srce", is one of their rare weak songs in my humble opinion, so it's not a big deal).

I will eventually post the legendary 1978 album "Modra rijeka" (this anthology includes only its title track) and another anthology for their Sixties era, but I think this one is the best way to start. 
The Seventies represented their best phase, and most of these songs, which were released only as singles at the time, are really catchy and well crafted.

Among my favourites are the tragic ballads "Bacila je sve niz rijeku" and "Ugasila je plamen", the dreamlike gem "Balada", the electronic "Njene oči, usne, ruke", and the beautiful cavalcade "Svijet u kojem živim"
Styles range from progressive rock to soul, from folk to baroque pop, from garage rock to soft pop.

Indexi changed many members over the years, but three of them have been a constant for decades: Davorin Popović (vocals), Slobodan Kovačević (guitars), and Fadil Redžić (bass guitar).

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mercoledì 18 maggio 2016

VOO VOO - "SNO-POWIĄZAŁKA" (1987)

Despite started out as a band, from the ashes of MWNH, Voo Voo soon became the personal project of Wojciech Waglewski. Today they are still one of the most revered names of the Polish alternative scene, even though they never really reached the mainstream.

This is their second album, their best according to many, and it contains a peculiar mix of post-punk, art-rock, folk, jazz, spoken word, and noir atmospheres.


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lunedì 9 maggio 2016

CHŁOPCY Z PLACU BRONI - "O! ELA" (1990) + Trójka sessions (1988-89)

Seven days ago "Kocham wolność" by Chlopcy z Placu Broni was voted the best Polish song ever by the listeners of Radio Trójka.
It was done with the purpose of sending a message to the current Polish far-right government, since the title means "I Love Freedom".
It is a wonderful song indeed, a striking alternative pop anthem, with beautiful jangly guitars.

The rest of the album is quite diverse, as it goes from jangle pop to melodic hardcore, including acoustic moments and bluesy ballads. "O! Ela" is a brilliant debut, for one of the most important Polish bands of the early 90's.
Their leader, Bogdan Łyszkiewicz, died in a car crash back in 2000, at the age of 35.

P.S. I also added some rare recordings from their 1988-89 radio Trójka sessions.

DOWNLOAD (album. Kbps: 320)
DOWNLOAD (radio sessions. Kbps: 320,
except "Kocham wolność", 198. If you own a better version please let me know

martedì 26 aprile 2016

KORNI GRUPA - "KORNI GRUPA" (1972)

Korni Grupa were an important Serbian rock band, founded in 1968 by keyboard player Kornelije Kovač, shortly after having left Indexi.

They had two parallel careers. One as a pop act, releasing many catchy songs exclusively for the singles market, and the other as an ambitious progressive rock project, with full lenght releases which sold only a few thousands copies at the time, but established them as one of the most influential Yugoslavian bands ever (Smak, Leb i Sol, and Bajaga, just to name a few of their fans).
This is their first and most important album, one of the founding moments of YU-rock.

Please note: whilst Dado Topić was a renowned member of Korni Grupa, he didn't play on this record, having left the band in 1971 to form Time. The lead vocalist here is Zlatko Pejaković.

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mercoledì 30 marzo 2016

BUDKA SUFLERA - "CIEŃ WIELKIEJ GÓRY" (1975)

Founded by singer Krzysztof Cugowski and bass player Romuald Lipko, Budka Suflera are one of the most important Polish bands ever. During their 40-year long career they have achieved no less than a dozen smash hits in their homeland, even though the quality of their music has dropped drastically after the mid Eighties.

Anyway, on this debut album you will find anything but brilliance. If the first part is made of four songs that mixes hard rock, folk, and Polish pop influences (with background lines provided by vocal female group Alibabki), the second side is entirely occupied by "Szalony koń", a 19-minute heavy prog suite, which features a crazy synthesizer solo by Czesław Niemen.

The album sold 115.000 copies in one year (quite a feat for a Polish band of the time), whilst "Jest taki samotny dom" and the title track are still popular as of today.

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mercoledì 2 marzo 2016

DARKWOOD DUB - "O DANIMA" (2004)

If you liked the masterpiece "Život počinje u 30 oj", you should try its sequel, "O danima". It goes in the same direction, mixing dub, noir atmospheres, indie pop, and electronic beats.
Darkwood Dub are one of my favourite Serbian bands, and this an important piece of their puzzle.


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giovedì 25 febbraio 2016

ARSEN DEDIĆ - "HOMO VOLANS" (1973)

Even though it generated a classic of ex-YU pop music, such as "Tvoje nježne godine", this double album marked the end of Arsen Dedić's golden era, selling less than his previous works.

In spite of this, today it can be considered his definitive artistic triumph, with a brilliant alternation of baroque pop, chanson, local folk, and adventurous jazz arrangements. 
In fact, some songs are way ahead of their time, like "Ana je Ana", an early mix of pop and world music, with is beautiful fuzzy guitars and Middle East-influenced orchestral lines, or "Mirni podstanar", which tells the story of a murder over a creepy, dissonant instrumental background, five years before the start of Scott Walker's experimental phase.

Don't let the length of the tracklist put you off; each of these 22 songs deserve your utmost attention.

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lunedì 22 febbraio 2016

MARIA PESZEK - "JEZUS MARIA PESZEK" (2012)

Maria Peszek is a Polish singer, actress, and writer. This is her second album, it reached no. 1 on the local charts, its lyrics against patriotism and catholicism generating a string of controversies.
Songs are dominated by frantic synthesizer sounds, hypnotic rhythms, and powerful bass lines. My favourite is probably the electronic punk anthem "Sorry Polsko", but there are other notable ones, such as "Wyścigówka" and "Pan nie jest moim pasterzem", with its dramatic crescendo.


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venerdì 29 gennaio 2016

REPUBLIKA - "MASAKRA" (1998)

"Masakra" was a strong comeback for Republika, after some disappointing albums.

My favourite tracks are “Gramy dalej”, with its dreamy keyboards, the title track, with its electro-industrial beats, and “Odchodząc”, a romantic single with acoustic guitars.
I also like downtempo numbers such as “Raz na milion lat” and “Przeczekajmy noc”. 

Even though it "only" reached no. 18 on the Polish charts at the time, "Masakra" has then become a classic. Today it is considered the band's third best album, after their Eighties milestones.

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lunedì 25 gennaio 2016

GRZEGORZ Z CIECHOWA - "OJDADANA" (1996)

The most bizarre album in Grzegorz Ciechowski's career. An exciting, funny mix of samples, processed sounds, new age atmospheres, alternative dance beats, recorder solos, funk guitars, and old melodies taken from the Polish folk tradition. 
It will be hard to encounter anything similar, that's for sure.

(Unexpectedly, this album did quite well in the charts, reaching no. 5 in Poland).

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domenica 3 gennaio 2016

ANIA RUSOWICZ - "GENESIS" (2013)

After a short career in mediocre pop band Dezire, Ania Rusowicz started her solo career. Her first album, "Mój Big-Bit" (2011), contained some covers from the repertoire of her mother, Ada Rusowicz. I prefer by far this second one, produced by Emade and consisting entirely of original material.

The tracklist is made of twelve beautiful songs which incorporate surf rock guitars, Farfisa organ, orchestral arrangements, and rhythm tricks. Among many influences you can hear traces of psychedelic rock, Polish folk music, Ennio Morricone, and Middle-Eastern melodies.

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