La Danza Poetica #19 Northern Lights

A moody hour under the spell of Northern, Eastern Europe. Beats and poetics from Russia, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, the Nederlands. 


Dichters Dansen Niet - Milord l'Arsouille (Ontscheping)
Maya Kristalinskaya - U Tebya Takie Glaza (21 Outside Remix)
Futuresounder - Venera Y
Vladimir Maiakovski - Une aventure extraordinaire arrivee a Vladimir Maiakovski en ete a la datcha
Allison Chanic & Alan McKerl - Further
Dichters Dansen Niet - De nachtuil van vermaak (Onttovering)
Kern Koppen - Laat Maar
Beryoza-Chervoboy - Uhodi
Helsinki Poetry Jam - Anonyymi
Helsinki Poetry Jam - Kruger
Insane Fennel - Remote Places
Helsinki Poetry Jam - Lyhyet Tarvitsevat Vähemmän Hamekangasta
Dichters Dansen Niet - De voorspoed is een junk (Ontwenning)
Raumskaya - Suka Ljubov (Tribute to Mihey)
Vitaliy Rybakin (poem by Daniil Kharms) - Подруга (Girlfriend)
Mikołaj Trzaska + Tomasz Sowiński + Adam Żuchowski - Śpisz
Zhe Pechorin - Outro Mundo
Vladimir Maiakovski - Ecoutez
The Swiss Conspiracy - Delire Nostalgique
Balkantronika feat. ASkitzo & Deepstoned Selectah - Boranija (Shazalakazoo Remix)
Aheadahead - untitled (from High Status and Continued Success in the Ongoing Battle for Power and Prestige)
Moresebya - Еёслезы (j.Faraday Instr)
Horny Trees - Branches of Dirty Delight
Panikattacken - Kriechend Schwarz IV & Wenn ich…
Dichters Dansen Niet - Met de smaak van vroeger (Ontginning)
Sonae - Entmutigt
Sabine Oymanns - Zeit für Drachen
Dichters Dansen Niet - Het nulde uur (Ontknoping)
Ane Brun - The Treehouse

Notes on the show

"Asked what he would take when his house was on fire Jean Cocteau answered 'Fire!'"

Beginning La Danza Poetica number 19’s strange and wonderful journey - we're guided through the show by the voice of poet Serge van Duijn Hoven of Dichters Dansen Niet (translated into English = "poets don’t dance"). From the album Vuurproef (Crucibles) the third in a trio of collaborations between two musicians and a poet from Belgium. The trio is poet Serge van Duijn Hoven, DJ Fred de Backer, and pianist Edwin Berg. They first released an album called Blood Test in 2003, a follow-up album Klip Drift in 2007, and now Vuurproef, released this year in a really beautifully put together book/CD package. All these releases are also live performance events in Europe.

Serge's poetry progresses on the album in a kind of quest - questing for reflection in an excessively accelerated and largely lifeless world. Struggles through depression, addiction, meaninglessness and confusion, emergence into light through art, poetry, and deeper understanding. The orchestration of both music and voice in this album is fantastic - it's seriously one of the best spoken word and music collaborations I’ve heard, in any language.

Russian ghetto music community label Beryoza releases music from underground electronic producers around Russia. Their ‘Old' New Year compilation released in January is a free download, a 'new years' gift during the celebration of Russia’s second new year of 2014. (According to the producers, Russia is the only country in the world that celebrates New Year twice, because of Julian and Gregorian calendar differences. The night from 13 to 14 january is usually called "Old" New Year. From this compilation, I took the 21 Outside Remix of Maya Kristalinskaya - a popular singer of the Soviet period.

Also released by Beryoza this year, the Russian Ghetto Vol.1 compilation. As explained by the label: "Appealing to Russian pop-heritage of the 90s always seemed to be ambiguous. One could laugh, one could seriously call it “reincarnation”. But obviously no one could deny, that this tendency reached everyone who loves underground electronic music in Russia. Russian Ghetto Compilation Vol.1 is a reflection of this tendency. We gathered 20 tracks from different producers all over the country in order to redefine forgotten pop melodies from the past and give them a new life by means of ghetto music." This is electronic music with a melodic soul, deep and passionate. The label is a great introduction to what's happening in Russian dance music if you're looking for one. In the show, tracks from Raumskaya and Chervoboi (Saint-Petersburg).

Moresbya is also from Russia, making abstract hip hop, electronics with spoken word and a little bit of alternative shoegaze. The latest is the Cough Syrup LP. Some straight dark hip hop, but some great excursions into 'cloud rap', thin synths, and some true experimentation around the embedding of voice into music.

Zhe Pechorin's second release for Generation Bass is the Black Soul EP.  The Serbian producer has been making some brilliant electronic music, multi-layered percussion and synth sounds, with melodic drive and a real clarity of sound. The tracks are all hypnotic, my favourite is Outro Mundo. 

Another compilation that's a good intro into the sounds of a place is the PL2UA benefit compilation, out of Poland. An expression of solidarity and support by Polish musicians, as well as musicians from other countries of Eastern Europe, for the people suffering as a result of clashes in the Ukraine. "Independent can be understood in two ways: on the one hand as an independent music scene, and on the other as the independent Ukraine which is fought for by its people." The funds are all going to the "Open Dialogue" Foundation - Most of the tracks on this compilation are more purely electronic than I might normally feature, but there are a couple of total gems in there. One is by Poland’s Horny Trees - a track called Branches of Dirty Delight (the title track from their 2009 album). Ambient electronics with a heart of jazz.

Speaking of hearts of jazz, it was nice to include in this show one of my old favourite, long tracks, from Kern Koppen's 2009 album ÉÉN. Brothers Ki and Ahab and Tommy 2 Times, out of the Nederlands, make good conscious music - hip hop, spoken word poetry, organic rhythms, pop riffs, 70s synths, jazz syncopation, excellently off-beat humour, '& even Dutch classics'. They have a jazz approach to composition - as Ki says in this Ajakanu interview from 2010: "Improvisation has had a tremendous impact to who we are as artists. It made us develop ourselves. There aren’t many people who make jazz this way. Because basically that’s what you do, you’re making jazz at that point. Not with a trumpet but with a rap voice." The trio have been releasing a quartet of 'seasonal' LPs out more recently - Lente Koorts (Spring Fever), Zomer Fruit (Summer Fruits), Herfst Blad (Autumn Leaves), and Winter Slaap (Winter Sleep) - check them out here.

They make some great, surreal videos, too...

Also from the Nederlands is the spoken word/music duo Aheadahead (Henrik Sundh aka Dodebum and Michael Lee Burgess) who I first came into contact with a few years ago whilst editing the CDs for literary journal Going Down Swinging. We featured a track from their 2006 album High Status and Continued Success in the Ongoing Battle for Power and Prestige in one of our issues. This is a generally quite simply produced album of spoken word pieces and short stories. Drily humorous, sometimes silly, always intelligent. The track featured in this show Osama is one that has stuck with me in its surrealism and sense of confusion, which develops into a very clear and still very pertinent message about demonisation of "the other". You can still get this album, from iTunes.

A lovely piano/electro track features in the middle of the show from electronic producer Sonae. Mixed in with Sonae, a couple of pieces from German spoken word poetry outfit Panikattacken. Here are the originals:

I took the Sonae track from the Pussy Riot Freedom compilation released by Female:Pressure in 2013 as a benefit for the Pussy Riot collective and awareness-raiser for Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Since Maria and Nadezhda's release, and their split from the Pussy Riot collective, - the Voice Project (which had been gathering funds) closed their fundraising and the album is now a free download.

Female:pressure is an international database and support network for women in the fields of electronic music and digital art. With more than 1300 members in 58 countries it's a great collective of women empowering women in a most often male-dominated field. Through this network I'm meeting more and more amazing women artists every day and I'm looking forward to talking more about their work here in future.

One of the artists met through female:pressure is Allison Chanic. Avante-garde electronic musician Chanic draws on a background in classical piano and violin, making intriguing, layered, minimal electronic tracks. Again, I am led in this dance further into the pure electronics but again, it is because of the melodic organic approach of these producers. Allison's approach is very orchestral. The spoken voice is processed along with the instrumentation, embedded within the frequencies, making it very much a part of the orchestration and overall musicality - something that I've always sought in spoken word production. This track Further (Come back to me) is a collaboration with Alan McKerl, from the 2008 album Ultima. 

Allison is also head of the TCSP label, and has some fascinating projects about which I'm sure I'll be writing more ... for now, some words that touched me today from the LoVE  (Lucrative Opinions of Victorious Evolution) project:

"We thought about the scenario and we have all realized our mistakes. We have formed together a massive organization, called LoVE (Lucrative Opinions of Victorious Evolution). A foundation based on love have become our biggest weapon.....We use it in order to defeat ignorance and war. We see no race, gender or sexuality as a threat. We are the homogeneity of a society. We have come to the conclusion that love is more than ever so important. In order to survive, we need to cherish mother earth and everything within. Our world have been brought upon the edge of a knife. Our eco system is failing and the food industry's pollution have over powered us completely.....We let people be what they are. We respect other peoples believes, personality or identity. We protect diversity and mutual awareness. We unite in order to find peace and a deeper understanding for love. We believe in the goodness of being kind to the world."

Amen, sister.

To take a slight detour from the podcast for a moment, this week Alan McKerl shared with me a haunting video - 6 floor, acollaboration with Vietnamese-French video artist, musician and writer TK.Kim. Beautiful visual and oral storytelling!

One more Russian producer I want to mention this month: Futuresounder, a young producer out of Russia, making 'pop, glo-fi and future bass' ... I'm enough out of the scene to not know the intricacies of 'glo-fi' are but this is really on the edge of experimentation and in this music I'm hearing a welcome infusion of organics into the experimental electronic dance field. Changes was released in 2013 - I'm late to this one yes, but glad to find it!

To end, I have to mention our two 'honoured ghosts' for this dance poetic - two subversive futurist writers, both imprisoned for their work - Russian Vladimir Maiakovski and Daniil Kharms.

Also an actor, playwright and artist, Maiakovski was among the Russian Futurists of the early 20th century, a political poet and a realist poet, a passionate a dramatic figure. In the show, the poem Une aventure extraordinaire arrivee a Vladimir Maiakovski en ete a la datcha (An Extraordinary Adventure Which Befell Vladimir Mayakovksy In A Summer Cottage). A heated conversation with the sun (! sorry) ... which turns into a beautiful tribute to life.

shone in all my might, 
and morning ran its round. 
Always to shine, 
to shine everywhere, 
to the very deeps of the last days, 
to shine— 
and to hell with everything else! 
That is my motto— 
and the sun’s!

There is an English language translation of the full poem here. * I know that DJ Spooky has used this poem - this recording, in fact - in a track on his Rhythm Science collection. I mention it, but it's honestly not a very exciting track or mix, to me, so I'll leave it there.

Daniil Kharms came from the era of sound poet Aleksandr Tufanov, continuing the subversive modernist poetry in Russia into the mid 20th century, seeking to unite the previous futurist artists with young progressive artists into a whole movement - a doomed venture given Stalin outlawed all such societies. Arrested in 1931 as an "anti-Soviet children's writer" and exiled, he lived poorly, was arrested a second time ten years later, and starved to death in prison. An awful fate for a man who - from what I've read - had a vibrant and unusual imagination. Kharms wrote mainly children's stories and very short absurdist fiction - what people now call flash fiction. I'm new to his work but I've found this good collection of stories in English, and I love the absurd sharpness of his tongue: I came to Kharms via Vitaliy Rybakin, a musician, artist, philosopher from Samara, Russia. He makes some varied sounds, explores all kinds of abstract musical ideas, from John Lennon covers to abstract classical experiments - a child of the Russian spirit of experimentation definitely!

The show closes with a sweet twisted track from Ane Brun, the Swedish singer who was in Australia last month for Womadelaide. This video for her 2010 song The Treehouse is fittingly abstract, fittingly surreal, to wrap up this month's dance. We've travelled through forests and cities of story, met ghosts in these places where so many of the western world's fairytales come from, seen some of the brilliantly expressionist future visions. I know I'm only barely scratching the surface here but I've enjoyed this dance and there'll be more.