Mutual Support and Passionate Anger: Screamo in the Balkans

Malisa Bahat

Malisa Bahat.

“I started getting into screamo when I was 17, thanks to a bootleg compilation called Death To False Screamo, where I first heard bands like Orchid and Saetia,” recalls Dimitar Raykov, who grew up writing and collecting fanzines in Central Bulgaria. These says, Raykov runs DIY Conspiracy, a web magazine about punk, hardcore, and emo in the Balkans, where he reviews and interviews groups from around the world, with a particular focus on lesser-known acts from southeastern Europe.

Back in the ’80s, Yugoslavia and Greece already had fertile punk and new wave scenes, and the number of punk and hardcore acts in the area has remained high since then. “There were a lot of good bands and venues,” says Mišo Ljuboje, who comes from Split—a city on the Croatian coast—but now lives in Vienna, where he books shows and runs a DIY label called Hardcore for the Losers. “The zine circuit was developed and there were enough connections,” Ljuboje says. “I think we’ve had quite a decent scene overall.”

Ljuboje got into emo and screamo by listening to political French DIY bands from the ’90s and early 2000s—artists like Amanda Woodward, Peu Être, and The Flying Worker—and by participating in the rising emo scene in Slovenia and Croatia. At the turn of the century, bands like the Zagreb-based Nikad were playing the same brand of aggressive screamo as American acts like Orchid and Yaphet Kotto, and were among the first to deliver an uncompromised mix of powerviolence and emocore. While Nikad were never internationally famous, they were certainly noticed by the most attentive and dedicated fans of the genre—like Kent McClard, the owner of the California label Ebullition Records. McClard once described Nikad as “the best band you’ve never heard of” in his zine HeartattaCk, which published from 1994 to 2006 and was, for many, a sort of emotional hardcore Bible.

Other great bands from that ere were The Farewell Reason (’90s emo from Čakovec in Croatia), With Engine Heart (raucous screamo from Celje in Slovenia), and Analena, whose members were spread among the two northern countries of former Yugoslavia, and were probably the best-known band from the region. Active since 1997, Analena were one of the few DIY acts from the Balkans who managed to tour Europe with any level of consistency, playing important hardcore festivals and self-releasing memorable records rich with crisp and energetic post-hardcore anthems.

Right now, screamo might not feel as exciting and new as it felt back then, but there are still a handful of active bands who have released a series of outstanding albums over the last few years. From the “futurist hardcore” of Greece’s Ruined Families to the uncontainable emoviolence (with 8-bit inserts!) of Serbia’s Eaglehaslanded, Balkan screamo is a beautifully diverse niche that has created a network of connections that extend beyond regional borders.

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Kaimbr is The Wu-Tang Disciple You Didn’t Know You Needed

Kaimbr

Hip-hop fans who are prone to nostalgia reserve a special reverence for the 1990s, a time when the beats were made of hard drums and dusty soul samples, and lyricists spit vivid street tales above them. The DMV rapper Kaimbr evokes that era in his music, which at times plays like a refreshing take on the Wu-Tang Clan’s gritty sound. (Fittingly, on 2015’s Bronze Horse, Kaimbr rhymed over restructured Wu samples.)

As part of the D.C. area’s Low Budget Crew, Kaimbr has carved out a quieter career than his compatriots Oddisee and Kev Brown. The artist, born Alexander Green, is a remarkably skilled rapper and producer, and while he eschews the trap and bass-heavy tone of today’s hip-hop, his brand of Golden Age boom-bap still feels vital and contemporary.

Kaimbr’s new album, Share the Shelter, is a solo album in name alone. He may be the lead rapper, but with features from Brown, yU, Sean Born, Awthentik, Kenn Starr, RODDYROD, and others, Shelter feels like a group effort in the spirit of Ghostface Killah’s Ironman and Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. We spoke with the DMV swordsman about his recent album, the legacy of Low Budget, and what’s next for the crew.

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Scene Report: Stoner Rock in Greece

1000 mods

1000 mods by Chrysa Papadopoulou.

In the summer of 2015, several hundred stoner rock artists and fans travelled to a small festival by a lake in the northern part of Greece. And though that turned out to be the Fuzztastic Planet Festival’s final year—so far, anyway—the scene’s pulse has hardly diminished. In 2016, fans headed to the Los Almiros Festival to watch their local heroes share the stage with international acts like Truckfighters.

Heavy music has been popular in Greece for decades. In the ’90s, underground black metal bands like Athens’ Rotting Christ responded to the Nordic dominance in the genre with albums that included themes from ancient Greece. In the panic and slump that followed Greece’s economic crash in 2010, scores of young people fled the country. For some of those who chose to stay, fuzzed-out rock provides an escape from the daily routine. Radio stations like Downtuned, the self-described home of the Greek heavy underground, have become a beacon of the scene, spreading the word across the globe.

Needless to say, stoner rock has very little in common with traditional Greek music—don’t expect bouzouki, Cretan lute, or Epirus clarinet here, though a handful of bands, like Villagers of Ioannina City, have managed to merge the two sounds successfully. Most of them, though, including bands like Nightstalker and Planet of Zeus, keep the focus simple: guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. If you’re a fan of groups like Kyuss or Turbonegro, there are plenty of interesting things happening in Greece to warrant your attention.

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Album of the Day: DJ Format & Abdominal, “Still Hungry”

Brighton’s DJ Format and the Toronto MC Abdominal first teamed up back in 2001, for the single “Ill Culinary Behaviour.” That song, with its acrobatic lyricism and boom-bap classicism, put them squarely in the “bringing-real-shit-back” mode that was running rampant in edge-of-the-century indie rap. DJ Format winkingly acknowledged this revivalist spirit in the title of his 2003 album, Music for the Mature B-Boy, which included “Culinary” alongside two other songs with Abdominal that celebrated the hip-hop sound of ’88.

That fire remains intact on Still Hungry and, when you’re a rapper in your 40s, that’s no small feat. Abdominal’s Kane-meets-Serch flow and lacerating agility are on full display. He still nails traditional underground rap targets: sanitized, overprocessed culture (“Dirt”), his need to be respectful of hip-hop as an outsider (“White Rapper”), and the day-to-day schlep of working as a touring musician (“Behind the Scenes”). He delivers all of these with a knowing, aw-hell charisma and a flow that clicks masterfully with Format’s distinctly Golden Age production. Put ’em in front of a crowd starving for ’90s vibes—whether or not they were around for them the first time or not—and let Format & Abdominal do the rest.

Nate Patrin

ÌFÉ’s Otura Mun Explores His Divine Destiny

Ife

Photo by Mariangel Gonzales.

DJ, producer, percussionist and composer Otura Mun was born Mark Underwood in Goshen, Indiana. A drummer fluent in R&B and jazz (and the youngest member of the renowned University of North Texas drumline in his freshman year), Otura Mun took his first life-changing trip to Puerto Rico almost 20 years ago. He now calls the island home, and it’s where he and his ensemble ÌFÉ create electronic music that channels the musical and spiritual worlds of the African diaspora throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.

The ensemble and the music they make are also connected to Mun’s desire to study the Cuban rumba—which led to his initiation as a babalawo, or Yoruban high priest. The perspective now orients both his musical and his personal life.

As Otura Mun explains it, he chose the title IIII+IIII for ÌFÉ’s debut because it marks “the beginning of a new era, a change in the guard, a spiritual awakening,” a path an individual can take on their divine destiny.

To talk with Otura Mun is to become caught up in a heady whirlwind of ideas about music that’s constructed with layers upon layers of aligned signs and evoked meanings. We caught up with the San Juan-based Otura Mun via Skype to get a glimpse of the wondrous, spirit-filled world that informs his music.

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