Ex Eu
Tended Rope CD

Ex Eu, an acronymic version of "Extended Europe", is an artistic statement about the forthcoming political and economical integration of several Eastern European countries into the European Union. It is also a homage to experimental and vocal music from the Eastern parts of Europe and features selected live recordings from a festival held at Viennese club Porgy and Bess in 2001.

Music from the Eastern fringes of Europe is seldom in the spotlight of the international music scene (never mind T.a.t.u. for that matter), and in fact Ex Eu wants to show there is a lot of hidden talent beyond the former Iron Curtain. You'll find a strong "black and white" or "traditional versus contemporary" pattern within this CD, as the compilation deliberately juxtaposes traditionals and abstract modern sounds.

The traditional part is embodied by female singer Svetlana Spajic from Yugoslavia and her characteristic expressive vocal style that lends an avantgarde touch to the mainly melancholic source material from the rural areas of Eastern Europe. Svetlana's performance builds the musical frame for the compilation, the CD starts and ends with one of her songs, and there's another of her tunes in between the "modern" tracks.

As for the "modern" part, well, there is the Theremin Orchestra, a group of five Theremin-players, featuring Elisabeth Schimana, mastermind behind this CD-release. The Thereminvox (short: Theremin) is one of the musical instruments closely associated with Eastern Europe and is well known for its unearthly sound. However, the Theremin Orchestra go one step further: the group create quite some disturbing noise in their two improvised pieces by using a lot of effects units and a Kyma audio workstation to alter the characteristic sound of the Thereminvox.

Russian art collective Fugk/Yuri Popovsky's title "Stalingrad" is said to be a reflection on modern Russia. If this is anything to go by, the assembly of white noise, distorted samples and alienated beeps paints a rather bleak picture of Russia's present and future.

Blank disc (interesting monicker!), an experimental duo from Yugoslavia, provide another track that is made up of harsh guitar noise, feedback loops, vocal samples and a lot of abrasive electronic sounds. This, combined with a harmonic sense derived from Atonal Music and Free Jazz, makes Blank Disc un-easy listening at its best.

Pal Toth, aka En, has a long history in the Hungarian radio broadcasting scene, and it seems his familiarity with the etherwave has a strong influence on his sonic experiments, too. Cosmic soundscapes and machine-like sounds are transformed into a psycho-ambient flow that starts and ebbs away in a seemingly never-ending cycle.

Last in the line of the contemporary musicians gathered on this CD is The Abstract Monarchy Trio with an untitled experimental piece. This is a very "free" effort, with no recognizable structure and somehow lacking dramaturgical qualities.

A worthwhile CD for connoisseurs of experimental and Eastern folk music, but, considering that Ex Eu is ultimately a live recording, it lacks a bit of atmosphere.

(rh 05/MMIII)

Label: Salon Elise
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Ex Eu looks beyond the former Iron Curtain