Sunday, July 26, 2009

dêti z havel 1. - moravian soul beat

dêti z havel (dyetyi zh havel - children (out) of Havel) the impetus for the title and compilation was a quote from Vaclav Havel's liner notes for Pulnoc's 1991 recording City of Hysteria, an unsuccessful attempt by Arista to break them in the US. Pulnoc was an offshoot of The Plastic People, looking back to their rockier roots ala Velvet Underground. These notes were actually written in 1984, which accounts for references which were already part of the past in 1991, but were and are still relevant, I think. Note: the original text was all lower case and I have maintained that here.

"the plastics live in prague. in czechoslovakia. in central europe. their spiritual home is this ethnically, culturally and historically diverse focus of european history. traditionally, this has been the first battleground and the first victim in struggles which begin as european struggles, and end up as something worldwide. it is a crossroads of both european ideas and european armies, the inevitable object of geopolitical interests and a target of modern weapons, impending dangers always seem to be felt here first, and more urgently than elsewhere. it is a great reservoir of differences and a great gene pool of ideas that emanate from it, ideas that are often bizarre and difficult to fathom and yet which sometimes prove to be surprisingly farsighted. prague - that "magical city" built on a medieval town plan - lies at the very centre of this central europe, and though from a distance it may seem no more than the artificially ornate capital of an artificially ornate soviet satellite, it breathes its own irrepressible breath, which is continually bursting to the surface, and imparting its own qualities to imported structures.

prague teenagers don't need to read meyrink, kafka, musil, hasek, klima or hrabal, and they don't need to listen to schoenberg or webern, they don't need to know much history - and still, they will be central european in their sensibilities, their black humor, their grotesque fantasy, their mistrust of inflated rhetoric, their feeling that a generalized threat hangs over them, and the defenses they adopt against it, as well as the disgust they feel with the world - these will always betray their origins.

... some highly specific information about the existential fine tuning of people who find themselves in a place where the knots of history are tied and unraveled."

I took this as emblematic not only of Prague or Bohemia, but the entire country, of the generation contemporaneous with the Plastics and the next one that followed after them. This first collection is centered in and around Brno in Moravia, a solarized picture of which serves as the image, though certain bands are based in Prague or elsewhere within the borders.

moravian soul beat

01. Flageolety - Pavel Fajt & Pluto (4:52)
02. Sinfonietta 1. Allegretto - Leos Janacek - Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra (2:14)
03. Kocka - Iva Bittová & Cikori (6:11)
04. .. A Dny Jak Padli Andele Prsty Ryji Hlinu - Vladimir Vaclavek (4:52)
05. Baba Aga - Jablkon (2:13)
06. Krajina Ró - Jablkon & Sveceny (7:39)
07. Giordano Bruno - MCH Band (5:34)
08. Krasobruslar - Psi Vojaci (3:17)
09. Na Jih - Southwards - Dunaj (4:40)
10. Tango - Tara Fuki (2:53)
11. I'm Going - Rale (4:05)
12. Popí Rondo - Jablkon & Sveceny (3:04)
13. Bare - Vladimir Vaclavek (2:59)
14. Samson - The Plastic People (5:17)
15. Dr. Feigelstock - Mikolás Chadima & Pavel Fajt (2:53)
16. Za Nasím - Iva Bittová & Pavel Fajt (0:58)
17. Bozí Dárek - Iva Bittová & Pavel Fajt (2:31)
18. Padá Rosa Studená - Vaclavek, Ostransky, Suzanna Jelínková (2:23)
19. Hluboko Pod Zemí - Dunaj (4:51)
20. Masopust - Pluto (3:37)
21. Zpivá (Sings) - The Plastic People (3:18)

download [CD rips | mp3 - 320 kbps | 165 MB]


gidouille said...

Ah, I was looking to see how to edit the link and couldn't figure it out, thanks.

I do have a second collection I put together, but I'll wait and see if this one generates much interest. I also have track by track comments, I could post. Not certain if that would be a bit overkill though.

Thanks for the welcome.

gidouille said...


01. Flageolety - Pavel Fajt & Pluto - Pavel comes up with some of the deepest grooves this side of Jaki Liebzeit, and his tone betrays the value of precise tuning. Here ex-wife Iva Bittová guests, duetting with vocalist Vaclav Bartos on Pluto's debut recording.

02. Sinfonietta 1. Allegretto - Leos Janacek - Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra - Janacek was Brno's favorite son and I think he had a strong impact on a number of the artists coming up on this disc, His Dunaj Symphony was named for the Czech word for the Danube and also lent itself to one of the great bands to emerge from the Brno indie scene. This first movement of the Sinfonietta is the one nicked virtually note for note by ELP for The Knife Edge with no credit given until Janacek's widow threatened to sue. I expect the lads were surprised that the wife of a man who'd died nearly a half century earlier was still alive to notice.

03. Kocka - Iva Bittová & Cikori - Iva comes closer than ever to Jazz with an acoustic quintet of guitar, double bass, trumpet and drums plus her violin and vocals.

04. .. A Dny Jak Padli Andele Prsty Ryji Hlinu - Vladimir Vaclavek - this comes from Vladimir's first solo recording I Am the Soil, I Am the Tree, I Am the Machine and was made while he was still primarily known as Dunaj's bassist. The title translates as And Days Like Fallen Angels Scratching Soil with Fingers.

05. Baba Aga - Jablkon - pronounced yubblecone, Czech for apple tree, longstanding group which displays quite a range of material from ballads to Christmas music, to lounge, to this uh, pagan folk style. They embody much of what I love about the Czech scene, old guys with nylon string guitars who play with the intensity of a metal band.

06. Krajina Ró - Jablkon & Sveceny - they save some of their best work for their collaborations with classical violinist Jaroslav Sveceny, this from a decade after the track above is more lushly orchestrated with a now electric bassist who doubles on bassoon and a vocalist added to the guitars and percussion.

07. Giordano Bruno - MCH Band - a project of Mikolás Chadima, whose career dates back to the early 70's. He was a signatory on the Helsinki '77 human rights declaration, which had been prompted in part by the show trials of members of the Plastic People. This recording is from the late 90's and a good example of Chadima's richly declamatory style. It's understandable that a martyr to free thinking like Bruno, burned by the Inquisition in 1600, would be an iconic figure to the Czechs. Chadima's the sax player and guitarist as well as the vocalist.

gidouille said...

08. Krasobruslar - Psi Vojaci - translates as Dog Soldiers - Filip Topol was a bit of a teen prodigy having guested on the Plastic People's Passion Play when he was only 13. A few years later he formed this group, which went through a new wave period and who knows what else. I've heard only a few of their recordings from the past decade, so I haven't a clue what the band sounded like in the 80's, but his late romantic piano style with muscular rhythm section and minimal sax lines doesn't exactly sound like anything else I've heard. The texts are apparently central to his work and the complexity of cases in the language prevents me making much sense of them via language dictionaries.

09. Na Jih (Southwards) - Dunaj - one of my favorite bands of all time. Chris Cutler referred to them as "the overlapping parts group". Their emotionally charged minimalism, and uh counterintuitive sprung swing, is dead simple and incredibly complex at the same time. They began as Iva Bittová's backing group, and Pavel Fajt was still the drummer when this recording was made in 1991.

10. Tango - Tara Fuki - a duo of cellists / vocalists, one Polish and one Czech, who sing in Polish. The Bittová influence is apparent, but with music this good I'm not going to complain. This first album was stripped down whereas subsequent ones I understand utilize electronic treatments and a number of guests.

11. I'm Going - Rale - International group with Vaclavek and Josef Ostransky from Dunaj, the Japanese violinist / singer Takumi Fukushima and French/Vietnamese dancer and singer Cynthia Phung-Ngoc. This is an early track recorded at the Angelica Festival in Bologna. They subsequently added Andrea Konstankiewicz of Tara Fuki and made two more eclectically expansive discs utilizing vocals in as many as six different languages.

12. Popí Rondo - Jablkon & Sveceny - an old classic of theirs revisited. I'm not aware of the significance, if any, of a Pope's Rondo. It seems like a musical form which the Vatican would have found quite objectionable.

13. Bare - Vladimir Vaclavek - Another evocative tune from I Am the Soil.

14. Samson - The Plastic People - the founders of the feast as Cratchit might have put it and the earliest recorded track here, from 1980's Leading Horses. This was recorded clandestinely with the tapes smuggled out of the country, and along with the even earlier Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned, was one of their better known releases in the west prior to the velvet revolution.

gidouille said...

15. Dr. Feigelstock - Mikolás Chadima / Pavel Fajt - a German cabaret style tune from Transparent People. The artwork of this release is extraordinary, evoking the anatomical transparencies I recall from our old set of Colliers Encyclopedias, with lyrics in English and Czech rendered in red and black on alternating pages of vellum.

16. Za Nasím /17. Bozí Dárek - Iva Bittová & Pavel Fajt - it was in the late 80's when the Tone Dogs came back from a tour of Eastern Europe raving about these Czech musicians they'd met with lps in tow. It was our introduction in Portland to the nascent Czech independent scene. These were among the first tracks I ever heard by these two.

18. Padá Rosa Studená - Vaclavek, Ostransky, Suzanna Jelínková - an acoustic recording entitled Domaci Lekar (House Doctor) with a really rustic looking cover. Who else would set what sounds suspiciously like a rosary to music like this.

19. Hluboko Pod Zemí - Dunaj - from their last record La La Lai, I suspect if singer guitarist Jiri Kolsovsky hadn't died suddenly in 1998, they'd probably still be together. Tamizdat compared this record to Black Sabbath in its dark minor balladry, not a comparison I'd make but whatever. The title means something like Deep Below the Earth and the lyrics are by Vaclavek's brother Petr. I like the ingenious manner in which the bass punctuates and shades the vocals on the chorus.

20. Masopust - Pluto - with the second album Pavel eschews having his name above the title, and the guitarist and bassist consistently go for the least obvious roles imaginable. Many of the tracks of this album feature steel drums filling a keyboard like role, but they're not apparent on this track.

21. Zpivá (Sings) - The Plastic People - from Midnight Mouse, the final PP disc until their 80's resurgence and another which was released in the west. I'm eternally grateful I was able to see them before their leader Milan Hlavsa died of lung cancer. Their show in SF in 1998 was remarkable for the great joy the band evidenced in playing such dark moody music. They returned last fall with Hlavsa's replacement Eva Turnová and were every bit as great.

Sings (Nápravnik)

The first comes onto the stage, Sings.
The second comes onto the stage and murders the first. Sings.
The third comes onto the stage and murders the second
who murders the first. Sings.
The first comes onto the stage and murders the third
who murders the second who murders himself. Sings.
The second comes onto the stage and murders the first
who murders the third who murders himself
who murders the first. Sings
The third comes onto the stage and murders the second
who murders the first who murders himself
who murders the second who murders the first. Sings
The first comes onto the stage and murders the third
who murders the second who murders himself
who murders the third who murders the second
who murders himself. Sings.
The second comes onto the stage and murders the first
who murders the third who murders himself
who murders the first who murders the third
who murders himself who murders the first. Sings.
The third who comes onto the stage and murders the second
who murders the first who murders himself
who murders the second who murders the first
who murders himself who murders the second
who murders the first. Sings.

Anonymous said...

Excelent compilation!
Please, put the second one!

Thanks a lot

Godard said...

gidouille, wonderful first post! been listening this morning, some old favourites and many new! Special thanks also for the track by track notes - very informative, opening another perspective.

This is the music I love - what a beautiful post :)

icastico said...

Indeed, wonderful stuff. Thanks. Looking forward to your next one.

Spring Day said...

Wonderful, the selection and the great commentary work! However, I feel the title's a bit strange. I'm not a native Czech speaker and not so familiar with the colloquial language in Bohemia and Moravia, but at least in written language I'd expect the title to be something like "Děti Havla" (The Children of Havel). "Děti z..." rather means "The children out of..." (followed by a town name for example). And the preposition "z" requires the usage of genitive case, so Havel would become Havla. But it seems you're just quoting. Does this quote come from a Czech source?

gidouille said...

Spring Day, no it's not a quote, it's an illustration of my ignorance of the language. The concept is just an organizational conceit inspired by Havel's words in the block quote. I thought z meant of. The vast number of cases in the Czech language confuses me to no end. Nearly every word seems to be a variation of a root, which is seldom employed in its pure form. Thanks for the correction. That said, I kind of like the sound of children out of Havel, as if he was a place. He certainly functions as a kind of cultural space for the Czechs.

Spring Day said...

Yes, I agree with your view on the role of Havel. He's the kind of intellectual elder statesman comparable to president Masaryk in the first Czechoslovak republic after WW I.
Sure, grammarwise the Czech language looks quite scary, but I like the sound of it, and up to a certain extent I like challenge. So, I can only recommend you to learn some ;-) Actually, everything's relative. While you have to tackle some difficulties of pronounciation (the favorite sentence to scare people off is "strč prst skrz krk") and the trouble with cases, other aspects are easy - for example the verbal tense system is much simpler than in English, French or German (and as a foreigner it's okay to ignore verbal "aspects", which often serve as another scarecrow).

Lvčký said...

Chrt pln skvrn vtrhl skrz trs chrp v čtvrť Krč. ;)

Spring Day said...

Ha, der ist ja noch besser, ihr kleinen Löwen (lvíčky)