For those who missed last 25-30 years or skipped history classes, Yugoslavia was a socialist and communist country in the Balkans. But unlike the similar countries of Eastern Europe “behind the Iron Curtain”, Yugoslavia was out of any blocs. In fact, the country was a founder of Non-Aligned Movement, but still had a good influence on Western culture.
That was the reason why all subcultures were present and started developing few years after their beginnings in Western countries. We had R’n’R, punk, post-punk, hardcore, disco, pop, comics, art etc. scene, you name it. The “Ljubljana-Zagreb-Belgrade axis” (capital cities of the republics) was very strong, connections were made, people traveled a lot, exchanged ideas, played and you can tell that was “the Golden age” of our underground scene.
The year of 1992 was the end of Yugoslavia. We’ve split into six countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. I am sure some of you have heard about the civil wars that ended in 1995. Most of the contacts were broken or hard to maintain, a lot of artists moved to some other countries, or stopped being active, however, there were some new generations that grew up in between.
After the war, the connections between ex-Yugoslavian republics were slowly restored, mostly by fanzines. The Internet came few years after, and fanzines were moving slowly to their demise. Here and there you will find some punk, art, sci-fi or other fanzine, but by now they are more of “by accident” than a regular thing.
Video Killed The Radio Star…
Internet Killed The Fanzine
Webzines are now dominating underground media scene, and every few months there is some new portal, blog or something like that popping up. Like fanzines, most of them last just for a year or two. Though, there are few of them that last for more than a decade-decade and a half.
Labels? Physical labels are disappearing as well. There are few indie labels in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, and I think they are doing pretty well. But most of new labels are starting as net-labels. There are all kind of them that support punk, metal, noise, industrial, electronic, D’n’B, and many more.
Fortunately, we have younger generations that are active, and that’s a pretty good start.
Since it is hard to cover all of underground genres, maybe the best way to scratch the surface is to check some of the labels and compilations they prepared throughout the last few years. You’ll see how diverse the scene is, from obscure bedroom projects to artists who have a commercial potential.
So, let’s start with LIBRARION, which is basically art fanzine, but almost every issue was followed with release. Sometimes it was a single track, but through time the net label became a parallel part of Librarion project. So far three compilations were made:
“Strah” (Fear) as part of issue #3 of the zine, as well as “Opasna ženska muzika” (Fearsome female music) with #2 issue. This compilation is quite interesting since only girl bands and acts were gathered there. It was made to highlight the Balkan women of the underground.
Their freshest compilation is published under minimalistic title “~”, released just few days ago. Unlike previous comps, this one has a totally free-form in its subject. You’ll find some noise, harsh noise, electro, metal, post punk and punk acts from Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia blended together. This last Librarion release is notable since it brings a bunch of new names, and also digs through the past. These are the contributors from ‘~’:
- Dangerous Beat (Croatian techno/IDM producer, this time in noise outfit)
- The Bane (two-piece ad-hoc band from Serbia, from military days)
- Olja Wagner (solo project from prominent musician and poetess from Niš)
- Summer Deaths (one of the rare Vaporwave/chill acts from Serbia)
- Psihokratija (cult goth/dark cabaret band from Belgrade, they are active these days)
- No No Instigator (fresh post-punk/no wave duo from Croatia)
- Litanije Čaranja (one of the rare funeral doom projects, from Croatia)
- Bitchslap (experimental act from Serbia, by owner of the Deathfuckarmageddon Records)
- Monosiped (weird, melodic musical act from Serbia)
- Acoustic Torture Chamber (experimental/noise from BiH, by owner of the Human Cross Records)
- BxOxKx (digital punk/ska/hip-hop act from Kraljevo, by the editor-in-chief of AkuPUNKtura zine)
- King Ubu (reactivated alt. rock sensation from Zagreb)
- Antitalent (harshnoise/minimalistic project from Brus, Serbia, by owner of the underground label Jesboligakurac Records)
- The Ant (minimalistic instrumental rock from Majdanpek, Serbia)
- :dARM (one more experimental project from the owner of the Human Cross Records)
- Nekro Batica (noisican from Serbia, owner of the Deathfuckarmaeddon Records and editor-in-chief of Ciklonizacija blog)
- Eva Ras (post-screamo project from Serbia, by owner of the Confusion Specialist net-label)
- Misha Mashina & Mashtrakala (very noisy and weird alt. rock act from Serbia)
- KSEA (mysterious ambient/minimalistic project from Serbia)
- Dosis Letalis (ANW/HNW artist from Serbia)
- Ex You (experimental no-jazz ensemble from Serbia)
- .vernacvlaar destrvction. (HNW/static noise artist from Serbia)
This label released some other weird releases, no fancy shit, just pure underground for the underground geeks like you.
Now, let’s move to the Crime:Scene Records. One of the oldest and most productive net labels from the front man of massacre industrial act dreDDup, that released more than 150 releases in 10 years or so. CSR is more oriented to some dark sounds, industrial, noise, post punk, goth, EBM etc. They organized some festivals and radio shows in the past.
Among releases there are some of nice compilations that will give you nice insight into this kind of sound.
Dark Balkan Music Vol.1 & Vol.2
Alchemy, VA release with ex-Yu bands doing covers
Also, there is a series of CSR regular compilations. For now, there are 14 volumes.
Black Planet Records
Black Planet Records is also active in connecting bands and producers in ex-Yu. They are most known by their series of compilations entitled “Balkan Under The Radar”. The name is self-explanatory. Every issue is like double or even triple CD edition. They do physical copies as well, in limited number. Style? You name it, they have it.
Vol 1 The Invisible Scene
Vol 2 The Black Wave
Vol 3 Black Generation
Vol 4 Antisocial Network
Underground Alliance has 60 releases under their belt, but I think this label is on hiatus right now. Check the compilations they made (similar idea like BPR above) two trilogies.
Ubivae is the youngest label/collective. So far they released two compilations, check it out if you are into electronic, D’n’B, experimental.
In the end, I’d like to mention a label from my hometown, Ćuprija, that just started as well.
Panda Jessus is dedicated to some alternative electronic genres: witch house, vaporwave, down-tempo/chill, etc. They have three releases so far, but you can check the first compilation they made, first one that gathered the next generation of artists that produce genres mentioned above.
I think this would be enough for now. I am sure that even just these few labels mentioned above will be enough to give you hours and weeks of new music and insight that music from Balkan is still alive.
There are more labels and bands to present but feel free to explore them yourself. This is just something to scratch the surface. I am sure you’ll find something exotic and I’ll be glad to hear your comments below.