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Adela Mede
Szabadság Miloš Hroch , March 3rd, 2022 09:21

A brilliant debut from Slovakian producer Adela Mede hums with a haunting sense of displacement, finds Miloš Hroc

There is closeness and distance on the stunning, detail-rich debut album Szabadság by Slovak experimental musician Adela Mede. She layers ambient compositions with field recordings, digital vocal manipulations, and minimalistic electronica. The record is embroidered with folkloric melodies. On Szabadság (Hungarian for freedom, or vacation), Mede documents her inner homecoming journey. The record finds its grounding solace in landscapes, both real and dreamily esoteric.   Adela Mede grew up near the Slovak-Hungarian borders and then left her homeland for London, where she studied music at Goldsmiths. School led her to experiments with her voice, blending bedroom pop with the avant-garde, some of which was released on compilations here and there. The feeling of uprootedness and longing for home grew heavier as time went on. It reached the point that she started forgetting her native language. 

After finishing her degree, Mede relocated to Bratislava in Slovakia and found herself torn between three cultural contexts. She needed to make sense of her feelings through music and set to work on an album built on field recordings collected across places from her childhood. 

The vocals on Szabadság navigate between three languages: Hungarian, Slovak, and English. The album’s opening song ‘Háromszorra Jövök Össze’ renders Mede’s confusion real. It starts with soothing choirs of cicada, a subtle beat kicks in while Mede sings about travelling to other countries and landscapes. The refrain echoes in a loop. Shortly, a conversation reminding a Hungarian lesson joins in and vocals are layered over each other to mesmerising effect. Mede confessed she started to feel the barriers in communication with her family and that some emotions could not be expressed simply. But the melancholy inflexion in her voice transcends meanings, words, and linguistic systems across any borders. 

The slowed-down vocals in the first half of ‘Spolu’, a track co-produced by Liverpudlian artist Dialect, reminds me of an old folk song played from a record found in the attic. They grow into a digital choir and gradually morph into fizzling club beats to reach the poppiest climax in a way reminiscent of some of the most ecstatic moments on Holly Herndon’s PROTO. Sometimes Szabadság is haunting – as in ‘Na Jar Sa Všetko Roztopí’, a joyous song of spring decomposed into disorienting sounds of radio frequencies – other times it is warm, as in the cello-drones in ‘Sloboda’.

In recent years, we have witnessed more and more experimental musicians from Central and Eastern Europe exploring their identity through their relationship with folklore and landscapes, just as another Slovak electronic producer, Nina Pixel, in her project Music from Ancestral Archeology, transformed folk songs into dark ambient. Adela Mede works in a similar vein, but her folkloric inspirations are looser. They originate more from her personal memories and fantasies than research. Mede’s debut Szabadság captures the experience of a person torn between different directions, Eastern Europe and London. Her brilliance lies in gorgeous vocals and atmospheric re-imaginations of traditional themes which are never short of ideas or emotional depth.