Hyperspecific: Electronic Music For January Reviewed By Jaša Bužinel

In his first column of 2023, our dance music columnist sheds light on the small Slovenian electronic music scene and shares his favourite recent releases from the likes of Vid Vai, POUCH ENVY, dvidevat and Black Dot

dvidevat. Photo by Marcel Obal

As I was recently preparing the list of the best electronic music releases from the former Yugoslavia region, which my colleague Blaž and I present every year on our radio show Partijska linija, I had a revelation that made me a bit resentful. I realised it is practically impossible to get a proper insight into any electronic music scene from the Yugosphere. A term coined by journalist Tim Judah and in recent years adapted by Croatian producer and composer N/OBE, it refers to "the social, linguistic, economic and cultural ties between the successor nations of the former Yugoslavia and how following the breakup of Yugoslavia these ties and bonds are being reforged to the benefit of the whole region".

Mostly due to our historical and cultural similarities, we heirs of Yugoslavia tend to stick together and support our separate peripheral scenes, mainly due to a lingering sense of detachment from the centre. Maybe the primary issue regarding our regional scenes is that there are many DJs and producers, but very little professional infrastructure. We do have some serious labels, such as PHI, DeepEnd!, Kamizdat and KRI, as well as festivals like Butik, Grounded, Sonica and Drops, but what we lack most are specialised media platforms, PR and booking agencies, which play a crucial role in the contemporary electronic music industry, making or breaking the careers of most up-and-coming artists.

The Slovenian scene is extremely small, divided into niche microscenes, with plenty of talent dispersed around the internet, especially on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. I reckon there is at least some interest in the community, so I figured I should dedicate this first column of 2023 to the scene with which I am most familiar. It is strange to think that we were at the centre of the European techno scene in the 90s, with world-renowned discotheques, underground clubs and festivals. Our techno godfather DJ Umek regularly performed alongside superstar DJs like Carl Cox and Jeff Mills, and the production duo Random Logic was making techno which was so good that it was long thought they were from Detroit. Interestingly, I was told by one of their members, they intentionally maintained this veil of mystery, because they feared they would be discovered as impostors from Eastern Europe.

For some reason, perhaps due to the blatant commercialisation of the noughties, a huge gap emerged between the first techno and the following generations in terms of international recognition, so it is high time we try to improve the situation. By including mainly names which you may never have heard of before, I hope to shed some light on all the talented Slovenian producers and artists who really deserve to be heard abroad.

dvidevat – Pulse Defusion

Firmly rooted in the electro idiom, dvidevat comes from a lineage of DJs and producers like Helena Hauff, Solid Blake and DJ Stingray. Together with her colleague Nulla, she represents the younger generation of the Slovenian electro community, which used to be centred around the currently dormant event series Elektroliza. Some years ago released, Elektroliza released the representative compilation Electro City Ljubljana, which I recommend if you want to explore this scene more thoroughly. During the pandemic, dvidevat has become synonymous with no-nonsense electro and broken techno stompers, forging a distinct style as much indebted to Detroit’s godfathers as to current stylistic mutations. On her last EP, she delivers four sturdy electro rollers transfixed by retrofuturistic acid bleeps, didgeridoo-like drones and spiralling synth roars. Considering her peak time, big room-ready productions like ‘M87’ and ‘Circuit X’, I hope to see her gain more recognition in 2023.

Christian Kroupa x LCN (Black Dot) – Worlds Connect

Fortunately, there are some artists from the regional scene who already gained some traction in the past year. The relatively new duo Black Dot, consisting of veteran Croatian producer Le Chocolat Noir (Jasmin Mahmić) and shapeshifting Slovenian producer Christian Kroupa (you maybe also know him as Alleged Witches), has turned quite some heads, gaining support from established artists like Dave Clarke, Helena Hauff and Marcel Dettmann. Italian DJ Elena Colombi featured their dreamy nu-EBM tune ‘The Rainbow Children’ on her recent compilation The Male Body Will Be Next Pt1, out on Osàre! Editions. But the two left an even bigger mark on the EBM/darkwave/electro circuit with their debut EP for the newly founded Ljubljana label KRI. Optimised to wreak havoc on sweaty underground dancefloors, the EP boasts an aura of retro-nostalgia that harkens back to obscure Yugoslav proto-electronica from the 80s, for example the Slovenian EBM pioneers Borghesia (if you like these sounds, I recommend you dive into this fantastic archive). Still, Black Dot’s debut presents an excitingly fresh take on EBM-via-wave aesthetics, discarding the commonly Teutonic-sounding macho vocals for a conspicuously Slavic-flavoured English idiom.

Nikson – 3D

Now this is Skee Mask-like wunderkind level. This youngster has been on my radar since his early teens. He is one of the most notoriously talented hip-hop producers in the region and a member of the duo nibo along with veteran hip-hop producer Borka. Some of you may have discovered their music on Tom Ravenscroft’s BBC Radio 6Music show. Apart from regularly delivering jaw-dropping leftfield beats and repurposed old school jungle breaks, he recently also discreetly dropped the impressive album 3D, marking a new chapter in his promising career. Imagine what a blend of Basic Channel’s dub techno, Burial’s cracks, pops and hisses, Jan Jelinek’s glitchy patchworks and the humanised, "slugging" beats of J Dilla would sound like. It is a totally unique, highly potent formula for heady headphone moments. Nikson’s disjointed, screwed up beats are juxtaposed with immersive, multilayered dub sonics in the Chain Reaction mould, fractured piano samples and echoey ad libs. There is even a tribute to Lee "Scratch" Perry. Showcasing Nikson’s almost sculptural approach to beat-making, 3D is an exemplary work of immersive armchair electronic music, cold as ice and gloomy as the foggiest winter night in Ljubljana – a must listen if you enjoy the post-Soviet aesthetics of the Gost Zvuk label popularised by producers like Vtgnike or OL.

Various Artists – VA Compilation Vol. II

Some very solid compilations were released last year. One of my favourites is the second compilation from the DE/FRAGMENT label and event series. Run by a crew of like-minded electronic music aficionados, the release showcases the crème de la crème of adventurous, boundary-pushing techno, electro, bass and experimental electronic music. The list of producers reads like a who’s who of the Slovenian techno scene. Jožef’s tune ‘Bratomor’ feels like a nod to Wata Igarashi’s spiralling synthworks while on ‘Traverse’, a no brainer for fans of Carl Finlow, the veteran producer Nitz takes you on an intergalactic rollercoaster ride. My top picks also include the ecstatic breaks and Daft Punk-inspired vocals of Selgor’s ‘Crush’, Stagnat’s hands-on mixing in the broken techno roller ‘Manically Self Evident’ and Lifecutter’s power electronics-indebted, grossly distorted, monstrous track ‘Body Slam’. A great starting point for any newcomer interested in the Slovenian underground.

Various Artists – Access Frame: Colony

Ljubljana label Kamidat is no doubt one of the most influential platforms for contemporary Slovenian electronic and experimental music. The fifth instalment of their compilation series Access Frame, subtitled Colony, focuses on female artists coming from various backgrounds, including sound and field recording artists, ambient, noise, drone and electronica producers and experimental singer-songwriters. The first compilation of this kind, it provides an exhaustive list of new and established names. Even though not all of the presented compositions may resonate with you, there is definitely something for every taste. I would especially like to point you towards the experimental harpist rouge-ah. Her soothingly ethereal tune ‘námunámu’ comes across like the soundtrack of heaven’s gates opening. Another favourite is ‘Anthive’ by seasoned sound artist and archivist beepblip, a fine specimen of her signature psychogeographical soundscapes intertwined with analogue electronics, DIY and modular synths, field recordings and computer manipulations. There is also the young experimental duo Lip Rouge with the utterly beautiful composition ‘Ply’. I adore what Karmen and Eva are doing at the intersection of electroacoustic music, ambient and field recording, and you should dig them as well if you are a fan of contemporaries like Martyna Basta and Perila. Be sure to also check out their debut EP T​ū​nd​â​r.

Vid Vai – Laminar Flow
(For Those That Knoe / Boe Recordings)

The debut album from one of the most consistent Slovenian producers of the past decade evokes the sense of a classic record from a parallel history. Or maybe you can think of it as a rare 90s gem hidden at the bottom of a long-forgotten vinyl crate. Taking inspiration from post-rave UK aesthetics, from progressive house, bleep and breakbeat to downtempo and Warp-indebted IDM, Vai has created a mesmerising, silky-smooth record, worthy of international acclaim. Though Laminar Flow is definitely an album that explores well-trodden production paths and established aesthetics, giving the impression of a personal homage to his heroes, the way in which Vai packages these known elements to forge his own style is simply stunning. It really is one of those timeless records with the ability to attract the most diverse array of electronic music lovers, regardless of their personal sensibilities.

VA – Clockwork Voltage Vol​.​1 – Happy Little Voltages
(Clockwork Voltage)

Somewhat inspired by similar initiatives abroad, notably the acclaimed institution Synth Library Prague, the ever-growing community of Slovenian modular synth enthusiasts recently decided to consolidate its activities with a comprehensive compilation of local modular creativity. The first compilation of its kind, Happy Little Voltages unites a colourful bunch of musicians and producers from diverse backgrounds who all share the same excitement and appreciation for analogue sound synthesis. Considering the fact that a lot of modular electronic music comes from self-absorbed middle-aged dudes, I can understand that news about another compilation of modular synth-driven music may sound dull, even off-putting. But the compilation’s 17 tracks, comprising over-saturated beats, funked-up techno tunes with basslines that imitate Bootsy Collins’ untamed jams, abstract soundscapes, ambient, noise, IDM and other genre frameworks, are sufficiently eclectic in style, dynamics and production modes that you never really have to struggle with its considerable length.


New York based expatriate and Berklee alumnus Per Pintarič has been steadily delivering heat since he moved overseas, mostly betting on hyperenergetic bangers at the intersection of techno, breakbeat, Baltimore club, bass, footwork and gabber. He quickly grew his reputation, gaining support both from the New York scene as well as established names like VTSS. Reflecting his knack for highly efficient club tools, his last EP LIFE SIMULATOR includes four straightforward dancefloor smashers, plus three top-notch remixes. Though not excessively cutting-edge, I can understand why so many people from the East Coast underground scene keep praising his production style and including his tunes in their mixes. His tracks are fun and very effective on the floor. Like in the case of so many other up-and-coming producers, though, some of his most (in)famous productions are actually bootlegs, remixes and edits. One of my current obsessions is the earworm ‘SLAVE4U’, a brilliant edit of Britney’s sensual vocals backed by seductive baile funk riddims and a mellow lingering melody.

Atlantida Omni – Twixt Infinity

A true underground figure on Ljubljana’s electronic scene, who spent a large part of the past decade in Berlin before returning back home, Slaviša Stevanović (aka Evano) is a go-to producer if you are looking for eerie, unusual, deeply moving experimental music. Though he is equally respected for his unorthodox techno-via-electro explorations, particularly his solid releases for the Slovenian label PHI, in recent years he has been immersed in non-generic, non-functional, horizon-expanding experimental sonics. Self-released on his microlabel, home of all his musical ventures, his first outing as Atlantida Omni is mostly composed of repetitive tracks, full of slowly-evolving synth motifs and stripped-back rhythmic structures, conjuring an uncannily esoteric vibe. It is a hypnotic, expectation-defying sonic trip that may occasionally bring to mind Jon Hassell’s fourth world musings, but for the most part it completely strays away from any recognisable reference points.

Gisaza – Kamro EP

The DeepEnd! crew is synonymous with Slovenian soundsystem culture and 140 bpm bass music. Apart from supporting and representing soundsystem culture on their club and open air events, the collective has been actively involved in the international dubstep/dub/grime scene since 2017. They have gained a lot of attention through releases by their affiliates, acclaimed producer FLO, the DJ/producer duo DubDiggerz and the young talent Gisaza, who closed 2022 with the high-pressure Zmia Dub EP. Even better than that one was its predecessor, the two-tracker Kamro. The low end foundations are the same as elsewhere in his productions, but what really excites me is his inventive employment of samples with Middle Eastern instruments, which he painstakingly manipulated, adding plenty of grainy textures that make it sound utterly organic. You can only do justice to his productions by playing them through a gargantuan soundsystem, though.

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