Kukushai: musicians from South Korea and Slovenia unite in the name of experimental jazz
It sounds like insects marching towards war at first, and then Eva Poženel’s vocals come in and oh shit it’s a jazz thing but with a Fiona Apple-like stomp. Kukushai‘s explosion of sound could go off any minute, but Sun Mi Hong’s drumming keeps everything in check and Rok Zalokar’s keys move things along. It’s all theatrical, and it’s all quite beautiful and bizarre at times. Poženel, Hong, and Zalokar all met in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and they use their varying cultural heritages (Poženel and Zalokar from Slovenia, Hong from South Korea) to good use.
Fruitile is out now via Slovenian label ZARŠ Records.
“Avantgarde pop trio with original music that’s flirting with jazz, rock and even punk, but don’t take these labels to heart, listen and decide for yourself”
Laibach in 1983, photo by Dušan Gerlica
The small Slovenian mining town of Trbovlje is famous for two things: the tallest chimney in Europe and Laibach. Since their beginning in 1980, Laibach – named after the German name of the capital Ljubljana, back then part of socialist Yugoslavia – has become one of the most provocative bands the world has ever seen.
From the creation of the ambiguous art collective Neue Slowenische Kunst (which acts like a nation and even prints its own passports) and the usage of Malevič‘s black crosses as a symbol to their ’20s avant-garde-inspired performances and their simil-fascist and socialist aesthetics, which led them to define themselves as “totalitarian rock”, Laibach have constantly tried to shock their audience. During the ’80s, they received a few bans – and luckily for them, Slovenia was the least rigid Yugoslav republic – but even when their country became independent, they didn’t stop provoking and focused on the concept of Europe.
Over the course of 37 years, the band has released eight studio albums and several singles, compilations, and soundtracks. After the purely industrial sound of their beginnings, they slowly started borrowing elements from classical music and displayed a certain interest in covering popular songs, drastically changing the atmosphere and intention of the original tracks. Take “Opus Dei (Life Is Life)”: originally called just “Life Is Life”, an enthusiastic anthem in the name of life itself by Austrian band Opus, it was turned into a disquieting eulogy of power.
By projecting totalitarian aesthetics to capitalism and consumerism, the Slovenian band managed to remain actual throughout the decades and influenced a large number of bands, the most famous of which being Rammstein. In 2015, they gained a certain international attention after their performance in North Korea: they’ve been one of the few western bands to ever play in Pyongyang, and even if they had to heavily review their set list to please the authorities, it makes sense that they were the ones chosen to perform there.
Loud beautiful noises from Slovenia. Check out their bandcamp here.