Nylon Union Enters the Scene
By Christine Thelen (May 2002)You are here because you are looking for something. Perhaps your mouse has treaded upon this electronic territory before, and the previous content you reviewed on your journalistic journey left you satisfied enough to come back. Perhaps your mission is defined and you are here to read up on a writer's opinion of a recent release. Perhaps, however, this is your first step to break the perpetual cycle of well-known notes and beats with the hope of reforming and refreshing your musical identity.
With web-based music magazines like this one, it has become much easier and less costly to develop a knowledgeable database of current bands whose talent deserves true recognition but doesn't always receive it from larger musical publications. The recognition begins with a single choice, a hesitancy to click the mouse and shift one's focus to the next screen.
What is it about a completely new band that will catch your eye during that split-second glance and pull you in? Is it a comparison with that which is already familiar to you, or is it a differentiation from everything that you've seen that alerts you, grabs you and urges you to take the next step and listen for yourself?
The fact that you are here shows that you appreciate music and are open minded enough to read what others have to say about it. The whole experience is likened to sitting back in a theatre and watching a movie, with the lyrics as the script and the music as the soundtrack. What is different about this particular movie, however, is that it isn't as expensive and you have little or no prior knowledge of what it contains. The reason for this is that the band that is the focus of this singular moment remains partially underground to the western part of this musical planet. As the curtain rises, the lights dim, and all is quiet, Nylon Union enters the electronic stage.
The setting: the western region of Slovakia, in the city of Trencin to be exact. The cast: a doctor (Richard Imrich) and a designer (Martin Turzik), both of whom possess night jobs drastically different from their day ones. The time: the mid-1990's. In small artsy venues between the stoned walls, and along the cobblestone roads of this small town, independent bands like the guitar-driven, wall-of-sound noise band, Champ and the electronic, cosmopolitan band, This is Kevin were favorite musical acts alongside some of the coolest bands during that time. A bassist by the name of Martin Turzik was a member of Champ, and sampler, guitarist, and vocalist, Richard Imrich a fundamental part of This is Kevin.
In the middle of the scene, during the spring of 2000, these two artists met and began playing music together. Before long, their musical ideas fused and expanded to create the independent label, Deadred Records. A little over a year later, sometime this past autumn, a trumpet player (Matús Homola) joined Turzik and Imrich in their studio sessions. This April will mark the two-year anniversary of the birth of Deadred Records, and already, the label has risen in status to earn the distinct reputation as the newest and coolest independent label by local Slovakian press.
The connection that has lifted the name of Deadred Records is a single cable that winds its way through Turzik's flat. The setting is simple, consisting of a few phones and an Internet connection. The titles of the cast members have grown a bit more complicated in the meantime, with the addition of promoters, distributors, managers, sellers, sound engineers, and musicians. The number of characters, however, remains the same, for these are all jobs shared by the co-founders of Deadred. It is truly astounding to consider that the exponential growth of this label is due entirely to Turzik and Imrich.
The philosophical approach of the music recruitment process of Deadred Records is to seek out bands with a musical style that falls somewhere between alternative and electronic but does not embrace one or the other entirely. At present, the label is joined by a wealth of bands, most of which are well-known to the Eastern European realm. These bands include Handbag, Ettella Diamant, Puding Pani Elvisovej, Frogski Pop, Panda Filters, Veneer, Best Before, Aleks Svaensson, Ear Drum Kru, and Abuse.
The collective project formed by Turzik and Imrich and mastered with the addition of Homola has become known as the band, Nylon Union. Nylon Union is the effect achieved when musical ideas from different minds play in unison and take the form of one organism. Take a cool, relaxing, cosmopolitan sound, sensually gliding along the walls of a room the way honey spreads slowly across a slice of toast. Intoxicate the sound with a jazzy lounge vibe, color it with a few creative electronic samples, and just when the music is about to take off on a celestial journey, sober it with rocked-out bass, guitars, and drums. For familiarity purposes, the sound can be compared to an electronic Spacemen 3 combined with Spiritualized, Snowpony, and Swervedriver. It is a sound that will simultaneously take you to heaven and bring you down to earth.
The band itself tones down the poetry by succinctly stating that their music is intended "for evening sessions in front of the switched-off TV set." It is classy, romantic, cohesive and symmetrical. As far as musical influences go, Richard Imrich calls to mind bands like My Bloody Valentine, the Beatles, Muddy Waters, and Jimi Hendrix. Martin also attributes some of his inspiration to the Beatles, but he adds the musically amorphous Ride, Sonic Youth, Primal Scream, Tortoise, Kinobe, Laka, Ninja Tunes, as well as a host of wall-of-sound '90's bands. Some of the post-rock elements of the Nylon Union sound can be traced back to guitar-noise bands of the early '90's. There are slight traces of some of the elements of these bands in Nylon Union's music but no one band stands out from all the rest, which is an estimation of the originality of their sound.
Recently, Nylon Union released their debut, Oxeyed EP, through both Deadred Records and the American-based label Southern Records, with additional P.R. assistance from the New-York-based group, Tamizdat RPM (www.tamizdat.org). Tamizdat is a non-profit distribution coalition who takes care of collecting some of the best music from Central and Eastern Europe. Some of these bands include Happy Pills (Poland), Pieces of Brain (Poland), Ole Lukkoye (Germany), Sunshine (Czech Republic), Uzrujan (Croatia), and Species of Fishes (Russia).
Heather Mount of Tamizdat describes Nylon Union in the following words: "Nylon Union's music smolders in a Chicago-by-way-of-London kind of way, accessing heavy groovy '70's moods in their blends between live bass, synth sounds, and hypnotic beats. Patient... slowly building rises... atmospheric... then exploding like you want them to in your song-craving heart of hearts. Just four songs here to start, no abstract wanderings, no fuddling experimental drivel. Just good songs that keep you coming back."
Oxeyed EP is a 3-inch disc containing four tracks. The first track, "Creambax" was intended to be fully instrumental but a spontaneous recording session led to the addition of the distant soft voice of a young Serbian girl (Ana Lecic) that is heard at the beginning and end of the track. The addition of this sample replicates the soft voice-over in an airport or a metro station, stimulating transition, movement. Turzik and Imrich appreciated the spiritual quality of her voice and recorded the sample after the first try. In the beginning of "Creambax," a gentle melody paves the way for a smooth but certain percolation that rolls along, inviting dreampop electric guitar loops to harmonize along with it, as the music blends, builds and climaxes, and you find yourself dancing, the hairs on your skin standing, and your body turned on to the groove of the song. And this is just the beginning.
During the second track, "Walls," lyrics take on a greater meaning with the vocal addition of Imrich. The melancholy song describes the non-verbal understanding that often exists between two people. Superficiality of judging one's outside is detached from human affection ("Just run for every meaningless thing/ Take one, the most beautiful one") and aspects of human contact, like the significance of a smile, are called to question, as "consciousness melts down like ice cream." The sweetness of ice cream is contrasted ironically with the "sweet aspartame smile," questioning human interaction.
The third track, "Such B Halo S" is a track that can be found on both the "Oxeyed EP" and Deadred to Bed, a compilation of the different bands that comprise Deadred Records at this time. The version of this track on this compilation, however, contains more keyboard experimentation and more of a defined beat than the version that is heard on Oxeyed EP. Nonetheless, both of them are pulled off with the gently overwhelming grace of a glacier proceeding towards the sea. The words of that comprise the title of this song can be closely related to the Slovakian words, "sucha haluz" meaning "dry branch," and "haluz," informally means hallucination. The fourth track, "Light One" is entirely instrumental but takes you full circle, ready to play the 21-minute disc all over again.
Many of the lyrics carry with them the same transcendent quality. For those songs that are not primarily instrumental, Nylon Union has chosen to use English to transmit their message, a sign of their intention to expand beyond Eastern European boundaries. As much acclaim as Deadred Records has received, Nylon Union exists as an anomaly among the shadows of most Slovakian bands these days, offering a take on music utterly disconnected from the indistinctive pop, techno, and house that generally characterizes their country's cultural produce. Instead, Nylon Union's songs are great, sprawling lakes of powerful bass and groovy electric guitar, decorated with the addition of electronic samples.
The poor economic situation in Slovakia makes it very difficult for an independent band to get its music beyond local ears. Music is expensive to make, expensive to release, and too expensive for most people to buy. Distribution is somewhat effective, but the amount of CD's sold from year to year has been decreasing over time.
Surely, this situation has the capability to occasionally frustrate fresh independent spirits, but fortunately this is not so for Nylon Union. Unafraid of a few turned-up noses and a few more empty pockets, Nylon Union is focused more on the long-term project than the short-term one. They are much more about making music for themselves than they are for winning public acclaim for something that is preferred by the masses. "We're standing somewhere else," said Richard in a recent interview. Nylon Union's aim is "to produce non-commercial, progressive music that falls below the radar of the media and larger recording houses."
The eclectic Nylon Union is so unique because they have that fresh outlook that most bands have before they sell out to the masses; but with such a grip on everything they produce, mix, and create, it doesn't seem like they'll ever sell themselves out. The added bonus is that their music is good, and considering the progress they've made in two years' time, it is highly possible that their music will carry them overseas someday.
Nylon Union is encouraging to bigger bands because they believe in who they are and the music they create. They are a patient union of musicians, enthusiastic about the world around them and eager to build their band. They would like to add a keyboardist or a sampler player to their band in the near future, because they would like to work on making more of a compact sound. They are as eager to bring music to people as they are to find music that also floats naturally between the shadows and isn't afraid to be a little different. The lights become brighter, but instead of going backstage, Nylon Union walks out into the audience. This is a band that is curious to see what the world will make of them and their lovely songs.
For more information, visit the the homepage for Deadred Records. Nylon Union songs can be found on the aforementioned Deadred to Bed compilation, as well as Tamizdat's New Music from Central & Eastern Europe, Volume 2.
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