Balkans contemporary culture guide

kӣr – Balčak

The world of fantasy lurks within the core of every artistic mode of human expression as paramount as does the necessity to weave patterns of excellence that exceed our trivial unimportance in the entropic world we’ve cultivated for ourselves. I do not know if any of my audience, contemporaries, fellow artists, storytellers, or dealers in media have truly understood the opiates that forms of arts germinate within their abstract, multicolored bowels… but I believe I get closer and closer to apotheosis with every consecutive consumption of music (mostly) that considers itself to be farther from the conventional, and more in par with the post-modern absurdity that seeks revenge on all us peak-capitalistic beings of decadence that desperately try to cling on to the remnants of our dada subcultures.

Balčak is one of those uplifting, yet dark and foreboding morsels of music that helps the magistrates of individuation cultivate the darkness that lurks within them and transform it into spindles of absolution and atonement while still existing between the shadows of our misery. This abstruse tome of sonic empowerment is made and performed by the artist Kir (stylized as Kӣr) – a master of sinking into the abyss through musical means. Balčak contains in itself 4 bone-shattering tracks that remind listeners of the vast possibilities of creating extreme music without the implementation of gut-wrenching distortion and machine gun rhythm patterns typical of metal music, which firmly stand by their terraforming of the musical flora into war zones of cathartic rage-filled energy. In other words, sinistry and mystery in sound is sometimes all you need to indulge the hardcore thirst for artistic penance.

The first track goes by the name of Negentropia, and the title itself already plants phonetic and etymological elements of foreshadowing to its maxims. Brandishing what would be a Balkan pronunciation of the word “negentropy”, the song alludes to the protracted distance of normality between itself and the conventional world of music, shrouding it in the idiosyncratic cowl and cloak that it proudly wears. Negentropy, in information theory and statistics, is the polar opposite of cosmic chaos (defined as entropy) by derivation of natural means, crocheting the uniform for the title song as the vanguard of the systematic officers in creating beauty from disarray, equating the whole ordeal as the sonic version of colonizing Mars. Thus, the song sounds just like that: a rapid building of an unstable (think particle physics) cyber space ordained by the creatures of the Kingdom of Balčak into a corrupt yet functional transhumanist state (which in itself, I believe, is an allegory of Balkan politics). The industrial percussion is very reminiscent of early Laibach albums, giving it that metallic taste that you get through the entire song, with a slow and tedious gradient into dark techno whose effects emphasize the dissolution of self into this new olive-fluorescent-green motherboard. However, it differs from Laibach’s early heavy work in that the repetition is not using the western classic form of structure (verse, bridge, chorus), but instead spirals into continuous repetition with added emphasis and new sounds until it reaches a natural conclusion of calming down the elements one by one until their release. There is no abrupt pause, no break in flow, allowing the track to freely develop into the second one.

Here comes the groove you have all been waiting for! Livid, yet distanced, Akrasia breaks the norm you’d think this album has set for every upcoming song by flicking the time signature from 3/4 to a full 4/4 and introducing it with a double-note pentatonic bassline – common of blues music. You might think that by now I am completely basing my analysis on self-guiding conjectures, but trust me – with music like this there is more than meets the eye – or shall I say ear! Although null in comparison to length, Akrasia brings life into the equation by ramping up the speed of element progression by 4, as well as adding sinewy high-pitched electronic alien tones to its reverberating bass. As you would expect, the name again uses a balkanized pronunciation (or rather a non-anglicized one) of acrasy, which is the lack of self-control against the judgement of one’s self. There is a Balkan refurbishing of this concept in Goran Trajkovski’s “Divo Meso” (Wild Meat), aptly named “Slavonic masochism”, where due to the fear of evolving environments one sabotages his or her own international professional growth while blaming it on extenuating circumstances out of his or her power. Coincidentally, this album uses the term Balčak as its title, which is the term commonly used in the Balkan and Turkey for the hilt of a scimitar or yataghan. Is this sabre used for an offensive against the sedentary mainstream music that the masses of Eastern Europe slowly adhere to (Negentropia), or is it the final front in the honored suicide of its traditional values at the behest of embracing the new avant-garde taking the underground by tides (Akrasia)?

Upon its gradual fade-out, Akrasia displays a sudden electronic bugle followed by delay effects signifying the end of its A-side. The next two songs, drafting the album into the world of its B-sides, use not balkanized anglo-words as its titles, but Balkan (more specifically Macedonian) words as its names. The third song Topot sounds like the revelation that all this time the western listener had been biting the bait that slowly and unnervingly lured him into the sonic world of the darkness dancing around his soon-to-be grave that his silent undertakers have been preparing for him. Although 4/4 in time, the song retains a very horror-esque ambient throughout, directly contrasting Akrasia, but with the sole purpose of welcoming the listener to the second and final phase of the electro-eastern-European dichotomy. Bells subtly flourish the background of the seemingly percussive lead of the track, instigating insurrection against the musical hegemony of pop by firing the first cannon, a metaphor which the song itself corroborates – “topot” means “the cannon” in Macedonian. Again, following the inverse-symmetry of even-numbered construction, this song is exceptionally long and repetitive like its pairing incipient (Negentropia), so are we to expect a pattern of diploid song structure as if the A side is one of the gametes in the audible meiosis of this album, and the B side the respective “brother or sister” of the second gamete? Topot maintains the metallic percussive elements like Negentropia, but does so more brazenly where they sound like the soldiery twisting and turning the alloys that forge their cannons for the final battle: Zabran.

The gradient outro is almost identical to that of the first track, however the intro of the final song is nowhere as comparable to that of Akrasia. The slow rolling bass followed with the insectoid chirping in the background make for a tribal, ritualistic aesthetic. Most of the percussive elements are akin to that of clanking glasses or bottles filled with different volumes of liquid, calling to the final chemical, Molotov-cocktail equipped offensive against generic music. The recurring motif that strikes me is the fade-out-based calm outro all songs seem to exhibit, perhaps derivative of the slow degradation of ones soul into the pit that is dark ambient music. Finally, there is a feint instance of tapan-drums in the background that follow the pulsation of the song, finally giving the album the rounded-off conclusion that perfectly balances the electronic with the traditional. On a final note, the word “zabran” refers to a male-noun being carried, rounded up, or chased away, possibly interpreted as the final stand against the elimination of conventionality from the post-modern underground electronic scene.

The entire narrative of the album is triangulated between the names of the tracks, the mood that the tracks imply, and the orthodox-inspired album cover that connects the grime with the inspiration. The center figure in the middle of the album cover sports 4 respective vertexes, much like the Christian cross or the plus-shaped logo in the aforementioned band Laibach’s visual design, indicating not only the cultural inspiration, but also the external non-diegetic reference to the cyclical symmetry of 4 tracks, divided in perfect pairs that envelop a dichotomy within a dichotomy, similar to the frame-in-frame literary techniques used by Balkan writers in storytelling during the 20th century, although this parallel might feel too far-fetched of a theory for art more sturdily connected to sound. Conclusively, the music itself retains its sinister sound throughout the entire album, however providing its listeners with a variety of technique and composition with every track. I feel that this is only the beginning manifesto of what is truly to come by the sonic tactician that is Kӣr. There is something truly phantasmal in being able to craft a whole story in the mind of every individual listener that differs from any other based on sound alone – something that the predictability of contemporary film media cannot possibly replicate in today’s transcendental era of cultural enlightenment. The vampire rave shall never stop!