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Various Artists
Czech Alternative Music, Vol. IV
Indies Records

There are a couple of problems with this title. First, the music isn't really what we understand as "alternative". What's included here are pretty mainstream pop, rock, heavy metal, reggae and new-age genres. Also, this isn't really a representation of the Czech alternative music scene, but rather a sampler of a record label's recent releases. Nevertheless, I found some interesting music here.

For instance, I liked the two 'girl' groups, "Autobora" and "Zuby nehty." In the first case, L. Svobodová coos Bourám (vsechno co mám) (I'm Demolishing Everything I Have) in a sweet Tori Amos voice, while Ven paka (Out, Jerks) by the latter group reminded me of the Go Go's. I also enjoyed Bittová and Václavek's 100 let (Hundred Years). In it, this 30 year old vocalist, violinist and performance artist purrs and scats seductively, accompanied by Václavek's 8/4 lilting acoustic guitar, but just as unexpectedly, the rhythm suddenly changes to a driving 6/4 beat, with assorted cries, moaning and exclamations in the background. Interesting but less successful however were the two jazz-flavored groups, the Ani DiFranco influenced "Oswald Schneider", and the funkier "Zhawanadra".

What I didn't like were the monotonous and loud heavy metal outings by the "Kurtizány z 25. avenue" and the "Dead House Chicago I.R.A." (I guess English group titles automatically signal noise.) "Tata bojs" and "Nahoru po schodisti dolu band" delivered ho-hum rock grooves. Zeleny list (Green Leaf) by the reggae group "Svihadlo" is a simple and boring ditty despite the tape-playing-backwards trick at the end. Fathers son by "Toyen" is marred by Ivo Heger's awkward English. The transplanted Englishman Phil Schöenfelt should have kept his his day job as a salesman in a sex shop...

So, other than U ohne (By the Fire) by "Pluto" led by the virtuoso drummer Pavel Fajt, what's left is impressionistic new-age stuff by the guitar duo Andrtová/Hladík and Ladislav Brom's Svátek na Main Bazaaru (Festival in the Main Bazaar).

One question remains: Is this collection a good sampler for Indies Records? Based in Brno, this label produced over 50 recordings since 1992. They are a small but successful music publishing business and unlike some other bigger companies, they are willing to take chances. Even if occasionally they produce more misses than hits. I did note these nineteen cuts took 79:45 to finish. Perhaps next time, being more critical about what gets included, Indies can make Vol.V a little bit more even.

Copyright © 1998 Ivan Sever e-mail address

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