Ballad of a Teenage Hard Drive

Very good modern electronica item from Wabi Experience. This self-titled release (MIKROTON CD 74) was put together by the duo of Jára Tarnovski and Tomáš Procházka, the latter appearing here under his more well-known alias of Federsel. Federsel is quite the mover and shaker in the Czech Republic – owns the Meteorismo label, organises events at the Cafe V Lese, is a member of the Cakes And Puppets theatre troupe, and is active in musical things such as Handa Gote, Radio Royal, Gurun Gurun, Uranus, and B4.

Federsel had the idea behind this Wabi Experience thing. He wanted to do something with the songs of Wabi Daněk, a fellow who’s probably unknown to you or I, but is a hero to the Czechs – a folk and country singer-songwriter since the 1970s up until his death in 2017, often pictured on a stool with his noble moustache and his acoustic guitar. He may be that country’s nearest equivalent to Johnny Cash, and though I never heard his music he had many hit records and won various songwriter / song of the year awards. Well, Federsel was not untouched by this part of his country’s culture, and based on his personal memories of hearing these songs (sung by the fireside, apparently) he got started on the task he had set himself. At this point the details get a bit sketchy.

Perhaps I should point out that this is emphatically not a record of “songs”, or acoustic guitars, or anything to do with folk or country music – it’s heavy-duty abstract electronica with plenty of glitchy and dubby influences. A Roland computer was involved which, Federsel will admit, was loaded with samples and stuff (perhaps samples from Wabi records) and he tinkered around with the sounds for a while. But for one thing he was never happy with the results, and for another thing there were multiple technical problems with his equipment – a sampler with no memory, computer crashes, that sort of thing…at some point it stopped being a “remix” thing, as he first thought it would be, and started to become a radical remake thing, a deconstruction-reconstruction of his chosen source material. Bear in mind that this process began in 2002, he thought it was just a “funny game”, a bit of fun for him, and that he would get it wrapped up in a few weeks. By 2010 it still hadn’t really gotten anywhere, he wasn’t satisfied, and yet he knew he had to complete this task.

At this point he handed over a hard drive (assuming there was one – the whole story seems to be riddled with lost data stories!) to Jára Tarnovski, a friend of his who is also in afore-mentioned Gurun Gurun. Tarnovski “got it” – he understood instinctively what Tomáš Procházka was trying to do. A productive period followed, cloaked under the euphemism of “exchange of ideas” – which might mean time spent in the pub or zapping emails back and forth. Somehow this version – the third or fourth remake by now – managed to survive and didn’t get erased. There then followed a mysterious period where they failed to get it released and the music went into “development hell”, with stories about a Japanese label that ran out of steam. This seems like the perfect pathway to finish up on the Russian label Mikroton, given Kurt Liedwart’s generally pessimistic “told you so” attitude to the music business, record sales, and life in general.

This overlong gestation period may be a fascinating story, assuming you’re still awake at this point, but the music is worth hearing – very bold and unusual experiments in sound. It’s not as “clinical” as some experiments in post-Mego glitchery and indeed is quite warm and splurgy, rubbing two or more elements against each other to see what might catch fire. As noted, hardly a trace of original source material (whatever that might have been) apart from audible acoustic guitar strums on last track (shades of Fennesz here), and almost “pure” electronica is what emerges on the record. It’s also tinged with strange emotions, including traces of sadness; as though Federsel’s cherished memories, the origin of the whole record, were the one thing to have persisted in this tale of constant wiping, erasing, remaking and remixing. Very nice. From 17 June 2019.

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