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Review: A respite from techno misery

Last Monday, an international beverage company kicked off a promotional campaign in Slovakia by setting up a mock bar in front of a downtown Bratislava department store. For several hours, four young men in black uniforms danced and mixed drinks for the crowd while techno music blared from several large speakers nearby.
It has been said that giving Europeans the synthesiser was a mistake on the order of introducing opium to the Chinese. Both partnerships have caused serious social harm, although only the latter has met with a serious response.
So it's somewhat refreshing when one discovers that electronic instruments do not bring out the worst musical instincts in all Europeans. Michal Kaščák, frontman of the popular Slovak band Bez Ladu a Skladu and organizer of country's Pohoda music festival, has gone electronic and pulled it off admirably. With his new CD Neuropa, he adds several features uncommon to electronic music - horns, gutsy guitar riffs, witty lyrics and intricate arrangements - to create a flashy and entertaining world of sounds.

Neuropa

CD Title: Neuropa
Available at: Music shops everywhere
Price:400-500 Sk
Rating:7 out of 10


Last Monday, an international beverage company kicked off a promotional campaign in Slovakia by setting up a mock bar in front of a downtown Bratislava department store. For several hours, four young men in black uniforms danced and mixed drinks for the crowd while techno music blared from several large speakers nearby.

It has been said that giving Europeans the synthesiser was a mistake on the order of introducing opium to the Chinese. Both partnerships have caused serious social harm, although only the latter has met with a serious response.

So it's somewhat refreshing when one discovers that electronic instruments do not bring out the worst musical instincts in all Europeans. Michal Kaščák, frontman of the popular Slovak band Bez Ladu a Skladu and organizer of country's Pohoda music festival, has gone electronic and pulled it off admirably. With his new CD Neuropa, he adds several features uncommon to electronic music - horns, gutsy guitar riffs, witty lyrics and intricate arrangements - to create a flashy and entertaining world of sounds.

A mournful strain of horns (reminiscent of Taps) starts things off, then gives way immediately to an energetic drum beat and fast-picking guitar riff. Later, the horns re-enter in a darker, jazzier fashion. As in Bez Ladu a Skladu's performances, the CD wind section is composed of a tuba, trombone, trumpet, and baritone sax, which produce a rich, portentous sound.

Most of the songs stick to this same pattern, but the arrangements are full of enough hectic twists and turns to avoid monotony. Kaščák has a special knack for short, nifty horn blasts and guitar riffs, and for finding clever ways of melding them together. A few of the songs that seem tiresome near the start survive long enough to bend into something better. (For those who understand Slovak, the lyrics are also a treat. For example: Sekretárka v slušivom kostýme, dúfa že ju nevykostíme - The secretary in the servant's costume hopes that we don't debone her.)

Neuropa works because it allows us to forget the ingredients and concentrate on the final product. A lot of hacks are fiddling with synthesisers these days. Michal Kaščák is not one of them.

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