Published: December 1st 2010November 29th 2010
"What's screech wobble then?", asked the security clerk at Gatwick Airport as I walked through the metal detector in my "Ich herz screech wobble" t-shirt.
"It's a type of music", I responded.
"Oh really?", he bemused. "I've never heard of that, what does that sound like?"
"It screeches and wobbles"
I was on my way out of my homeland after spending a week there, marking the end of my former job and my graduation ceremony from university, and on the way to Lithuania, where I had been invited to play a show. Since there was no flight back to the vicinity of Prague until Sunday morning, it was one of those rare occasions where I would see a new place without choosing to, a place where it was obviously necessary for me to go for some reason.
I won't say much in this entry - the weekend was mostly spent not sleeping, drinking vodka (which was almost a necessity for survival, since it got to as low as -10 in the evenings and my 4 layers weren't even enough to keep me warm) and of course DJing. The promoter and host was a charming girl named Aiste, who I
Photo by Max Hoch
spent a long time with on friday evening driving around Kaunas and picking up various bits of equipment from different people. The city felt very detached - as I discovered much later on, there was a centre to it, but the outskirts, made up of somewhat surrealistic tower blocks and paneláky which almost gave the feeling of being on another planet, were all separated by large chunks of woodland and winding forest roads.
I've never felt so strongly that a place can be encapsulated by a style of music - I guess if I had travelled more in Africa and Asia I would be able to feel the connection between the surroundings of a Balinese village and the sound of a Gamelan orchestra, or the Congolese Jungle and a drum circle. Traditional European music no longer has this connection with its surroundings, since a lot of whatever surroundings might have inspired a particular sound from certain places no longer exists, having been torn down to make way for the backbone of infrastructure. Admittedly one can still find a remnant of what might have inspired Handel and Liszt by strolling down Andrássy street in Budapest, but this is a rare
Having said this, there is no reason why we can't make such connections between modern music and places which have been drastically altered in the past few decades. Kaunas, and probably many other cities in the former Soviet Union, have been altered as such, in that whatever was there before has been replaced by huge roads with fairly unimaginative and simple decorations and tower blocks, churches and other prefabricated concrete structures which, a step further than the bland concrete cubes you find in the Czech Republic, look like they've been designed by the people who made the Batman comics. And luckily for me, we weren't driving around all of this listening to Čiurlionis or Daina music
, it was non-stop murky, grimy and techy drum and bass, everywhere from the car stereo to the main room at the club (I was playing in room 2).
I'd noticed before that the central promotion team for hard and dark techy drum and bass (whose nights I regularly used to go to in London) do especially well in Eastern Europe, and I can now see why. It goes perfectly well with the futuristic and almost apocalyptic surroundings of the places. I'd like to therefore invite you to listen to this mix of 21st century Lithuanian music
, and perhaps think differently about the concept of "world music"; that is, how styles of music connect with various places around the world.