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The Croatia Diaries: Days Eight & Nine.

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Data Transmission had a week to kill between Spring Break Part Two and The Day Of The Fourteen Thousand Shufflers Ahead Of The Coming Of The Apocalypse (Or Hideout) so we hopped on a bus and headed up to Zagreb. First stop: INMusic. It’s a rock and pop festival, however Digitalism were playing so we figured we’d stop by.

 INMusic is set on Lake Jarun just outside Zagreb. It’s in its 9th installment, and about 12,000 people turn up every year to see the likes of The Black Keys, MGMT, The Crystal Fighters and, this year, for us Digitalism. “As usual-” according to the Croatian videographers whose (FYI, massive and phone-bill-cheap) flat we were staying in, it was pouring with rain.

This was a new experience for DT. A real rock-and-pop-and-rainy-field festival. It was insane. No one was shuffling at all. Most people were kind of standing around, talking about how good the music was. There were guitars on stage and everything. There was lots of singing, mostly about ex-girlfriends or some such. People were mostly drinking cups of wine and beer. It was all very different. The crowd was overwhelmingly Croatian, although it may be noted the few Brit girls we did bump into were entirely covered in mud. “We were thrown in” was the explanation at 10.48 pm. By 11pm it was “We fell in” and by 11.15 it was “We jumped in.” The Croatian crowd were to an individual well dressed, in a kind of arty, European way. There was an abundance of rolled up cigarettes and optical illusion t-shirts and moustaches. We were wearing our usual flip-flops, bright shorts, label-t-shirt combo. Strange to be at a festival where a third of the crowd are wearing hiking boots and blue ponchos and you’re the one that gets funny looks. We drunk a lot of warm beer and headed to the shisha tent with our guide, Nina who runs OhSo Croatia Bus Tours.  We sat and listened to a lot of minor chords and kinda talked about ex-girlfriends for a long time. This seemed to be the thing to do at a rock-and-pop-festival.

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Then we saw Digitalism. The German duo opened to initially a dozen people on the second stage of INMusic but quickly the entire field packed out as the pair progressed through an expertly plotted set – mainstream remix here, dubsteppy breakdown there, melodic house here, old Chemical Brothers sample there. Right there, at 11.45, it happened. There were strobes, smoke and hot steam lifted from the crowd, and right there, right in the middle, there were fist-pumps. Phew. Suddenly relieved, Data Transmission took some photos. The crowd here seemed more of the same rock variety however down on the barriers, craning over, there were a couple of housey-looking types, pouting into blue and green lights and playing up to the camera. Digitalism’s set went vertically upward – becoming by degrees bigger, and louder and more and more stripped back until by the end it was an unashamed pounding four four education – with bits of minor strings and vox chops chucked in here or there to keep the newly converted in context. We were impressed. In fact, we were impressed by the whole thing, INMusic was very well organised, very cheap (£2 for a pint on site. or £4 for a whole bottle of wine at one of the several bars on the way up – plastic cups to go) and the Croatians we bumped into on our odyssey across wooden planks and multiple rescue attempts of stranded flip flops were to a man and women friendly and chatty. There also seemed to be a serious abundance of international press too. INMusic’s probably a bit rocky for us. But If you’re in Zagreb late June – go check it out. It’s a decent evening – and if you’re of the rock variety – you’ll no doubt love it.

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During our stay in Zagreb we also caught up with Croatia’s top two producers. Ilja Rudman runs the imprint RedMusic – has worked with a long list of international producers and notably got PBR Streetgang and Bonar Bradberry their first releases. Meanwhile Petar Dundov has had a long career as an established techno gamechanger. He plays for Richie Hawtin’s Enter nights, has had countless gigs in Space Ibiza is a prominent force behind Dimensions Festival and regularly plays the esoteric techno circuit, doing live shows as far away as Tokyo. DT video-interviewed both ahead of a forthcoming documentary we’ll be airing later this summer. The experience itself was amazing not least because of the locations. Both men (who are separate artists, but are lifelong friends too) have incredible studios. Ilja Rudman has taken over an entire office and converted it into a 3-room HQ with wall to wall synths, mixing boards, a live instruments room and a listening room. He doesn’t rent it out, he doesn’t lease it “It’s my workspace, my museum, and my church. Sometimes I’ll come here for 3 hours and just sit in silence. But I regard that as work, as tuning in to something spiritual.” Sure enough, between chain smoking cigarettes and passing beers back and forth with DT, he talked through some of his kit – explaining the history behind each synth, each mixing board, the previous owner, who the previous owner worked with, the model number of the kit and why this was – like the other 50+ bits of kit spread around the office, utterly, completely essential to what he did. He was diplomatic on the question of Croatia’s festival explosion, but there was an undercurrent of frustration there. “It’s difficult. We have an electronic scene here, but it hasn’t developed quite fast enough. The festival explosion on Zrce, On Tisno, we haven’t been able to be as involved as we’d like to be – as a country. It doesn’t actually do a lot for Croatia, or Croatian artists. I worry that it’ll burn too hot.” 

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Petar Dundov – Who sports an equally impressive studio – this one in a converted flat left to him by a grandparent, has a more philosophical approach. A background in programming becomes apparent when for the first 25 minutes pre-interview he takes me to a side-room and shows me two bare Mac hard-drives literally stapled to the wall (‘Hackintosh’ he explains). He then pulls out an Iphone and opens a browser to reveal a site with rolling stripped back techno. He then shakes an old computer screen into life. Petar has written a software program that literally scans a track end to end, analyses it, and mixes it seamlessly into the next track, on Traktor. This isn’t a virtual-dj automix, this has drops, build outs, bass and mid levels all analysed and mixes. It all happens in front of our eyes. It’s totally incredible. “Yeah, but it’s dangerous” laughs Petar. “I could patent it, make a whole load of money maybe. But then some magazine would make me ‘the guy that killed DJing’. Not worth it.” His expertise on all things streaming comes from a wider fascination with the internet. I put Illja’s arguments to him “Sure. Croatia has that issue. But, we’re infinitely further on than we were even ten years ago. Croatian music is like Croatian society. We’re new to Europe. We’re finding our feet. We’ll get there.” And how did he amass so much priceless kit? “In the 80s in Europe, everyone wanted the new sounds, the new formats, so they got rid of all their old synths. I never spent more than a couple of hundred euros on anything” he says, gesturing with his coffee hovering over boards of priceless wooden-framed equipment.

 

 

  

Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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