In times, when the borders between us could be minimized to a poor WiFi signal, rather than the actual Berlin Wall, it is a surprise how disconnected, parts of the European music soundscape remain to exist, occasionally merging on utopian territories to longingly exchange their fruits of labour, rebellion and dreams.
One such land is the festival Easterndaze, taking place in Berlin since 2016. The first edition, titled DIY Music Topographies, opened a space in the alternative film and music scene for a much needed discourse between the East and the West, free of banalities rooted in the Cold War. Intervening numerous venues like Ohm, Arkaoda, Sameheads – symbols of subculture, hedonism and resistance in Berlin – the festival grew with each edition, becoming an intersection for international curious minds and creators.
This year, due to the indefinite postponement of cultural events, Esterndaze will extend its program from March through September, accommodating music performances and collaborations in the form of a compilation, video installation, a week-long community radio special and a presentation of historical and contemporary music videos at Zönotéka in Berlin. The community radio week will be broadcasting from Tallinn, Helsinki, Warsaw, Budapest and Berlin’s Cashmere radio, while artists from Adelaide and Bristol are also leaving their mark on the festival, expanding the output of this edition globally. The symbolic connection between the creators is only found in the art forms themselves, and there will not be broadcasts of live streams nor virtual gatherings for their presentations.
Easterndaze x Berlin 2021 opens with a compilation and a zine titled ‘An Embrace’ – a collaborative project between the Bulgarian experimental music collective Amek and the German music label Vaagner. The project intertwines two communities from radically different cultural environments by pairing artists to co-create a track.
“The world was a different place when Easterndaze initially invited us”
Each label has invited artists from the respective regions to form four duos: Evitceles & Fortunes Brine, Zhe Pechorin & Anasisana, krāllār & Ekin Fil, as well as Vague Voices & Crosspolar, collaborating remotely to compose a piece, inspired by the project’s theme – “An Embrace”.
The B side of the tape begins with the track Fallow by Evitceles & Fortunes Brine. This atmospheric piece encapsulates the listener in soft, yielding sounds and gradually unveils its tones of mystery, as anticipation rises. The artists share more details about this sonic experience, their connection with the project, collaborating virtually and the value of interweaving music across social frames, in short interviews below. You can listen to the premiere of Fallow by Evitceles & Fortunes Brine on Monument:
Q&A Evitceles – based in Sofia, Bulgaria
Coming from Eastern Europe myself, I know it is rare to get into the electronic or underground music scene there by chance, as it has been very limited and almost non-existent until recently. How did you get into producing music in the first place?
It is funny but I definitely got into this sort of scene by chance. I had Ableton installed for around a year and I was always thinking of approaching music production. I wasn’t very familiar with the electronic scene, the big artists or the subgenres. I had some idea about Boards of Canada, Burial and some of Tri Angle’s releases but it was limited to that. I began making music mostly by intuition and as people began hearing my music I got more into the scene and subsequently gained more knowledge about it.
You are part of the experimental AMEK Collective, which curates music on tapes, vinyl and publishes content through zines. What is your role in this constellation and how did you get involved? What is the ethos of your collective?
AMEK Collective is a label that is ran by Martin Lukanov and Angel Simitchiev (Mytrip). I participate in AMEK as an artist and as a friend of many of the artists involved in it. We are like a big family because of how tight the scene is here, so we meet each other often (or we used to pre-covid). For me AMEK is home and Martin and Angel put great effort into organising events, communicating with artists and working conceptually on providing the label’s idea. They strike me with their honesty and authenticity and they do not compromise when it comes to curation and vision.
What else is happening in the Bulgarian ambient and electronic music scene, that you think more people should know about?
Apart from the events curated by AMEK, Kontingent Records is a DIY label that I follow with curiosity. They release everything from noise, to ambient and hardcore which makes them in my eyes really interesting. I usually look forward to their events. When it comes to artists – Cyberian and LATE are two of my favourites and they both have upcoming albums on AMEK this year, so I am really excited for that.
You’ve been releasing on the British Opal Tapes and the Italian Yerevan Tapes imprints. How did you connect with Vaagner and what inspired you to take part in this special collaboration?
I knew about the possibility of a collaboration between AMEK and Vaagner from Angel. We knew that there was an idea about doing an event together in Berlin, and I knew Easterndaze were involved in it. Obviously with the pandemic situation this original plan didn’t work out so this is how “An Embrace” was born. A joint effort between all of these collectives. Personally I was familiar with Vaagner’s releases by artists like Forest Management, Ekin Fil and Acronym. What inspired me was the idea to work with someone online for the first time in the form of a collab. I usually don’t do it and I was sort of curious how it would work out. Was quite lucky to collaborate specifically with Nathan (Fortunes Brine) as I felt we had good communication and we were able to bounce each other’s ideas seamlessly.
What is the value that projects like Easterndaze or the collaborative song writing, will bring to both the East and the West music cultures, in your opinion? Do you think it makes sense to connect more artists in order to enrich the soundscapes of electronic music, beyond our immediate environments?
As each artist has their own character and vision I believe collaboration always brings a certain knowledge about music production, songwriting and philosophy. Usually, in my mind I don’t separate or categorise artists based on where they are located in the world. Collaborations usually lead to friendships which I think is one of the most valuable things. I sincerely believe each person who is curious enough is able to enrich their electronic music soundscape as the internet has made that extremely easy.
Q&A Fortunes Brine – based in Berlin, Germany
You’ve been seriously involved with the ambient and experimental side of the music scene in Berlin, through the project Unrush and your artist alias Josef Gaard. What makes this ambient collaboration different for you and why did you decide to take part in it?
I was really intrigued by this project because I thought it would be an interesting cultural exchange that could maybe help me get out of my comfort zone. I think the general mission of Easterndaze, to bridge the gaps between East and West, is very much needed, so I was happy to be able to contribute in some way. Also being commissioned to collaborate with someone who you don’t know is always quite exciting, and Etien (Evitceles) and I already knew of each other’s music beforehand, so it fit pretty well.
You collaborate with Vaagner under the moniker Fortunes Brine. What is the idea behind this name and what ranges of the music spectrum do you like to explore with this artistic identity?
We have never really explicitly discussed this project too openly in the public before. It was started by Oscar (who runs Vaagner) and I, as a way for us to incorporate collaborations and our own productions into the Vaagner label. While I have made a lot of the music that has been released as Fortunes Brine, some of the works are collaborations, and there have been multiple collaborative live performances at Vaagner events over the years. We have also used it as a moniker for DJing alone and together. In this way the alias has been adopted by various Vaagner related artists for different projects, letting the music speak for itself without any certain predispositions towards the producer(s). Somehow through the years there has been a Fortunes Brine sound that has developed, and when we make something Oscar and I usually know intuitively when it is a Fortunes Brine track. It’s usually a very stripped-down combination of synth, samples, and field recordings, but with a certain refracted melancholy.
In this creation between you and Evitceles, the making of the track happened completely virtually. Did you guys ever meet? Was it challenging to create something together from a distance, each of you contributing from a contrasting environment – the East and the West?
We never met, no. I think we both feel really lucky in that the track came together quite easily. I essentially sent Etien a draft of an idea, which he then expanded upon with some atmosphere. After a bit of discussion and some Zoom calls we finalized it relatively quickly. Him and I are similar in our approach, so it was not so difficult and our geographic location didn’t play too much of a role. What was maybe more interesting was that we are in fact so similar regardless of our completely different upbringings and cultural influences. I think we are all a lot more alike than society often leads us to believe.
What are your impressions of the Eastern European scene? Have you had some experiences or interactions with music, events, artists from there, prior to this project? Are you curious about specific gatherings, clubs and events happening in Sofia or other cities in Eastern Europe?
Funnily enough one of the first EPs I released as Josef Gaard was on a Bulgarian label called Komponenti run by a friend Stephan Panev, who Etien apparently knows through the local scene there. It was very much a small world moment when we realized we had mutual contacts. My impression of the Eastern European scene is generally very good, it seems like they have an amazing sense for curation and there are certainly a lot of interesting looking events. Some that come to mind are the Up To Date and Unsound Festivals in Poland, the Cxema crew in Ukraine, Mechta in Minsk, and of course the events at Drugstore in Belgrade and the work that the Amek Collective does. I would like to travel to Sofia sometime soon for sure once the lockdowns are lifted.
From a western perspective, why do you think it is important to bridge the two cultures? What can artists raised in, influenced by and active only in the “West’’ can learn from the seemingly isolated Eastern block?
I think there is a lot to learn and gain on both sides. Considering the East/West dichotomy that has been so prevalent in geopolitics for a long time, music and culture is one way we can understand our similarities and share our common experience. We are at a point in history where there is a lack of new political (and arguably cultural) ideas, and people in both the East and West have become disillusioned with the existing systems of power. Through sharing culture and ideas we can hopefully examine other, more inclusive and decentralized ways of living, and prevent any future violence that could occur. There is no power or sense in isolation on either side, and we can decide together which kind of world we want to live in.
The musical language of the compilation unfolds further into a zine, telling the stories of the artists’ creative processes and features writings by S. N., Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Krisztián Puskár and Stanimir Panayotov. The project is funded by Berlin Musikfonds & Bundesreigerung für Kultur und Medien.
Purchase on Bandcamp VAK41 VA – An Embrace – limited edition cassette tape and a riso-printed zine.