|l-r: Ania, Manon Meurt, Fabian, Messer|
Mainland Europe is fairly easy to get around, so we're driving north out of Kosovo, through Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia to Poland where the wonderful Ania Dąbrowska resides. Her hometown is Chełm, in the south east of the country, a city that once belonged to Imperial Russia. Ania (as she is credited on her records) was featured a couple of times on my old blog. She finished 8th in a series of Idol (Poland's version of Pop Idol) in 2002 and has gone on to have four number one albums in her homeland. However, she isn't like your average talent show wannabe pop star - Ania sounds like a sort of cross between Saint Etienne and Stereolab, a real retro-European vibe.
Here's a track from her second album 'Kilka Historii Na Ten Sam Temat' from 2006, followed by a truly brilliant video for her version of Nancy Sinatra's Bang Bang from her album of songs from movies. Reckon her bright yellow dress is a reference to THAT outfit worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill?
- Zostań - Ania (from 'Kilka Historii Na Ten Sam Temat')
Driving west, we eventually leave Poland and enter the Czech Republic. West of the capital Prague is Rakovnik, an unremarkable town other than the fact that it is the hometown of Manon Meurt. This lot play lovely ethereal shoegaze and seem to be getting a bit of a following. They completed a successful European tour back in October, and their debut EP - initially only released in their own country in 2014 - was recently picked up by Label Obscura in Canada and given a worldwide release. Here's a track from said EP.
- To Forget - Manon Meurt (from 'Manon Meurt')
Next, we're going north to Germany. It's a mere three-hour drive to the city of Leipzig, once one of East Germany's most important cities. It also has a rich musical heritage. Richard Wagner was born there, and the likes of JS Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Mahler all lived and worked there.
These days, Leipzig is known for its independent music scene and is home to a number of indie labels and small music venues. It also hosts Wave-Gotik-Treffen, the world's largest Goth festival, and is the hometown of Fabian, a young post-punk band fronted by the wonderfully-named Vitiko Schell. They have so far released an EP and an album - both self-titled - and you're getting a track from each. Dark and a little bit frightening - just like this sort of thing should be.
- You Remind Me - Fabian (from 'Fabian' EP)
I want to stay in Germany for a little while. I went there more than 30 years ago to visit family friends. I loved it; I remember buying lots of records. Besides, I want to visit a couple of German buddies. I believe Walter lives in or near Stuttgart in the south west and I think I owe him a beer or two for the fine music he's introduced me to over the past few years. And then there's the one and only Dirk. I'm not sure where he lives, but I'm sure I'll track him down. I'll just follow the sound of classic punk and new wave music and the uproarious laughter that he seems to bring out in others - one of the funniest people on the internet, he can only be more fun in the flesh.
Then we're off to Münster in the north west, a city that claims to be the bicycle capital of Germany. It is also where Tanita Tikaram was born. Now, I mentioned that Walter has introduced me to lots of great music. One of the bands he featured earlier this year is Messer. Now I have to say I was already aware of this band and they were always going to feature here, but it shows what a purveyor of good taste he is.
Messer make a splendid post-punk noise from a similar mould to Eagulls, although their new single Die Hölle is something more Krautrock-sounding, verging on Kraftwerk territory, even. Their third album is about to be set free (might be out by now....). However, I've gone for a couple of songs from their previous releases.
- Neonlicht - Messer (from 'Die Unsichtbaren')
This track is from the 'Kachelbad' EP which was released back in the summer.
I was tempted to take in Austria, but Walter has featured some excellent bands from that country over the past several months so he's pretty much got that covered. Therefore, we continue north next week as we venture into Scandinavia.