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Dunaj - Iva Bittov? + Dunaj CD (album) cover

IVA BITTOV? + DUNAJ

Dunaj

 

RIO/Avant-Prog

4.06 | 17 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars DUNAJ was a strange alternative art rock band from Brno, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) that formed in the early 80s as Kolektiv and then made the ole switcheroo to DUNAJ which simply means Danube, the river that passes through Vienna, Budapest and famous for its (formerly) blue qualities as espoused by classical music composers of yore. This band existed between 1986 and 1998 but reformed as recently as 2018 and has been engaging in some reunion tours. This art rock band was unusual in that it straddled the line between art rock, post-punk, avant-prog and even new wave.

IVA BITTOVÁ is a Czech avant-garde artist from Bruntál, CZ best known as a violinist, singer and composer b ut has also had a busy acting career. BITTOVÁ has had an on again / off again relationship with DUNAJ but was part of the band for the first three years of its existence from 1986-89 and then joined again briefly in 1995 and 2002 but has had a string of solo albums as well. IMPULS is the debut album for both these artists and gives equal billing to both therefore this album is listed in databases as IVA BITTOVÁ & DUNAJ and if you ask me this sounds like Czechoslovakia's version of the Velvet Underground's 1967 debut with Nico!

This album was very much a product of the time and placed where it was produced with no intention of international audiences hearing it but nobody predicted the globalizational affects of the internet and now all kinds of hidden gems are presenting themselves on the world's stage. IMPULS consists of 12 tracks and was originally released on vinyl on the Panton label but has found a re-release on a remastered CD in 2012 on the Pavián label. IMPULS was well received when it was released and launched the career of both artists as they promoted it through various live performances. The album is performed entirely in the Czech language. It was also re-recorded later and released as "Pustit Musí?."

IMPULS is an interesting listening experience for sure. On the musical side DUNAJ provides an interesting post-punk sort of gritty guitar riffing but also throws in various other sounds like ska, alternative rock and controlled doses of angular time signature deviations in the form of avant-prog. The music remains melodic but also maintains an underground darkness typical post-punk of the 80s. BITTOVÁ on the other hand provides most of the lead vocal bits and more than anybody reminds me of Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders in how her vocal phrasing is set in a low register but has quirky octave leaps but has a more dramatic style that does remind a bit of Germany's Nico but her half sung / half spoken parts are fairly unique.

On tracks with male vocals (not sure who's singing) the band sounds more like Einstüzende Neubauten with a bleak industrial grit but the catchy hooks mixed with the quirky time signature remind me of bands like News From Babel. Comparisons to Henry Cow's Dagmar Krause have been made for BITTOVÁ due to her over the top dramatic quickness that falls way out of the mainstream. While this album isn't perfectly recorded it really suits its underground outsider feel and the tracks are quite diverse while keeping an overarching thematic mood as if this is some sort of post-punk version of a cabaret act with industrial and avant-prog accoutrements.

IMPULS is a true delight. Creepy atmospheres, angsty punk guitar heft, hard-driving percussive drive, jittery time signatures mixed with nice melodic constructs and a top notch performance by IVA BITTOVÁ who can get as wild and crazy as Nina Hagen but still sing sensual acoustic ballads with interesting intonations and even though i don't understand the Czech language, she delivers her vocal performances of the language perfectly. This album was quite a surprise actually and is one of the best albums i've heard from the former Czechoslovakia so far. Obviously this is an invitation to explore the works of both sides of this equation as i love the musical delivers of DUNAJ as well as BITTOVÁ's passionate performances.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |

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