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DUNAJ

RIO/Avant-Prog • Czech Republic


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Dunaj biography
Founded in Brno, second largest Czech city and center of Moravian cultural life, 1986 was the year that saw creation of group Kolektiv (meaning Collective). Iva Bittová & Josef Kolsovský handled vocals, Josef Ostøanský & Pavel Richter guitar, Vladimír Václavek bass and finally Pavel Fajt drums. However, all members had their own projects, so they performed quite sporadically at the time.


However, in 1989 saw band alive again, releasing LP Dunaj a Iva Bittová, performing few concerts, but Bittová and Richter left shortly after this period, so Kolsovský became guitarist and frontman. Zdenìk Plachý shortly server as group's keyboardist, being on second album Rosol (Jelly) in 1991, quite dark album. After support tour, band broke up again, but ressurected shortly after in 1992.

This incarnation was longest lasting, with Kolsovský, Václavek, Ostøanský and new drummer Pavel Koudelka. Band recorded two albums, Dudlay in 1993 and IV in 1994. Then Bittová and Fajt joined again, releasing album Pustit musís (Release/Leave You Must) which were re-recorded tracks from their debut along with some new material. Interesting fact is that both Koudelka and Fajt are drumming here. Six members toured, but their last album La La Lai was without them this time.

Group disbanded in 1998, shortly before Kolsovský's death. However, all surviving members remained active in the Czech music scene (some of them possibly Prog). There were reunion concerts with changing constellation from most of past Dunaj members.

Dunaj therefore was one of the more active and lasting bands on Czech scene, managing to release 6 very quality albums, being kind of legend of Czech Avant scene.



Written by Martin M.(cFly)

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DUNAJ discography


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DUNAJ top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 15 ratings
Iva Bittov? + Dunaj
1989
4.74 | 16 ratings
Rosol
1991
4.07 | 9 ratings
Dudlay
1993
3.50 | 4 ratings
IV
1994
4.12 | 6 ratings
Pustit musís
1995
3.75 | 4 ratings
La La Lai
1996

DUNAJ Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

DUNAJ Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

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DUNAJ Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Rosol by DUNAJ album cover Studio Album, 1991
4.74 | 16 ratings

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Rosol
Dunaj RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

5 stars DUNAJ was formed in 1986 in Brno (now Czech Republic) while the Czech Republic and Slovakia were still the one-unit Czechoslovakia. In the beginning this band collaborated with the avant-garde performer Iva Bittová, a renowned violinist, singer and composer. Her on again, off again relationship with DUNAJ started with the inception of the band and she performed with DUNAJ until 1989. Both artists debuted collaboratively with their debut album "Impuls" which was released under the moniker "IVA BITTOVÁ & DUNAJ" but Bittová was very much an independent artist and went her own way to craft her own musical realities. The debut was an interesting example of the perfect collaborative effort where each artist perfectly melds with the other to create something dynamic that neither could possibly achieve on their own. 
With Bittová leaving the band (at least for a while), DUNAJ forged ahead with its own musical vision of crafting a creepy mix of post-punk angst with the higher artistic visions of avant-prog and the results were the band's first non-collaborative album ROSOL (Czech for "Jelly") which was recorded in 1990 right after the Velvet Revolution and then released the following year when the whole Soviet communism thing was collapsing. ROSOL therefore reflects a unique moment in Czech history and provided the perfect confluence of events to allow DUNAJ to craft one of the best albums ever to emerge from within the borders of the former Czechoslovakia.

Following Bittová's departure, DUNAJ crafted a tighter, harsher and more claustrophobic sound that sat somewhere in between the bleak industrial atmospheres of early Einstürzende Neubauten and the post-punk quirkiness of NoMeansNo especially in the busy, oft-complex bass grooves. DUNAJ was all about an extremely tight rhythm sections that took the nihilistic attitude of punk and propelled it into the high brow art rock zone of avant-prog. The cohesive flow of drummer Pavel Fajt and bassist Vladimír Václavek provided the fundamental canvas for the jangly dual guitar delivers of Jirí Kolsovsky and Jozef Ostransky to engage in spidery, atonal complexities that have gotten he band compared to such acts as Estonia's Ne Zhdali at least in terms of the fusion qualities of mixing avant-prog with more accessible sounds.

For all its dark dreariness, ROSOL never strays too far from energetic punk rock bombast however the heavier outbursts are contrasted with more theatrical and dramatic freak-festivities with angular avant-prog motifs accompanied by the occasional creepy clown laugh or two and while the clear emphasis is on the massive attack of the guitars, bass and drums, keyboards provide bleak atmospheric backdrops that sound like tortured souls weary from the oppressive hand of political uprisings throughout the region. Without Bittová's quirky vocals charisma, the Czech language only lyrical delivery is provided by the low register vox boxes of three male members with the most distinct coming from Jiří Kolsovský's ability to croak out his narrations in a detached yet affirming manner.

ROSOL is considered to be DANUJ's most celebrated moment as the album constructs the perfect middle ground between hypnotic repetitive grooves associated with the post-punk and new wave world of the 80s along with jittery angularities of avant-prog accompanied by bleak industrial atmospheres, dissonant guitar tunings and high energy angst which alternates with slower arpeggiated tracks like the guitar dominated "Cassiniho Dělení ? Cassini Division" or the claustrophobic keyboard terror of "Mazáček ? Pet Child." ROSOL is one of those albums that reflects a very intense moment in history and perfectly translates those emotions through the sheer power of sound despite the fact it is sung entirely in a foreign language. This album is considered to be a blueprint for the entire Czech avant-garde art rock scene to follow and it's apparent only after a single listen why this album has earned its reputation. For anyone wanting a more prog infused version of punk music in the same camp as Cardiacs or NoMeansNo only darker, then DUNAJ is a band you simply must experience.

 Iva Bittov? + Dunaj by DUNAJ album cover Studio Album, 1989
4.00 | 15 ratings

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Iva Bittov? + Dunaj
Dunaj RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

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.

 Pustit musís by DUNAJ album cover Studio Album, 1995
4.12 | 6 ratings

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Pustit musís
Dunaj RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars And so tales of weird imagination continues. Pustit musí? (Release You Must - yes, exactly in this word order, which this time features Iva Bittová. I'm not sure how well known she is outside my country, but here she is regarded as one of the best vocalists, showing big range of heights voice can reach and also various

Album is weird (as we are used), done in Dunaj unique style with Václavek's characteristic strong bass guitar line. Songs are usually fast paced (this adds to them crazy), usually featuring numerous instruments at once. Drumming is frantic, but that's exactly how I feel it's fitting to this kind of music.

Actually the most distinct "instrument" are Bittová's vocals, sadly not all Dunaj albums are featuring her skills. Fortunately, she has prolific solo discography.

Lyrics are again weird. Not nonsensical (as with U? jsme doma lyrics), but strange themes (Spiders, Freak interested in girls, Spoiled girls, Flawed relationships), often using metaphorical references and other poetical elements, while music more than solidly accompanies it.

Some tracks features also synthesizers, something I didn't notice before (V bílém for example, but it's not so clear to hear, it's far from being prominent instrument)-

4(+), neat little album, not too ambitious, but providing what we like.

CULTURAL NOTE: 90's were era of dealing with communism matters, finding own way and newly acquired freedom. Therefore, there was a lot of experimentation and completely new world that has opened to Czech artists. This is why Czech alternative scene is so strong.

I also hope that it's not too bad for you that you don't understand lyrics.

 Dudlay by DUNAJ album cover Studio Album, 1993
4.07 | 9 ratings

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Dudlay
Dunaj RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars Finally I'm able to review this obscure Czech groups that was formed by very skilled musicians and (as you can read in a biography I've written for you), with many changes in members.

This music is listed as rio/Avant, do you want to know why ? Mostly because big and very strong element here is not melodic, but dissonant and even those that normally aren't enjoying this kind of music (ahem Marty) are pleased now.

Do you like The Plastic People of the Universe ? Well, welcome home wayward son, vocals here are very similar. A lot of repeating words, strange harmony in weird arrangements, almost psychedelic rhythm that's quite hypnotic. Iva Bittová isn't on this album, same as Pavel Fajt, but other musicians compensates for them well.

Some English lyrics tracks as well, more or less on the same basis. Between singing, there is space given to more or less exploring solos, but that's all.

4(-), I don't think this is the best music to hear after waking up, but otherwise, when you are full of normal amount of energy, it's perfect.

Good shot for Czech Avant.

Thanks to evolutionary sleeper for the artist addition.

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