MENT is Ljubljana’s early-year bubbling-under-buzzband fest, mostly based at two splendid multi-stage areas that visitors might not otherwise chance upon: Kino Siska, a ‘60s cinema turned cultural hub, and Metelkova, abandoned Yugoslav army barracks transformed into an eclectically colourful series of squats-with-stages.
Plus a few other fine venues too, resplendent with a varied buffet of talents from the Balkans and beyond. Here are six of the 2016 standouts.
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A boyf/girlf duo from Vienna – her nickname is surely Princess Leyya – that might well be on a lot of other lips come the close of 2016. They look absolutely lovely, have a winning way with a catchy loop and their stuff has already soundtracked ads. Hell, they may even make a decent living from this godforsaken business.
The most appropriate one-word band name since Blondie (or 5ive, before they reformed as, um, a quartet), ‘punčke’ means ‘girls’ in Croatian, and they’re both. Punky Balkan girls! And clearly pretty bloody popular in these parts, as the two regular punčkes perched next to Clash at this packed bar holler along to every word. Pow!
A game of two halves; two distinct sides of a forthcoming vinyl LP, in fact. Bowrain - the jazz-schooled Slovenian composer/pianist/producer Tine Grgurevič – makes proper movements, kicking off with a low-key but diverting Clint Mansell/Ludovico Einuadi-style tech-piano joint, then introducing a drummer and bassist and moving into meatier Mogwai/Massive Attack territory. An annoyingly massive talent.
Damn, girl, you got us all emotional. Nuut is effortlessly unique, a folk singer from Estonia who tells lengthy folk tales from the homeland, fiddles, loops, folk-dances, adds percussion with her feet while folk-dancing and sings so beautifully that nearby songbirds must shake their heads and just close up their nests. “That’s it guys, time to move on, the gig’s up.”
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The MFF Nirvana. Repetitor are the Serbian answer to one of those ‘90s US bands that seemed to burst onto UK stages fully-formed overnight then turned out to have been banging away for donkey’s years. It’s a bit of a buzzkill to discover that this trio formed a decade ago, but no matter: geeky front-boy and his flyaway-haired rock-lady rhythm section still spout the potent spunk of frustrated teens.
Further instrumentals – or, hey, instruMENTals – from Hungary this time, more kinetic and visually-arresting than Bowrain’s studious faces/sensible shirts. Makrohang have a jazzy drummer too, but also a quasi-frontman reminiscent of a young Alex Kapranos and Kylo Ren from the Force Awakens on bass. Well, it looked a bit like him from the back. And let’s face it, Kylo Ren would TOTALLY make jazz-fuelled instrumental think-rock, then get really furious that no-one buys it and kill all his PR people.
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Words: Si Hawkins
Photography: Urska Bolijkovac, Ales Rosa and Jose Sveticic