A Return To Booming Bucharest: Cosmin TRG Talks
Ten years ago a young Romanian producer heralded the start of a new musical revolution, and the birth of Hessle Audio. DJ and producer Cosmin TRG’s ‘Put You Down / Broken Heart’ propelled the producer to heady heights, with a move to Berlin, slots at leading clubs, and two LPs on the German imprint Monkeytown. More recently the Romanian producer is looking back to his roots, by pushing new, and younger talent from Bucharest. Artists that are changing the way in which we perceive music from a country that is heavily associated with minimal techno.
“One thing about Romanian producers is that they don’t like sending their music to people. It’s because they think people won’t be interested in their music,” jokes Cosmin. With an NTS Radio show, and two labels open to unearthing new talents, the Romanian producer is being inundated with music from his home country. He must be doing something right. The music from the new Romanian talent even comes with warnings from the producers that it might not be that good. Which rarely is the case. This is the tale of how one artist’s success is taking him back to his roots, and helping spearhead a new music revolution. This is how Bucharest is becoming a new focal point of exciting new music.
A lot can change in ten years. Cosmin Nicolae, then recording under the pseudonym TRG, was making music far outside the local norm back in 2007. “At the time Arpiar was the proponent Romanian sound, and it was the apex of the minimal tech-house scene,” Cosmin states, referring to the label and collective, that has come to sonically define Romania’s key electronic music aesthetic to this very day. As a broken-beat, dubstep producer, Cosmin was definitely one of a kind in Romania. Making music before he would go to his 9-5 job, he would have a couple of alternative dubstep releases through small independent labels, before finding his way onto the respected Hessle imprint. “The scene in Bucharest was quite small, and after a while it felt like there wasn’t much going on,” Cosmin says, explaining his move to Berlin in 2011. From there on in, Cosmin’s career evolution has been well documented. There was a progressive step towards more house, techno and bass music, (“with dubstep, I didn’t really like the box I was being put in”), an artist name change, two LPs, and the eventual launch of his two imprints Fizic, and Spotiv, for physically, defiant techno.
More recently, Cosmin has been making more journeys back to his Romanian home, and noticing that things in the scene were making a turn for the better. “At a certain point, things in Bucharest changed and people started going to see local DJs play more,” Cosmin states. “You have this new generation of musicians who’ve grown up with Arpiar, who are now much more open to new sounds. A lot of the music they are playing is changing. It’s still afterhours in many ways, but much more interesting and diverse, and textural, without being stuffy.” Referencing artist such as Borusiade, Khidja and Vid, and labels like Listen2Me, Moment and Uvar, Cosmin points towards a shift in approach to music styles, driven by the underground. “Up until five or six years ago you would have the same international artists play every few months, and the same Romanian DJs opening and closing for them. But since the emergence of channels such as YouTube, Boiler Room, the audience has found ways of listening to music outside of the clubs.”
“MGCH is also part of the Listen2Me crew. Not much is known about this artist, but the label has become the home for experimental, Romanian minimal music.”
The majority of this new-wave of producers and musicians have been remaining largely elusive, thriving on anonymity. A scene driven by aliases, and limited run vinyl releases. “It’s quite refreshing, because they don’t go and chase attention,” Cosmin describes. “These producers don’t really play out. The music is quite niche, that has all of these references from architecture, literature, and sonic references from jazz and minimalism – and have it all crafted together in a complete package. It’s all about individual sound design. It’s very elegant in presentation, and vinyl-only.” One particular release Cosmin points towards is 'Aproape Craciun' on Susur Records, a label with distinct Romanian aesthetics, from the folky logotype and label motif to the sound design. “Translated as 'Almost Christmas', this particular track breaks from Romanian minimal tradition by employing an actual break,” he states, “which used to be a bit of faux pas in the past.”
One such local talent Cosmin has been taking an interest in, is a certain musician called Serb, an artist who recently released ‘Qui Vive’ on Cosmi’s label Fizic. “[Serb]’s been doing the sound for Control Club in Bucharest,” he Cosmin. “The club has this little clique of music-making sound guys there. All of which fall into this category of experimental music makers. There’s also someone called Montgomery Clunk has been released on Error Broadcast. It’s music that’s low- tempo, weird, and techno.” Together the two Control Club technicians set up the imprint Label2Me, a label that is at the very heart of the new Bucharest, new-wave renaissance. “In a couple of months, we’re going to put out a tape with Serb, Clunk and another local collaborator. It’s a really, intricate and interesting style of music that fits nicely between dancefloor, and heads down kind of techno.” Along with Serb, there was a release on Fizic’s sister label Sportiv by Romanian producer Romansoff, who some people may know from Crème Organization, and Mörk (the Lobster Theremin sister label).
Cosmin returns to Bucharest on May 26th for the first night in an on-going residency called Club Sportiv at Control Club alongside Efdemin, and Romansoff. “I feel like it’s something really exciting is happening. People are really excited about music, and going out.” The night will act as showcase for local talent, as well as an opportunity to regularly return to the city where it all began. “No frills, just good dancefloor stuff,” Cosmin describes.
Red Bull Music Academy’s various projects in the city have had a big help in helping push forward this new level of creativity. Along with the on-going success of experimental music festival Rokolectiv, these are plentiful new outlets and mediums for new artists to explore. But at the heart and centre of everything has been Control Club. Located in the former location of Club Berlin, and set in an old disused ballroom, the venue has a restaurant and terrace, along with a varied and daring booking policy, with rock bands, hip-hop nights, and more. Think of it more as Romania’s Trouw club. “These guys were booking Svengalisghost and Ron Morelli before LIES even existed,” Cosmin declares. “Anybody that was going to be something was booked at Control.” Which makes it the perfect place for Cosmin to host a regular night featuring the newest wave of Romanian talent. “I’m really enthusiastic about what’s happening,” states Cosmin. With the likes of Romansoff, and Serb, it’s easy to see why.
TOP TRACKS TO WATCH OUT FOR:
Boske – 'De Vorba Cu Ea' (Senzorial)
'De Vorba Cu Ea' is built around a lengthy sample of a sensuous conversation, apparently lifted off a best-selling audio book. Re-contextualised, the sample loses its somewhat corny airport paperback vibes and becomes a poem of stark beauty, also breaking away with the traditional Romanian minimal sound palette.
Khidja – 'Die Wilde Spirale' (Hivern Discs)
Khidja are a duo born and bred in Bucharest, now split between Berlin and London but touring regularly and making beautifully quirky music. This is their Hivern Discs debut, a modern take on krautrock infused with Byzantine riddims.
Ada Kaleh – 'Contopire' (UVAR)
Ada Kaleh is one of the more recognisable names in recent years, and the impeccable sound design of this record speaks for itself.
Barac – 'Surrounding Desert' (Rawax)
Barac is also by far one of the biggest names of the new school. His earlier output was more solar, but lately he’s trod some murkier waters, such as on his releases for Moment or Rawax.
Borusiade – 'Jeopardy' (Cómeme)
Berlin-based Borusiade has quickly risen through the ranks becoming one of the main proponents of new-new wave, alongside label mate Lena Willikens. Her music is moody, quirky and defiantly rough around the edges, in contrast with her fellow countrymen’s usual knack for sonic perfection.