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VISIONS OF ZHIVA

PRESENTING MUSIC FROM CENTRAL EUROPE

INTRODUCING: GHOST OF YOU (Brno, Czech Republic)

Words by Nathan Lova, published 26.10..2018

Captivating voice takes you into the dark corners of psychedelic pop where you meet the ghosts of your former selves. The music of Ghost of You is hard to categorize – as a band with strong electronic overtones, they shift smoothly between various elements within the running time of one song. Hailing from the Moravian capital Brno, these four ambitious lads aim high while maintaining close tights to their local scene.

Tom Novohradský, Michal Janík, Štěpán Pařízek and Jiří Habarta have been making music together since high school times, the origins of the band date back to 2012. Following year saw their first release – the EP Ocean K. was recorded between a professional studio and their home sofa. They have been touring extensively since the beginning, playing live has always been their priority as a means of connecting with people and gaining experience. The scene in Brno might be comparatively small but it is certainly thriving, Tom explains in an interview. Fewer pubs and venues allow for greater interconnectedness, local musicians know each other and support each other.

In 2015 they joined the label Indie Scopes, which also resides in Brno, and released their debut Glacier and the City. The decision to work with the acclaimed producer Ondřej Ježek turned out to be a leap in the right direction. Directed by his experienced hand, the guys put the songs in a new shiny coat. There’s plenty of dark places to hide in and many unexpected turns on the record, and it only creaks where it should. The band bluntly described it somewhere as “short and sad”. They had a point there, Glacier and the City is neither lengthy nor cheerful. Eight songs form an organically connected network and make perfect sense as they are. Why playing longer if you can get point across in thirty minutes? Ghost of You have the guts to stop when they feel like and not when people expect them to.

Even if they occasionally angered a fan or two because their sets weren’t that long at the time. Their reasoning was that they want to keep the audience’s attention for the entire duration. “We want to make sure people get the most of it”, Michal explains in the student documentary Ledovec ve městě (Glacier in the city). Director Václav Mach accompanied the band for several months and captured the excitement of recording of their first album, their victory in a young bands competition which brought them a slot at the Sziget festival in Hungary and the journey to Banát, a Czech village in Romania which hosts a music festival every year.

In their lyrics, Ghost of You build dream images based on real life perceptions. The guys might be able to link some verses to specific situations, but these meanings and connections remain obscured to the listeners. One has to wander through the dreamscape alone and fill in one’s own meanings. The imagination runs free between cryptic hints of modern life anxieties and descriptions of primordial phenomena. There’s the glaciers, dinosaurs, the deep sea hermaphrodite and the Armenia sky where the stars shine no more.

In terms of sound, Ghost of You blend post-rock with elements of psychedelia. They take inspiration from a whole spectrum of genres and are not afraid to experiment and twist a variety of elements to their own liking. Their sound often evolves into unexpected directions within the running time of one track. The range is from goosebump inducing softness to ecstatic drum pounding and shrieking vocals.

For their second album, they teamed up with Onřej Ježek again but the approach was different. They brought ideas and sketches into the studio which then grew into songs on the spot, material for the first album had been written in advance. According to the band, Black Yoga is a confrontation with our demons, with the bad side that dwells in each of us. It is a bad habit you repeat, a mistake made over and over again. It’s the moment when morning breaks through after a long night, daylight floods the dancefloor but the party still goes on.

The work that’s been done in the three-year gap in between the albums is audible on Black Yoga. Four individuals have grown into a functioning organism and importantly, they didn’t lose their appetite for experimenting. Black Yoga is somehow sexier – the tracks are smoother and more likely to get stuck in your head. For me, it also threw new light onto Glacier and the city which made me come back to it again and again.

It’s refreshing to see a band radiating confidence and taking their music seriously. For too long that hasn’t been the standard in the Czech Republic, but these guys are proof that the times are a’changing.

Europe is easy to travel but her cultures are hard to access if you don’t speak respective national languages. On similar grounds, it is not easy for musicians to reach listeners beyond their country of origin. Even if they sing in nearly-perfect English, there might not be anyone writing about them in the global language. Visions of Zhiva is a zine presenting artists from Central Europe.

Who is Zhiva? Zhiva is the anglicised spelling of the name Živa (also Živena, Siwa). The Slavic goddess of life and fertility was worshipped in the region of today’s Poland, Germany, Czech Republic and Slovakia before the arrival of Christianity.

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