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Nový Svět, "DeGenerazione"

DeGenerazioneThe enigmatic, inscrutable, and defunct Austrian duo of Jürgen Weber and Lili Novy/Frl. Tost has long been a subject of fascination for me, as I have had a bunch of their albums for years and enjoyed them, yet knew virtually nothing about them at all. In fact, I still would find it incredibly challenging to even answer a simple question like "what does Nový Svět sound like?" as their elusive discography continually blurs the lines between industrial, folk, cabaret, improv, collage, and whatever other esoteric influences they decided to assimilate for a given album. Amusingly, they also had a quixotic tendency to record albums in languages other than their native German, as evidenced by this newly released album from the vaults, which was originally intended to complete a "Spanish trilogy" back in 2007. In characteristically contrarian and mystifying fashion, it was shelved for being "too Spanish" and a synth album (Todas Las Últimas Cosas) was released instead. If this were any other band, I would drive myself crazy wondering why they would allow such an mesmerizing and wonderfully weird album to languish unheard, but baffling choices were basically the norm for Nový Svět. In any case, this album rules and I am thrilled to finally get to hear it.


Aside from rudimentary and potentially dubious details like "Nový Svět were originally Vienna-based and formed in 1997," most of my knowledge of the band's history amusingly comes from a 1999 Russian interview in which the hapless interviewer kept asking an obviously disinterested Weber about how Futurism shaped the project's vision. Given that Weber glibly dismissed a few prominent Futurists as embarrassing weirdos and dandies in the interview, it is probably safe to say that they were not a terribly big influence, but he did seem to know a hell of a lot about the European avant-garde despite attributing the band's origins largely to alcohol and having a bunch of instruments lying around. Based on what little I know, it seems that the project's shapeshifting vision was more likely shaped by an interest in traditional music and instrumentation colliding with a fondness for tape loops and samplers, but Nový Svět also seemed to be shaped quite a bit by their immediate surroundings and a host of non-musical influences (theater, Buddhism, hedonism, folklore, Cage, Pasolini, Esperanto, Art Brut, etc.)..

In keeping with that theme, this album probably felt too Spanish primarily because the duo had returned home to their native Vienna shortly after finishing the recordings. Unsurprisingly, very little else can be said about the album with any certainty, but DeGenerazione is purportedly centered around "dream and sleep and (waking up in) nightmares" and Weber is the sole person credited for the words and music. Aside from that, all I can say is that someone named Tristan handled the mixing and that the recordings surfaced online awhile back after being rescued from decaying masters. There are a couple of other names credited on the album (ZaZa and Sara), but it is impossible to say who was truly involved or what they did, as the album seems to be primarily crafted from the minimal palette of Weber's voice, a bunch of samples, a couple guitars, an accordion, and some bells, chimes, and pieces of metal. To be sure, there are a decent number of "Spanish" touches strewn throughout the album, such as the looping minor key guitar motif in "Raja" or the mutant Latin groove in "Lo Que Tu 1," but Weber's Spanish-language vocals are the sole consistently Spanish thread on the album. Given that my own grasp of Spanish is embarrassing at best, I cannot throw stones at Weber's own questionable mastery of the language, but he certainly manages to make it sound expressive, sultry, poetic, and beautiful anyway.

I am hesitant to describe these songs as sketchlike, as a lot of attention clearly went into how everything ultimately sounded, but a lot of songs are only a minute or two long and damn near every piece is a vamp centered upon a single rhythm or melodic hook. That suits the material quite beautifully and seems to fit Weber's personality as well, as he doesn't seem like someone who would be remotely interested in adhering to songcraft conventions. That said, he does seem to have an impressive intuition for crafting compelling and memorable songs from spontaneous inspirations and also has the good sense not to overstay his welcome or needlessly dilute a good idea with unnecessary clutter.

Notably, these recording sessions seemed to be an especially fertile period for those good ideas as well, as every single song is inspired in some way and my notes are packed with colorful phrases like "Jimmy Durante fronts The Electric Mayhem," "someone is strangling a balloon animal," and "a lysergic march of cartoon ducks" (those are all compliments, by the way). In general, however, the longer, more substantial pieces tend to feature many of the album's strongest moments, such as the dramatic acoustic strumming in "Ciudacanta," the manic insanity of "Rexistencia," and the sensuous and surreal psychedelic crescendo of "Tierra." That said, I loved a lot of the shorter pieces too, especially the sultry noir jazz of "Al Fuego" and the clattering, backwards weirdness of "Suenos, Anos, Despues."

While I certainly expected to dig this album, I was still very pleasantly surprised by how thoroughly it exceeded my expectations. For one, I didn't even know that this album existed until Quindi stepped up to finally give it a proper release. Secondly, it was extremely heartening to discover that there was someone out there interested in resurrecting such a unique and obscure project at all. In fact, the release of DeGenerazione was even accompanied by a second surprise, as Quindi also just released a new solo Jürgen Weber album under his Jota Solo guise. The biggest surprise of all, however, is that DeGenerazione is a legitimately excellent Nový Svět album, which is not usually the case for shelved albums from the vaults. For the curious, this is as good an entry point as any and has the added bonus of actually being readily available (digitally, at least). Notably, the vinyl editions for both DeGenerazione and Jota Solo's Nessuno sold out faster than I could write about them, which hopefully bodes well for the prospect of future Nový Svět reissues. Hell, maybe the Nový Svět renaissance is already fully underway, as yet another album from this same era (Desde Infiernos De Flores) was quietly reissued on Brannten Schnüre's Quirlschlängle imprint back in 2022. Sadly, I was not fast enough to grab that one, but I will be damned if I let the next one slip by me.

Listen here.