How does that old song go? “I like New York in June / I like a Gershwin tune” …be that as it may, we’re more than happy to stick with Vienna and tunes from folks like Willi Landl, Ankathie Koi, and Zion Flex. For all you flappers, trappers, swingers, and hipsters: behold, your Austrian Music Highlights for early summer.
Wachau Meets World
The Wachau is a valley on the Danube mainly known for wine, apricots, and bucolic landscapes. It’s not entirely clear how it became a center for up-to-the-minute music and culture, but for many years it’s hosted not one but two of Austria’s most fascinating festivals. The donaufestival is over for this year, but Glatt&Verkehrt is just tying up the last loose ends and getting ready for the kick-off on July 14th. This year’s festival is dedicated largely to singers and songs from cultures where singing is an act of protest, an act that represents a risk for the singer – numerous acts from Eastern Europe and the Middle East are represented, as well as Brazil, Finland, the UK, and domestic artists like Lylit, Sara Zlanabitnig, and Mona Matbou Riahi. Glatt&Verkehrt runs from the 14th to the 30th of July; complete details are available on the festival homepage.
Long hot summer
We report mainly on international affairs here at Austrian Music Export, but we would be remiss if we didn’t draw attention to the mother of all festivals, the ultimate Viennese bread-and-circus, free to all and featuring as many artists as they can cram into the program: the Kultursommer Wien was a child of the pandemic, but it established itself quickly and doesn’t look like it will be going anywhere soon. The festival (Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from June 30th – August 13th) encompasses pretty much every form of culture imaginable, takes place at 11 open-air venues, and boasts a head-spinningly large roster of artists – Diknu Schneeberger, Martin Spengler & die foischn Wiener, Stefan Sterzinger, Yasmo & die Klangkantine, Pneuma…the list goes on, and on, and on. We recommend searching the homepage for specific dates, venues, or artists.
As the world comes to Austria to play, Austrian musicians are embarking on summer tours as well – here’s a small sampling of who’s going to be where in the next month…
Eli Preiss is going to be lighting up Germany and Switzerland in the next few weeks – she’s at Splash! in Gräfenhainichen (DE) on June 29th, Frauenfeld Open Air (CH) on July 6th, and at the Deichbrand Festival in Cuxhaven (DE) on July 20th. Oh, and by the way: check out her Export interview from a couple weeks ago.
The dream-pop act Lucy Dreams will be visiting the UK coming up – they’re at The Water Rats in London on June 22nd and the Oakford Social Club in Reading on the 24th.
Soul-jazz organist Raphael Wressnig is on the road these days as well: his next stops are at Parkbad Süd in Castrop-Rauxel (DE) on June 24th, Stadtschloss Weimar on July 1st, and at the Outdoor Gym in Barcelona on July 15th.
And finally, Manu Delago is about halfway through his bike-powered ReCycling Tour. There are still plenty of chances to catch him – in Bonn on the 19th of June and Cologne on the 20th, then crossing the border into the Netherlands: Heerlen on June 22nd, Rotterdam on the 27th, and the tour closer at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis on the 28th. For a little background on this fascinating tour, see our article “Once More Unto the Bikes, Dear Friends“.
Overwhelmed by this surfeit of choices, places to go, artists to see? Frankly, we sympathize. That’s why we are pleased to offer you this exactingly curated, short & sweet list of new Austrian releases…
Crazy in love: A new release from Ankathie Koi is always cause for celebration, and the first single off her forthcoming album is no exception. The synth-heavy, exultant “Amour Fou” is a little lusher and less stripped-down than previous hipster anthems like “Kate, It’s Hunting Season”; sultry verses alternate with ecstatic choruses, building to a climax all the sweeter because you can see it coming. It could almost be a mid-80s Madonna or Cyndi Lauper hit – except let’s be honest: neither of those venerable ladies had Ankathie’s voice to work with. If you happen to be near Burghausen, Germany on June 17th, she’ll be playing at Kultur im Zelt.
Leather & longing: No less a Vienna original is singer Willi Landl, who has been forging his own path (somewhat in the mold of Brecht, Zappa, Schubert, and schlager) for a good decade and a half now. His new release, “Lederjackenjunge”, is an ode to an unknown leather-jacketed crush from back in the day: “You had a moped and I would have loved to ride with you / On the back seat, like two cowboys into the sunset,” sings Landl in his resonant baritone, his deadpan delivery lending a vital note of irony to a story of unrequited young love. The polymathic Michael Hornek, Landl’s longtime musical partner, is responsible for all instruments, production, mixing and mastering – a one-man band. Can we hope for an album coming soon?
Magnetic: Merve consists of clarinettist/vocalist Barbara Maria Neu, saxophonist Andrea Edlbauer, violist Stefanie Kropfreiter, and bassist/composer Judith Ferstl. Their music, as presented on the debut EP Ich war einmal, is Vienna post-jazz all the way: the complexity borrowed from contemporary classical music, the folk sensibility that permeates pretty much everything in Austria, and a generous measure of free improvisation. What sets them apart, though, is the music’s intimacy and – dare we say it? – friendliness. The recording is warm and naturalistic, as if they were performing in your living room; the music is cerebral, to be sure, but not overly so – not cold, but possessed of a subtle playfulness that makes all the difference.
Flexing: Zion Flex is a multi-faceted artist and activist, dedicated to creating art that is both unique and meaningful. The Bristol native has made her home in Vienna for a while now, and released her new album, We Got This, on June 2nd. The music, combining elements of hip-hop, trap, dancehall, and spoken word, is urgent and vital with its messages but doesn’t skimp on the bass: music equally well suited to a protest or cruising on a summer evening.
Wishing you a serene early summer until next time -Philip Yaeger.