Austrian Music Highlights: May 2024

Koenig For Anton Album Cover
KŒNIG - "For Anton" cover detail (c) Lukas König

May! A month on the cusp of spring and summer, where the mornings are still cool and the year still seems full of promise (even though we’re already coming up on the halfway point). The headline this month is a slew (from the Irish “sluagh”, meaning a bunch) of open calls for artists – from right here in Vienna and as far away as Spain and Estonia. Some of them are ending soon, so we won’t waste any more time: gentle reader, bask in the glow of your Austrian Music Highlights for May.

Today: open calls…

When we were youngsters, older, wiser music professionals used to say: “no one’s going to discover you in your bedroom”. OK, that may have been true back before the days of online application forms, but guess what? These days, you can essentially get discovered from your bedroom, provided the wi-fi signal reaches that far. From under your blanket, wearing your favorite fuzzy slippers, you can currently apply to be part of:

Waves Festival logo 2023
  • Waves Vienna, a showcase festival along Vienna’s Gürtel (essentially the Reeperbahn of Austria)
Reeperbahn banner
Culture Moves Europe banner
  • and our favorite, because honestly, who wouldn’t want to be part of something called Monkey Week?

…and many more, all waiting for you on our precisely calibrated, carefully curated Open Calls page.

  • Also: don’t forget about the Impulse and OMF+ grants – you can apply anytime, but the current Impulse call ends today, May 15th; the current OMF+ call ends on May 22nd!

…tomorrow: the world

There are no guarantees in the music business. But if you devote yourself to Your Thing – whatever it may be – and if you then work on getting it out there (for example via open calls, see above) – you may find yourself getting out and about in Europe, like these folks…

• Escapism

The Great Escape, one of Europe’s big annual showcase festivals and industry events, is kicking off this week. As usual, a handful of bands from Austrian pop’s smart set are heading up to Brighton to join the fun: oh alien, Oskar Haag, Bon Jour, and Sharktank will all be playing at our Austrian Heartbeats reception on Thursday, and Ernst will be performing at The Alternative Escape (for dates, times and venues see Austrian Acts at the Great Escape 2024).

Bon Jour_Pressphoto (c) Paul Schutz
Bon Jour (c) Paul Schütz

• Next PLease

The multinational Chaos String Quartet strives to live up to its name, dedicating itself to the pursuit of unpredictability and risk-taking – and their work seems to be paying off: they’re currently both a NASOM act and a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. They’ll be showcasing their program “Free the Franz” – a reimagining of Franz Schubert’s music featuring free-improv saxophonist István Grencsó – at the 11th edition of Classical:NEXT, the world’s biggest international classical music industry event, this week in Berlin.

Video: Chaos String Quartet – “Free the Franz” (trailer)

• Future history

Marko Ciciliani‘s three-part work “Why Frets?” consists of a sound installation, a lecture/performance, and a multimedia solo performance. It’s all centered around an alternate history of the electric guitar, as reconstructed by a historian in the year 2083. After presenting it in Antwerp, Graz, Poland, Serbia, Croatia, and Germany, Ciciliani is bringing the work to the Frequenz_ Festival in Kiel on May 25th.

Video: Markus Ciciliani – “Why Frets? – Tombstone” at Musikprotokoll 2022

• Present struggles

Golnar Shahyar (c) Ina Aydogan

Readers of these pages should already be familiar with Golnar Shahyar, the Vienna-based, Iranian/Canadian vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. In addition to her varied work in the musical realm, she is an ardent activist for equality, diversity, and inclusion in the music business – as her bio notes, there’s no meaningful division between her music and the social themes she addresses. Golnar will be appearing as the keynote speaker at this year’s European Forum on Music from June 5 – 7.

Briefly Noted

Lukas König started out as a solid and gifted jazz-funk drummer (notably with Kompost3), but his horizons expanded rapidly, first as half of the Dada-pop/free jazz bad boys koenigleopold, then with an ever-increasing number of projects and collaborations. These days, he’s a respected member of the Vienna avant-garde, he works with folks as disparate as Bilderbuch, David Six, and the Klangforum Wien, and he still has one of the deepest grooves around. The music on his latest solo album For Anton (Ventil Records) is introspective, balancing his signature microrhythmic, glitchy sound constructions with expansive organ and synthesizers. Heavy Blade Runner vibes.

Saying there’s a lot of hype around pop music is like saying water is wet, so it’s always a special treat to find an artist who is all they’re cracked up to be. Uche Yara‘s self-produced 5-song EP “Golden Days” proves conclusively that she’s got what it takes. It’s a swirling mix of modern dance-pop and indie rock, heavy on the atmospheric production and broken beats. Skittery guitar and whimsical, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, delivered in her endlessly mutable voice, tie the whole thing together. She’s spending a lot of time on the road this summer – go see her.

Album cover "Plehak"

For years, Vincent Pongracz has single-mindedly pursued his knotty, surrealistic vision of jazz-funk, influenced by late-period hip-hop and contemporary classical music. A new record by the Synesthetic Octet is cause for celebration: Plehak (JazzWerkstatt Records) continues his investigation of pinpoint microrhythms and dense harmonies, punctuated with upwellings of lyric improvisation – all performed with astonishing precision by the stellar band. The album was recorded in a single room and with a single microphone, giving the whole an intimate, lo-fi note.

And now, if you will excuse us, we’re going to get up from the computer to go outside and gather nuts in May, and we recommend you do the same. Until next time. – Philip Yaeger