Comp Inc.

I once met a guy whose entire music collection consisted of complimentary CDs. His name was Voitech, he was a train conductor from a tiny Slovak village, and he was seriously hooked on electronic music. I wrongly assumed, based on his cobbled-together collection, that this fellow knew little about the scene. He went on to lecture me at great length about London progressive house, and the onslaught of Czech and Slovak artists who had made substantial inroads into the biz.

I soon realized that the quality of these “free” discs that come with many music glossies is far superior to similar issues stateside—and well worth the 100 Kč or so price tag for the mag (especially when import releases priced at 500 or 600 Kč keep the average Czech fan from supplementing his or her collection the “normal” way). As for the glossies themselves, they’re heavy with photos of pie-eyed, glow-stick-clenching teens, but the reviews of new vinyl, new bands and new recreational drugs are informative.
The leader in Czech club-scene reportage is iMedia’s Xmag (known until recently as Tripmag). Edited by Béla Nemeshegyi, the monthly is always accompanied by a full-length disc of electronic beats. Past highlights include Czechoslovak Sound System Vol. 1, 2 & 3, which showcased several regional artists who went on to wider success (Floex, The Tchendos, DJ Neo). There’s also been a couple of solid chill-out discs (Selections from the Café Del Mar series and local DJ Significant Brother) and a tight breakbeat set from UK DJs The Drummatic Twins.

iMedia also publishes the slightly more accessible Ultramix, edited by Radek Lacina. This Slovak-born club zine is now widely available in Prague. While some of its comps border on monotony, Ultramix has released fantastic collections from British label Pork and German label Compost. Both offer superb downtempo singles and back-catalogue samplings from Fila Brasilia, Leggo Beast and A Forest Mighty Black. The labels usually license the tracks for free or for advertising space, this being a small market with a relatively large club-going population that will theoretically chase down the artists’ full-length releases. But most seem content to wait for what the magazine doles out the following month.

Last but certainly not least in the local freebie-thon is the superbly conceived art and culture magazine Živel, edited by Ivan Adamovic. This forward-thinking publication, issued more or less bi-monthly out of Prague 10, is consistently augmented with collections of unique sounds from all corners of the globe. I have never missed an issue of Zivel, and I’ve never been disappointed with what I found inside.

The recent issue #22 includes the disc Reykyavik Sound, featuring cuts from GusGus, Blake, DDD and Daniel Agust. Past releases feature the historic Kid Loops, Funky Porcini and Omni Trio as well as local artists Mr. Cucumber, Ohm Square and The Ecstasy of St Theresa. Next month’s is slated to include a fantastic electroclash mix (see Pill #27)! The meticulous attention to quality with which Živel puts together its comp discs is an extension of the publication itself, which embraces technology through minimal yet clever design.

Most surprising is the wide availability of unsold stock of all these titles at book and calendar likvidaces for as little as 30 Kč. I was shocked to find pallet-loads of shrink-wrapped, disc-stuffed magazines at both Václavské náměstí and Na příkopě locations. You know what to do.

Timmy’s Top 5 Complimentary discs
•Ocu rec / Živel #2
•Peep Sound / Živel #21
•Chill Out System (Significant Brother) / Tripmag, August 2001
•Pure Future 2003 (Drumattic Twins) / Xmag, December 2002
•Slice of Pork / Ultramix #03

You can hear breaks, bossa and rare groove on the High-Fidelity broadcast every Friday from 8 to 11 pm on Radio One 91.9 FM. Tim Otis is at letters@pill.cz

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