Red Orange playlist:

Kottarashky and the Rain Dogs [Bulgaria]

Kottarashky and The Rain Dogs (Bulgaria)

ARTIST: Kottarashky and the Rain Dogs

COUNTRY: Bulgaria

GENRE: Romani, Balkan, Ethno-Electro

ABOUT: Kottarashky aka Nikola Gruev opened the door to hitherto undiscovered spaces of Balkan music with his first album “Opa Hey!” in 2009. His approach of using a collection of sounds taken from authentic field recordings is quite similar to artists like Amon Tobin, the only difference being that Gruev found and recorded his sources in the Bulgarian countryside. Combining these, he initiated a tribal digital dance music that went far beyond either the mash up culture of contemporary global producers or the art collages of modern sound architects. He simply amazed with compositions that are extremely complexly woven, yet at the same time catchy, and full of joy or melancholy. At the time however, Kottarashky was unknown, even within his local scene in Bulgaria. It was all the more unbelievable that this dude, who was actually a full-time architect, was producing outstanding tunes and unique rhythms such as these in his back office that were completely unconnected with any popular scenes.

This coincided with a general trend in Sofia of creativity moving into the private sphere. It seems to have been a reflex to the current situation in Bulgaria today, where a group of neo-feudalists have consolidated their positions and their profits, at the same time however, maneuvering the scene in the country into torpor and oppressing all criticism through their domination of the media market. It is a situation where the mainstream outweighs everything else, yet this absence of diversified cultural channels has provided wide-ranging mental free space for the creative. It is clearly this environment that stimulates Kottarashky’s innovative and profound style. Triggered by the success of “Opa Hey!”, it was obvious to Kottarashky that he now had to transform his tracks into live performances. Once again, he decided not to take the easy way out by playing as one-man laptop band or by surrounding himself with a group of session musicians from the folk scene. Along with his friend Hristo Hadzhiganchev (keyboard, guitar, vocals), he searched for musical companions who had both the skills to transform his sound sketches into a live experience and the curiosity to attempt new experiments. Influenced by artists such as Tom Waits, Jimi Hendrix and Dr. John, they formed a weird band combining Kottarashky’s sampler tools and keyboard with traditional clarinet, guitar, bass and drum set. In their first live concerts in 2010, Kottarashky& The Rain Dogs delighted the crowds with their own sound which oscillates somewhere between traditional Bulgarian Balkan music, soul and rock from the 60s.

Bulgaria has plenty of extraordinary musicians, however its live culture is really starving for concerts by bands which play something other than cover versions. In the end, Kottarashky& The Rain Dogs have attracted so many people that the band has become the most booked serious live band performing in Bulgaria today. It was only a matter of time before they got down to recording the album “Demoni”. Although Kottarashky’s first album included plenty of ideas for a live album, “Demoni” only features one track from “Opa Hey!”. Kottarashky& The Rain Dogs recorded eleven fresh tracks that take us into a whole new universe of advanced Balkan Funk and Blues. The compositions still carry the unique Kottarashky sound from the field recordings and his authentic samples. Yet as all the songs have been recorded as band studio sessions, they now feature the pure impact emanating from the clarinet improvisations and the groovy combination of programmed tribal loops with funky drum play.

Kottarashky aka Nikola Gruev: sampling
Aleksandar Dobrev: clarinet
Hristo Hadzhiganchev: guitar, keyboard
Yordan Geshakov: bass
Atanas Popov: drums

“The most imaginative Balkan electronica project yet? On first glance, young producer Kottarashky could be seen as some slow-off-the-mark Johnny-come-lately. The Balkans are, after all, a territory trod by plenty of dance music DJs and remixers in recent years, most notably Shantel and Basement Jaxx’s Felix Buxton. But this is a project that’s the most subtle excursion so far, a long way removed from merely super-charging existing recordings with four-to-the-floor beats. Kottarashky’s electronic embellishments serve as gentle accompanists, nudging and cajoling rather than colonising the music. The beats are part of an ensemble, and complement spirals of region-specific clarinet, mournful fiddle riffs and ghostly voices drawn from dusty old field recordings. That Kottarashky is an architect for his day job makes perfect sense. With Balkan folk traditions as his foundations, he’s built something that bears his signature, mixing and matching styles but remaining true to his grand design. An obvious point of comparison would be the Gotan Project’s re-directing of tango towards the 21st century, a project brought to mind here by the loping dub bass lines and snatches of accordion on tunes such as ‘Long Song’ and ‘Tempe’. Narrated by those brief, repeated vocal samples, the songs are richly evocative of modern Eastern Europe, finding the intriguing point where regional and global culture butt heads. But this is no confrontation – the young chap’s clear talents at sonic collage have ensured a unified and balanced work. Purists will probably choose to give it a wide berth, but they’d be ill-advised to do so: Opa Hey! is a tremendously beguiling record.” (Nige Tassell, Songlines) (Top of The World)

“Don’t miss this beyond-category beauty.” (Global A-Go-Go)

“Fans of Balkan music that like a good balance between electronic and folk elements will love the modern musings of Kottarashky and The Rain Dogs.” (Matthew Forss, Inside World Music)

“Kottarashky has long had something about him that sets him apart – not just his penchant for combining traditional Bulgarian and modern dance music, but for doing it in such a way that the boundaries between the two become blurred and the marriage of sounds becomes entirely natural. These are not jarring mash-ups which thrill through conflict and dissonance – wonderful though such things can often be – but a reclamation of the digital within the organic that is in no way contrived or forced.” (Mark Whitby, Unwashed Territories)

“As Kottarashky (“Tomcat”), Bulgarian architect Nikola Gruev caused a stir with his 2009 debut Opa Hey!, a subtle blend of laptop beats and samples of Balkan folk.” (Neil Spencer, The Guardian)

“What you hear feels like a dislocated dream ride through the pungent soundscape of night-time Sofia.” (Tim Cumming, The Independent) (Album Of The Week)

“It veers pleasingly from quirky mood pieces to what sounds like Balkan psychedelia, He’s a producer to watch.” (Robin Denselow, The Guardian)

– “Demoni” (Asphalt Tango, 2012)
– “Opa Hey!” (Asphalt Tango, 2009)

– Stanser Musiktage, Stans, Switzerland
– Festival of North Norway, Harstad, Norway
– Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands
– Festival Mundial, Tilburg, Netherlands
– Roskilde Festival, Roskilde, Denmark
– Festival de la Cité, Lausanne, Switzerland
– Voice of Nomads, Ulan Ude, Russia
– Animator Festival, Poznan, Poland
– Hedmanska Garden, Malmö, Sweden
– Lydmar Live, Stockholm, Sweden
– Bardentreffen, Nuremberg, Germany
– Kulturufer, Friedrichshafe, Germany
– Kommz Festival, Aschaffenburg, Germany
– Poolbar Festival, Feldkirch, Austria
– Urkult, Näsaker, Sweden
– Kulturnacht, Ulm, Germany
– Balkanik Festival, Bucharest, Romania
– Grand Soufflet, Rennes, France
– Global, Copenhagen, Denmark
– White Trash, Germany
– Badehaus, Berlin, Germany
– Tollhaus, Karlsruhe, Germany
– Bolschevita, Wiesbaden-Schlachthof, Germany
– Ander Art Festival, Munich, Germany
– Stadtwerkstatt, Linz, Austria
– Niesenberger, Graz, Austria
– Akvarium, Budapest, Hungary
– Jazz & The City, Salzburg, Austria
– La Spirale, Fribourg, Switzerland



Kottarashky and The Rain Dogs (Bulgaria)