The “SUR” retrospective

As I’ve recently exhumed the musical archives of the two bands I worked with back in the 1990s, Ground Zero and Juice Connection (described in more detail here and here, respectively), I decided to also come up with a short “retrospective” of the band we founded at the beginning of the 2000s, SUR.

The group SUR started to take shape at the end of 2001, when Stojan Kralj and I were writing music for the dance theatre performance Lust by Sebastjan Starič:

Together with lyricist, dramatist, theatre actor and former Ground Zero vocalist Marko Djukić we got an idea for a more “poppy”, “trip-hoppy” project with (preferably) a female vocalist. The idea gradually came to life. As it soon turned out that the collaboration between lyricist Djukić and the first vocalist, Urška Samec, would unavoidably be severely impeded due to insurmountable creative differences, Neža Trobec joined the band and we started tinkering away. Initially, SUR was exclusively a studio project with a few full members and several guest musicians. The material was recorded in our home studio, and in May 2004 we self-published our first (and quite successful, relatively speaking) album, entitled “Na jug” (Southbound):

In 2005 we started working on our second album, “Druga stran” (The Other Side), which was released in July 2007:

Both of these albums also saw the light of day in a “tangible” form, as CDs.

In 2009 we released a digital EP called “Kadar mesto spi” (When the City Sleeps), after we’d managed to pull off a successful prank: thanks to a bizarre twist of events, the track “Prav ti” from this album appeared at the 2008 Slovenian Eurovision Song Contest – quite unsuccessfully, of course, in terms of votes… But qualifying for this type of contest with a song written in a relatively complex time signature (verse in 6/8 and chorus in 2 x 10/8 + 8/8 + 2 x 6/8) must be a special achievement in itself. The track was obviously an experiment in the “peculiar pop song format” that we found extremely entertaining, and, to our surprise, the shenanigan worked unusually well:

After our first album had been released, we adapted most of the material for live performances and performed at quite a few concerts. Ultimately we also released a collection of live material, played in Kreatorij DIC in Ljubljana in 2005. Most of the tracks on this album, called “aLiVE in 2005“, are live versions of the material released on the 2004 album “Na jug“. Jure Praper’s instrumental composition “Eqsqueezeme” has never been released anywhere else, and this is its only recording in existence. The studio version of the live track “Ples vampirjev” later appeared on the 2007 “physical” release “Druga stran“. At that time the band lineup was as follows: Neža Trobec – vocals; Monika Fritz – backing vocals; Jure Praper – guitar; Gregor Karer – bass guitar; Martin Smerdel – keyboards; Andrej Hrvatin – percussion; and myself on drums:

Live performances have not become our main focus, though, mostly due to impossible logistics involved in rehearsals (the band members were from all over Slovenia), as well as because of everyone’s neverending work on other projects. Thus most of our efforts remained confined to the studio, where we also kept writing original soundtracks for audiovisual works. During its active period, SUR signed soundtracks for fourteen theatre performances (2002 – Sebastjan Starič: Lust; 2003 – Borut Bučinel: Who Draws Me; 2003 – Branko Potočan: On Our Own Land; 2003 – Nick Pickard & Gareth Boylan: Monolads; 2004 – Boris Kobal: The House of Bernarda Alba; 2004 – Sebastjan Starič: Pepperoncino; 2005 – Tomaž Štrucl: Che Guevara; 2006 – Dušan Teropšič: Dimwits; 2008 – Jure Rudolf: Where Do You Live?; 2008 – Dušan Teropšič: An Event in the City; 2008 – Borut Bučinel: Lullaby of Death; 2010 – Dušan Teropšič: The Upsidedown World; 2010 – Borut Bučinel: Shining; 2012 – Matjaž Šmalc, Aja Zamolo & Sam Sebastian: Sharlatanus Maximus), a short film (2003 – Marko Horvat: Happiness on Sale) and a computer game. Between 2008 and 2012, the SUR collective published a collection of digital releases, featuring all of its original soundtracks for theatre performances:

The Slovenian press imaginatively characterised the music of SUR as “ambiental-rock-jazz-electronica”. This may even be mostly true of our first album, though we preferred to call ourselves “alternative ambient anarchistic hippie progressive psychedelic metal-munching jazzy trip hoppy funky beer drinkers and spritzer aficionadoes”. The full-time members of the last stable live lineup of SUR were: Neža Trobec Teropšič – vocals, Monika Fritz – backing vocals and lyrics, Jure Praper – guitar, Aljaž Tulimirović – guitar, Samo Pečar – bass, and myself – drums and additional lyrics.

The guest musicians and contributors on the first two albums and frequent collaborators in the other projects of the SUR collective included: Marko Djukić – lyrics and vocals, Rok Predin (lyrics, vocals, acoustic guitar), Dušan Rebolj (lyrics, vocals, acoustic guitar), Matevž Šalehar – Hamo (vocals), Vasko Atanasovski (saxophone, flute), Stojan Kralj (bass, fretless bass, guitar), Andrej Hrvatin (percussion), Janez Vouk (trumpet), Marko Zorec (guitar), Jelena Ždrale (violin, viola), Nino de Gleria (cello) and Tomaž Štrucl (vocals and beer-fuelled battle plans).

After our last concert in Slovenj Gradec in July 2007, SUR as a live band was disbanded, as Monika and I had relocated from Ljubljana to the Slovenian coast, and keeping such an “inter-regional” band fully operational had become impossible. In late 2008 Monika and I founded our current band Cynicism Management; while SUR as a creative group that wrote original soundtracks for audiovisual works kept working until 2012. By that time this aspect of my work had been taken over by my “instrumental music & soundtracks alter ego”, Ray Kosmick (and His Porn Groove Crew).

The name SUR may mean many things, most evidently “south” in Spanish, though we liked to tell people it was actually an acronym for “samostalna ugostiteljska radnja” – “independent catering service”… Which also remains the name of the studio where I keep pondering my “masterpieces” to this day.

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