Don't know your Priku's from your Vid's? Let us help you navigate the scene with our guide to Romania's hottest artists.
Like Chicago and Detroit are synonymous with house and techno, so Romania is intrinsically linked to minimal. Anyone with even a passing interest in underground electronic music will be familiar with mainstays Raresh, Rhadoo and Peter Inspirescu, but now a decade after their breakthrough, a second and third wave of artists has pushed the Romanian minimal house sound in all new directions.
The Romanian scene is an endless warren of artists, DJs and labels. It is a frequently vinyl only sound that regularly tops record store Bestseller lists and is designed to be heard over long periods of time. A feature that is thought to have been heavily influenced by the ability of clubs in Romania to stay open for an almost limitless amount of time.
Many of the tracks often play out for eight to ten minutes or more and there is little fanfare round the releases. To the West European eye, the rapidly multiplying hub of new artists can amount to an impenetrable world of producers with odd sounding artist names. So to help you navigate through this dense world of exciting music, we present our who’s who of Romania’s most essential artists.
The chief pin-ups of the so-called ‘Rominimal sound’ helped establish Romania on the dance music map after a famous leg-up from Ricardo Villalobos. The Chilean legend played back to back with a young Raresh at an afterparty in Bucarest in 2006 and became a mentor to the trio over the ensuing years.
RPR have now been at the top so long that a new wave of producers coming through, have known nothing but sets from the RPR Soundsystem and releases from their label, [a:rpia:r]. As solo artists they make electronic music tinged with jazz spirit; long form tracks, skeletal grooves and intricate melodies that evolve seemingly with a life of their own. Without their influence, their native scene would likely not have flourished in the way it has.
Rhadoo ‘Going Like You’ is the A2 on the first [a:rpia:r] release. Click here https://www.discogs.com/sell/item/483924819 for the rest of the EP.
While many DJs need to keep churning out records to stay relevant, Barac’s only EP of 2017 arrived this month on Lick My Deck. Despite that, the Romanian’s tour diary has been jam packed all year long, likely because he is one of the enduring pin-ups of the contemporary Romanian sound. He got his start making jingles for a local radio station but now he’s better known as the producer responsible for widening the remit of the Romanian sound to include more melody. His back catalogue makes for comparatively organic rather than abstract listening, and the finest examples of it come on his own Moment Records label.
A lot of Romanian techno has grandiose neo-classical influences, which result in music infused with real instrumentation and orchestration. One of the key protagonists of that is Cristi Cons, a formally trained cellist who studied at Bucharest’s National Music Academy and whose parents bought him a pair of turntables in an attempt to bribe him to keep playing cello. He got his break after video of Rhadoo playing one of his demos at a party went viral and his tracks are often overlaid with drunken cello sounds and symphonic synths that ooze soothing musicality. As well as co-running Amphia with Vlad Caia, the pair have also played together as improvisational live duo SIT since 2009.
Livio & Roby are one of the biggest techno acts to hail from Romania. Thanks to associations with labels like Loco Dice’s Desolat they have crossed over into the more mainstream underground arena. Their main room leaning sounds are twisted, psychedelic takes on tech house, while they also link with George G to form Premiesku for darker grooves.
Raresh (left) and Praslea (right).
A staple of the [a:rpia:r] label, Praslea plays together with Raresh as Praslesh. Since 2010 they have put out only one EP of experimental micro house and techno, but their sets are fawned over things that take them from one side of the world to another. Famous for their progressive and infinitely detailed percussive grooves, they make a maximal impact with minimal elements.
Vlad Caia is the other half of SIT with Cristi Cons and co owner of the influential Amphia label. He began his music experimentation in his early teens equipped with only the bare essentials, a midi sequencer and a keyboard. In the late 2000s he released on labels like Next Dimension or Dinky’s Horizontal and got his break via a Red Bull Academy session in 2010 that landed one of his tracks on a Red Bull compilation as well as a gig at Secretsundaze.
These days he cooks up melodic intricacies of the sort you find in chamber music. As a solo producer, he is one of the more experimental producers in the scene. His music is richly detailed with stunning ambiance, awash with rippling piano keys and scattered with organic, off-grid percussion. Listening to one of his ten minute tracks is an utterly moving and escapist experience that takes you well away from the dance floor.
A series of notable performances at Sunwaves—the pre-eminent Romanian minimal festival—helped establish Adrian Niculae aka Priku over the last decade. His sound is tougher and fuller than many of his peers, with less minimalistic rhythms and more overt synth and groove layering. He heads up two labels, Motif and Atipic, and his most recent outing on Eastenderz is his housiest release yet.
Generally, the Romanian scene likes to stay low key and insular, but even so, Dan Andrei is particularly under the radar. His sounds are some of the most broadly influenced of all his peers, taking cues from soul, hip hop, house and funk as well as the usual minimalist techno tendencies. He is from Craiova, the same city as Cristi Cons and has been quiet on the production front since his debut album on a:rpia:r in 2015, sticking instead to DJ gigs around the world.
Kozo’s sounds are released under a range of aliases but only sporadically. When they do, they betray a love of spaced out, cosmic atmospheres that are hypnotic and aqueous. It’s nearly a decade since his debut on [a:rpia:r] as Kozonak, and these days he’s mostly found behind the decks—often at home in Romania—as well as running his experimental Understand label from his home in Bucharest
Although another Romanian who seldom releases—in fact he’s only put out one EP on his own Unanim Records— Herodot does make a lot of music. Most of it he saves for his own sets, which are creative and ever-lasting, often seeing him play subtle but seductive music for many hours at a time. After years playing locally, he eventually broke out and is now a fully fledged circuit DJ and runs the label Unamim with Piticu.
In sonic terms, Cosmin TRG doesn’t really fit with his countrymen. His techno is abrasive, textured, and riddled with IDM, industrial and noise influences, all underpinned by booming bottom ends. He was a 50 Weapons and Rush Hour stalwart who now heads up his own Fizic label, and is a Romanian who proves minimal is not everything.
Cristi Tudorache’s alias name means ‘song’ in Romanian and the Bucharest producer is distinctive in that he makes house leaning music washed with acid and emotive synths. Richly layered and hugely detailed but in effortless ways, his sounds recall shades of Detroit and Berlin.
Co-owner of Understand with Kozo and Praslea, Cezar is a graduate of SAE Bucharest so is at one with his gear and flush with slick studio techniques. His robust drums and synths wriggle and flutter as restlessly as anyone’s in the scene.
Transylvania born Alin Crihan emerged in 2004 but a move to Bucharest in 2009 was what kick started his career. His recent EP on truelovesounds is filled with ghostly apparitions and spooky synths underpinned by the tight pump and pop of his slick metallic drums.
Dubtil is also half of the NoiDoi crew and has a heavily atmospheric and dark take on minimalism. His productions are often sinister affairs with unnerving sound design and creepy shadows lurking round every corner. They’re meaty, too, and offer enough evolution in each track to sound like a whole DJ set compressed to seven or eight minutes.
Bucking the trend of minimal discographies, VID is prolific. Next to 15 solo EPs in five years, he also works as Bacauanu, Cumsecade, Egal 3 and Sorin Rastoaca. His music is couched in dub, and his DJ sets are unhurried affairs that tie your mind in knots. His sound is not as busy as some of his peers, instead letting themes and ideas play out and encouraging you to get lost in a reverie as they do so.