czeching it twice
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


[this is the sevent in a continuing series, exploring the music i discovered when travelling in europe last fall]

There is a lot of good music in the Czech Republic. We've already heard from hip-hop crew Nase Vec, but here's something completely different.

J and I were in Prague at the time of the Alternativa music festival. We only made it to one gig, however, and it was a showcase of four not-very-good Czech bands. The highlight, ultimately, was browsing the table that had been set up by one of the local independent record stores, marvelling at all the alluring covers.

I took a breath and risked $20, buying Nebojim se smrtihlava, by Petr Nikl and Lakome Barky. I bought it mostly because of the wonderful album cover - the folded-up sketched drawing of a mouse, in cardboard, with circles of colourful card for the liner notes. (It looks like this, but doesn't have the pink bit, and is tied together with a thread.) I asked the person behind the desk what it sounded like. She shrugged and said, in her broken English, that it was a collaboration between an artist (Nikl) and a children's choir (Lakome Barky). (Oooh!)

Googling shows that Nikl is one of the foremost young Czech artists, and has worked extensively in theatre, puppetry, etc. Lakome Barky are a little more mysterious but, well, they're certainly kids.

When I got the CD back to the hostel to listen, I couldn't have been more delighted. It's strange, dark, fairytale music - whispers, chants, children's singsong. Nikl has a voice with corners and holes. There's guitar, strings, bells, oboe, percussion. There's madness and joy and nervous close-to-fear. It's one of the finest - and certainly weirdest - things I heard last year. It's good.

Nebojim se smrtihlava won Best Alternative Album at the Czech equivalent of the 2004 Grammies.

Petr Nikl & Lakome Barky - "Curam". A stand-out track, rattling drum-stick and hazyday acoustic guitar, then the loping, looping stride of Nikl's voice, streaks of vocal colour, an alien on the lilypad beside Kermit. "Do do do-do-do," he sings, and I do too, mouth a smile that can't help itself: good things are happening, it's inevitable, hooray!

Petr Nikl & Lakome Barky - "Pomali Ptaci". A little more gloom, here. There's a clarinet, bat-squeaks, and the album's slightly sinister main theme, Nikl nudging toward the edge of a cliff, staring into a red-on-black river. It's a gradual dolly back, maybe a helicopter shot, the reveal of the expanding wilderness, the dark land, the circling birds. His voice shudders and breaks, still brave, but caught up and pulled apart by the wind. The clarinet's his only friend.


Also, Mikael pointed me to a Swedish artist called , who (googling shows) was recently profiled on the mp3blog Swedes Please. (there's one for the next sidebar update!). And there is a song available for free over there that is beautiful, silly, good-time-fun and amazing. In other words, it is great.

Hello Saferide - "High School Stalker" (scroll down to the "mp3" section).

There is trumpet, a scrunched-up cutesy voice (see: Innocence Mission), copious handclaps, a whinsome goofy back-and-forthing of overdub. Everything sneaks forward at just the right times, the pop splendor never sacrificed for a gag. I love the way Annika references Altavista and Yahoo!, but not Google. I love the way the song holds back from going full-on creepy a la Dismemberment Plan "Crush". I love the way the song is lovely and catchy, unless you're paying attention, and then it's lovely and catchy and silly. It's a trifle but it's glorious, it's summertime pop, it's swedish, it's The Lucksmiths but less of a bummer, it's- it's great.


Some great entries so far, but the Said the Gramophone Rilo Kiley/Idiot Jed contest continues.

Posted by Sean at May 4, 2005 8:40 AM

Is that "safe ride" or some Svensk word?

Her site has another nice song on it, "Valentine's Day" that has a groaning cello that is *swell*.

Posted by Uncle rodii at May 4, 2005 6:10 PM

thanks for linking to my swedesplease blog and more importantly to hello saferide with another couple of posts on a couple more blogs we're going to have a bloggin' hit

Posted by craig at May 4, 2005 8:06 PM

I don't know if you realise this but the "do do do" sounds just like you. it is most bizarre.
Are you sure you didn't just go to the Czech Republic and secretly record this album, instead of travelling around Europe?

Posted by Robin at May 4, 2005 10:50 PM

my flatmate saw petr nikl's performance for the a na co myslis ty gallery show at the prague library -- not musical, petr out of one of his paintings wearing a mask with no eye-holes and ran around with his arms out, and i can't really remember what else... anyway, yeah, it was enough to prompt buying the cd.

however, we're pretty certain lakome barky is just one person, it translates: "crazy barbara", or maybe "barbie" if barbie meant less "glamorous ditz" and more "back-country tramp." the kids on the record are just kids. and "curam" means "peeing" or maybe "weeing" -- how little kids say pissing, anyway. and... yeah, that's all i know about this.

Posted by Nate at May 6, 2005 3:31 PM

I love the music/sounds, but Nikl's voice just irks me in some inexplicable way ...Really enjoyed Hello Saferide though. Thanks.

Posted by Tianna at May 6, 2005 3:48 PM

Actually "Lakome Barky" means "Tight-Fisted Barbies" rather than "Crazy Barbara" (take it from a native speaker), and they are definitely a choir rather than one person. They are not "just kids", but "a regional musical associations of mums and children from Klecany region". You can see their pictures on their website,

Posted by Miso at September 3, 2005 12:35 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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