A bridge connecting musical eras and traditions, as well as a gateway between artistic and cultural perspectives, we challenge you not to consider the music of VladimirLenhart, known as LenhartTapes in this way. An enigmatic producer, a radical DJ, a devoted researcher, and a visionary musician, Lenhart Tapes stands as a firm link connecting musical pasts and futures, seamlessly blending folklore with industrial rhythm loops, recordings of goats and sheep with turbo-folk.
In just a few weeks’ time (on the 10th of November), he is set to unveil Dens, his second album through Glitterbeat Records. This work is a bold extension of his unique rendition of submerged Balkan sounds, where hypnotic Walkman jams intermingle with traditional folk melodies mesmerisingly and unsettlingly interpreted by the brilliant TijanaStanković, SvetlanaSpajić, and ZojaBorovčanin.
Lenhart Tapes’ music encapsulates the spirit of the Balkans, a region steeped in rich musical traditions and troubled memories, with echoes of the Yugoslav punk and industrial scenes of the 1980s. It’s a musical journey that defies categorisation, boldly labeled as ‘ethno-noise’. Vladimir’s passion for sampling a wide range of genres, from folk and world music to noise industrial, fuels the creation of a unique and immersive sonic experience.
What’s more is that his music isn’t just confined to the studio; it comes alive in emphatic small-venue performances, where Vladimir’s Walkman devices create a collage of beats and melodies for Tijana, Svetlana, and Zoja’s voices to interact with. The result is a musical universe that’s simultaneously dense and spacious, chaotic and beautifully shaped, much like Vladimir’s hometown, the city of Belgrade itself.
In early September, amidst the vibrant long weekend of Balkan:MOST in Veszprém and a few hours before his performance alongside Svetlana Spajić that dropped the curtain on the three-day event, we had the opportunity to meet him and have an in-depth chat to unravel his musical journey, his influences, and the exciting developments on the horizon for his project. We explored not just the artist and his craft but also the profound impact of music in bridging the gaps between cultures and across time.
“Balkan:MOST is a brand new experience for me. It’s been a real pleasure working with these guys because they are real music lovers, and they really dig things up. They have a deep passion for all of this, connecting musicians from various Balkan countries. I think they have great taste in music, and I think they bring out the best“, Vladimir Lenhart debuted regarding his Balkan:MOST experience
As the interview continued, Vladimir emphasised the importance of cultural exchange and collaboration that project offered. “At first, I didn’t understand how important it is for a region like the Balkans to have this kind of festival and these connections. Initially, I didn’t even know that there was a necessity for something like this. But when you see the results of it, all these connections, new festivals rising up, people collaborating with each other, it’s really something because people are doing what they’re passionate about. Musicians don’t have much time for the management aspect of their business. They are just doing what they’re doing, and they will be doing it even in much worse circumstances. If you get an opportunity like this, then you get more visibility, and I think it is important, even if I didn’t know that there is the need of such a thing“.
On a similar note, also the evolution of Lenhart Tapes has been an unexpected journey for Vladimir. He remarked, “I didn’t even see myself as a performer of traditional world music or anything like that. There have always been certain elements of it, for sure, and working with duets and vocalists opened doors to different genres. But I didn’t see myself as that kind of artist dealing with this. I mix various genres and sounds, and one of them is undoubtedly this roots music that I love. I keep searching and digging it, and if they see it as a form of world music, then I’m really amazed. In the past, it was considered as experimental noise and such. Seeing it from this other perspective makes it less hermetic than I thought“.
Vladimir also shed light on his connection to the Balkans, and how the region influences his music. “In my music, I’m not only sampling music from the Balkans; it’s from all around the world, but the Balkans are always the starting and ending point. I keep returning here because it’s my main inspiration. I grew up here, I know a lot about this region, but I love to mix it with various other things. The main point is to put it all together“.
When asked about his influences, Vladimir’s answer reflected the eclectic nature of his music. “I would consider my influences something that I grew up with and never stopped listening. These include German krautrock, American noise, Balkan ethno, and musique concrète. As long as I didn’t get bored of it, it still works for me as it worked in ’95 or ’96. I consider it everlasting music for me.”
Vladimir also delved into his creative process, explaining how he explored the world of sound to find the perfect elements for his music. “Research work is actually the most amusing part for me because I’m also a music lover, a music listener. When I’m searching for something, I now have this third ear open because I’m listening to music, and I’m also listening to what I could use for my samples, maybe something suitable for what I’ve done earlier, to put it all together. There is always this ‘third ear’ open, attuned to sounds on a different level as I produce music.
I haven’t done a lot of field recordings in my life. I create my own sounds, and it’s not necessarily fieldwork. It’s more studio work where I use tapes from previous recordings, often made with my cell phone. When I work with tapes, I’m always amused by what surprises I might find on those cassettes. Most of the material I use comes from ready-made tapes that were recorded for other purposes.
The interview delved further into Vladimir’s evolution as a musician, transitioning from a passionate amateur to a dedicated professional. “Maybe now is that time when I’m considering it as a profession, as some kind of higher level of it. When I started, I didn’t have any ambitions to go further than my friends on Soundcloud or something like that. Now, as I see increasing interest in what I’m doing, I’m taking it more seriously“.
One of the distinctive features that defines the latest Lenhart Tapes’ live sets is the inclusion of live vocals and musicians. Vladimir shared his thoughts on this decision and the magical effect it had on their live shows, “It has always been strange performing in front of an audience because I see myself as a performer who might look boring on stage, focusing on my equipment and knobs. I used to wonder who would want to attend a concert like that, as I’m not the typical DJ. However, when I started performing with singers, I realised it’s much more fun because that interaction adds a different energy to the show. Performing live is different from just streaming or listening at home. Interacting with others makes it unique. Something is happening that wouldn’t happen if I perform solo. You know, it’s easier for the audience to identify with that. I’m not sure if it’s because we are doing something extraordinary or just our presence and the way we look— it’s somewhat unusual and extraordinary for the audience, but that’s not my perception of it“.
When asked about the future of his project and whether there will be any differences between the studio and live renditions, he explained, “I’m not entirely sure. The first album was like that, and the second one followed suit because it continues to inspire me. Maybe in the future, we’ll expand to a mini-band with live bass guitar and saxophone. It depends on the availability of everyone involved. By the way, even when there’s no singer, I still perform. Last weekend, I had two solo concerts in the Netherlands, revisiting my old tracks using old tapes. As long as I’m not recycling and I’m still enjoying it, those are the main reasons I keep doing this“.
As we were wrapping up the interview, we posed our canonical question to Vladimir: How would he introduce his music to someone who had never listened to it before? He answered sharing an interesting anecdote: “It actually happened earlier today. I was at a speed meeting event, and the question came up, ‘What do you do?’ I found myself saying, ‘I’m not quite sure. I sample things’. Their response was, ‘Okay, can you elaborate?’ So, I explained that I’m deeply into sampling, but my music doesn’t neatly fit into the world music category or any specific genre. It’s a unique blend that emerges from various inspirations and influences that I’m passionate about. It’s like creating a musical Frankenstein, a fusion of different elements I truly love.
When I perform as a duo, it’s more of a collaborative experience than my solo work, but the core principle remains the same. I do my thing, the singer does her thing, and we blend it all together. They’re not just vocalists but incredible musicians who know how to engage with the sounds I create. It’s a less solitary experience compared to a solo performance“.
- Dens, the second album from Lenhart Tapes, is set to release on November 10th through Glitterbeat.
You can secure your copy by pre-ordering it HERE -