Some music you discover, and some simply grabs you instantly. For me, the music of Suba, the brilliant Serbian musician Mitar Subotić, is one of them. The line between atmospheric, ambient, New Age, and environmental music is so thin, that to render one type of music, a certain something misses the whole point. With Mitar Subotić and Goran Vejvoda’s The Dreambird, labelling it environmental music, I wager, goes right to the meat of what makes it special.
Between 1986 and 1992, recordings of Mitar Subotić and Goran Vejvoda’s The Dreambird were broadcast in the town squares of Yugoslavian, Italian, and Brazilian cities, filling the day with electroacoustic compositions mixing bird song (recorded in Madagascar), sampled traditional, Serbian lullabies, and Mitar’s luminescent synthesizer arrangements. What a sight that must have been? To experience The Dreambird in its ideal environment. When you first strike up “Meditation I – Aurora”, the first melody that greets you is bird song that suddenly blends into a floating soundscape seemingly sounding one in the same. It’s a gorgeous fade in that perfectly captures just how far Mitar had travelled spiritually, sonically, and physically to get to that point of heavenly bliss.
You wouldn’t think this, but Mitar, is most widely known, remembered, and appreciated, not in his native Serbia, but in Brazil. For a time, from the mid ‘80s up to his untimely death in Brazil, in 1999, his musical touch had graced the music of Brazilian artists like Bebel Gilberto, João Donato, and Edson Natale. How could an ex-Yugoslavian musician find himself living, much less performing in the city of his now-adopted home in São Paolo? He really owed it all to The Dreambird.
What you really hear here is half the story. For many years Suba, dipped his toes in Yugoslavian Pop and experimental musical worlds. Production work for bands like Haustor or joining rock groups like XX vek were helpful in letting Suba develop a musical language but this wasn’t his passion. It was the ambient music of Brian Eno and the minimal music of Erik Satie that spurred him to take much more interest in doing his own solo work. Recording under the nom de plume Rex Ilusivii he would experiment with combining sonically-treated field recordings with electroacoustic compositions. Unable to make much headway in his own native Yugoslavia, what recordings he did make, such as his outstanding electro-pop debut Disillusioned, would infamously get turned down by national record labels. In short time, Mitar took to Paris to compose theater music and study electroacoustic music at the IRCAM institute.
Recorded in Paris, in 1985, and later released in 1994 by Brazilian label COMEP Music, The Dreambird cemented Mitar’s spirited growth into environmental or furniture music. An experimentation with ambient Brian Eno-like minimalism and Erik Satie impressionism at IRCAM led him to discover the larger world of electro-acoustic technique. There he developed a sensibility that attempted to make “synthetic” sound as organic as possible. The beauty, of course, came in how he made the organic as malleable as possible. What you hear in The Dreambird, is part of that equation, the full recording The Dreambird, in the Mooncage, we might never truly hear as UNESCO did, to award him monies for promoting his traditional culture, but it was this bit of help that would allow him to travel to São Paolo and put his own stamp on something could filter this aesthetic to other, equally, cultural, exploring music. What we do have left here, though, can be tropical, or sub-tropical, but what The Dreambird has is these four meditations clearly showing how much natural music is already out there, when we step back, and really listen.