80s HITS: Trabant


Trabant is one of the most important underground groups of the Hungarian underground. They’ve acquired a lot of new fans thanks to youtube and other online sources, since not much of their output reached commercial channels.

The have a similar sort of enchanting touch as Velvet Underground and had their own Nico in the artist and actor Marietta Méhes. Several of their songs have a longform, languid storytelling form that brings to mind Kaleidoscope and other acid-folk groups of the 60s. When you listen to current lo-fi bands like Cindy, it’s easy to hear echoes of Trabant’s DIY recordings.

Trabant’s history is intertwined with that of Balaton, another underground who made regular songs closer to rock tradition and even released a bunch of stuff (mainly on tape). But they were all part of larger collective which includes artist from all media. Despite getting no attention from the state-subsidised Hungaroton label, they rehearsed intensively and quickly recorded rough sketches of songs on rented tape machines.

Filmmaker Zoltán Gazsi was part of the collective and he filmed many of these rehearsals. In 1983 he created a ‘documentary’ called Időt töltök, which showed several of the constellations in their rehearsal space setting. As you can in the clip below even if the quality is low – several musicians appear in the same groups. Thankfully the sound quality is good.

Today the members live in different countries around the world, but it is rumoured that they’ve involved with some kind of retrospective compilation. That would be wonderful, since their only official record is the Eszkimó Asszony Fázik EP. This is more of a promotional record for the film of the same name (Eskimo Woman) from 1984, which starrs Marietta Méhes in the main role and also shows the group performing.

The top clip is from the film, so apparently it exists in good quality somewhere. It’s a bit hard to find correct information about the band since google is so bad at translating Hungarian. But Trabant played two free shows that were a part of the shooting and these were both recorded for posterity. The 6-track EP was released on a newly founded sublabel to Hungaroton. You can hear a few more tracks in the second clip.

The other two main members of Trabant were Gábor Lukin who made most of the music, and János Vető who wrote the poetic lyrics. Allegedly, there are hundreds of songs buried in the vaults and several of them appeared in the live and recording material of connected artists and bands. But in my opinion none of them have the same mystery as Trabant.

The group folded in 1984 with Méhes relocation for relative ‘freedom’ in the US. The music of Trabant is included on our winter playlist La oscuridad.

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