With over 800 concerts under their belt and a rabid fanbase that spans the globe, Seattle music stalwarts Kultur Shock defiantly return with their highly anticipated new album IX. The outfit's most refined and masterful effort to date was released October 10, 2014, and was recorded by legendary Seattle producer Jack Endino.
Although often compared to their better-known supporters System of a Down and former tour-mates Gogol Bordello, Kultur Shock’s sound is anti- establisment to the ragged bone; a hybrid of native trad and Western rock that asks more questions than it answers. Led by vocalist and songwriter Gino Srdjan Yevdjevich, a former Yugoslav pop star turned anarchist, Kultur Shock's latest release finds the band embracing their heavier side with bombastic Sabbath-style riffs eloping with odd-metered rhythms that inexplicably result in their most danceable release to date. Yevdjevich's longing wail on opening track “Home” is an explicit warning to passive listeners that they might reconsider the nature of their visit. Introductions aside, IX wastes no time doing away with any preconceptions of the band. Kultur Shock's signature sound is in tact but on a whole new level; from the Balkan punk madness of Unamerican to the self-preservationists battle-cry Bogu Dusu, this is a band rediscovering itself in front of listeners' ears.
Kultur Shock's ever-evolving sound is the result of its constant reinvention and its latest incarnation is arguably its finest. Anchoring the dirge of IX is guitarist Val Kiossovski, a former Bulgarian prog-rocker and dissident, and bassist Guy Davis, of seminal Seattle band Sage. Saxophonist Amy Denio and latest addition violinist Paris Hurley balance out the dysfunctionally functional family giving a John Zorn-style kick to Balkan trad melodies, with drummer Chris Stromquist, of Brooklyn party mainstays Slavic Soul Party, deftly careening between the two.
Founded in Seattle in 1996, Kultur Shock is the brain-child of Yevdjevich, who relocated to the US with the help of Joan Baez following the Siege of Sarajevo (92-94). The band began as an electric-folk-trad quartet, but with some pushing from the likes of Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic (himself the child of Croatian immigrants)—Yevdjevich reformed the band as a rock outfit borrowing from the catalog of Balkan trad. With an introduction from Jello Biafra, the band signed to Kool Arrow Records, the SF-based label of Faith No More's Billy Gould, through which they released three studio albums.
True to form, IX is Kultur Shock’s latest uncomfortable statement at a time when nothing seems appropriate. While it is the band's most focused album to date as well as the most accessible to American audiences, the band’s continent-hopping approach to songwriting leaves the listener uncertain what's around the corner and it seems that's how they prefer it. It’s also their most explicitly political effort so far. As Yevdjevich explains, “Kultur Shock doesn't sing about broken hearts and flowers, but about everyday existence and faith that it might get better. Or worse. Punk describes our will to fight for what we believe in, Balkan melodies are the voice of the people we are part of and representing, and finally, metal adventures are our way to rage against the machine.” Speaking truth to the frontman's assertions, punk legend and Dead Kennedy's singer Jello Biafra declared that "Kultur Shock is what punk rock should sound like."
Although they remain stalwarts of the Seattle scene--making regular appearances at Bumbershoot, Seattle's premier music festival--since 2003 the band has concentrated touring overseas, where they've become staples of the European and Russian club and festival circuit, as well as playing sold-out club tours in the Balkans and Turkey