Before his untimely death in a studio fire in 1999, Sao Paulo-based electronic producer Mitar Subotic had already become something of an avante-pop legend in his native Yugoslavia, only to relocate to Sao Paulo in 1990 after falling in love with the local musical culture when he visited the country on a scholarship to study Afro-Brazilian rhythms.
While he’s best known for his music as Suba (culminating in the posthumous ‘Sao Paulo Confessions’ album), he originally released his earlier recordings in Yugoslavia under the alias Rex Illusivii, stretching from 1983 until he retired the name in 1994. Subotic apparently left behind more than 500 unreleased pieces, and this compilation ‘Selected Works’ sees Versatile’s Gilbert Cohen sifting through this huge volume of work to select nine previously unheard tracks.
What’s immediately evident upon listening to this collection is Subotic’s willingness to take on seemingly every conceivable musical style, his adventurous muse never seeming to settle on one target. ‘Forced Watch sounds with what sounds like eerie manipulated woodwinds, before a percussive looped rhythm locks in amidst tribal woodblock flourishes, the dense clattering groove rolling with an almost hiphop swagger as eerie pitch-shifted vocals mutter in the background.
‘Facedance’ meanwhile takes things out on a surreal New Wave / post-punk wander that fuses rolling conga rhythms with howls of guitar feedback, sheeny synth-stabs and low-slung funk bass, the resulting effect calling to mind some narcotised slow-motion take on Liquid Liquid crossed with krautrock’s frictionless glide, the “rubba-lub-dub” backing vocals adding to the trippy feel.
Elsewhere, ‘Nijagara – Spomenici Indi’ calls to mind shades of Yellow Magic Orchestra and Logic System as icy synths pick out a delicate Asian-tinged melody against deep analogue bass tones and weightless sounding hand percussion, before ‘Fortirer Et Recte’ ventures out into eerily spacious Italo-disco that’s packed with synth-orchestral flourishes and tense atmosphere, the stripped down mechanical rhythms laying down a minimalist metronomic groove. If this is an example of the sorts of unreleased gems packed away in Subotic’s vault, I’m eagerly awaiting future volumes of his work as Rex Ilusivii.