Subotika: Panonija

Subotika duo Mario Crnkovic and Nino Sebelic might hail from the Balkan area of Subotica City, but their musical heart belongs to Detroit, specifically Detroit-styled techno. And not only does their debut album include tracks titled “Club Door” and “In Detroit,” Panonija—which refers to the ancient Roman province that today marks the northern Serbia region from which Subotika hails—appears on DJ 3000's Detroit-based Motech imprint. At the same time, no one should be too surprised to discover that traces of their homeland sometimes surface within the long-player's eleven tracks.

Panonija arrives after six Subotika EP releases on Motech, which helps explain why the duo's material sounds so fully formed; even a single release to the album reveals that Subotika's tracks are polished and poised, the album's vibe fresh and modern. The Detroit influence kicks in fifty seconds into the aromatic opener, “Ronin,” when flickering hi-hats merge with chunky synthesizer patterns, resulting in the first of many sleek techno-oriented cuts. The labyrinthine patterns and wiry grooves spearheading “Space Nomad” likewise suggest the impact the city's music has had upon the duo.

Certain tracks play like affectionate homages to Subotika's homeland. “Prozivka,” for example, evidences something of a Serbia-meets-Detroit quality in blending a skipping 4/4 pulse with a mallet-styled percussive hook, while an exotic ambiance permeates the acidy swing of “Folklore.” Others play like Subotika tributes to Detroit techno and Chicago house, such as the infectious throwdown “Club Door,” its kinetic sizzle powered by a combustible beat storm, and “I'll Be Your,” which sees the duo weaving a vocal fragment lifted from the 1991 Robert Owens classic “I'll Be Your Friend” in amongst a percolating whipsnap groove.

Speaking of throwdowns, none burns more brightly than the supercharged club dynamo “Evolving”; by comparison, “In Detroit” is less the anthem one might have anticipated and instead a soulful expression marked by nostalgia and serenity. Such pieces indicate that as producers and historians the well-schooled Crnkovic and Sebelic have learned their lessons well. If no history books are rewritten or profoundly altered by Panonija, it's a satisfying sixty-six-minute ride nonetheless.

November 2014