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November, 18th 2020

DJ Phrasal is the new favourite rising star of Croatia’s ambient techno scene. In a candid conversation with Staiy, he shares how he lives and breathes through his music and explains how we can grow amidst a pandemic. 

Words By Marina Hoyer

Karlo Budić is not a man of many words. The Croatian who creates and performs under the name Phrasal chooses instead to express himself through his music. “For me, music is the greatest power that exists. It is the power that wakes me up every day and brings me so much energy — the power that is always around me,” he explains. 

Phrasal’s roots are in Osijek, the country’s fourth-largest town bordering Hungary and Serbia. Osijek is rich in history and culture and has brought forth several eminent characters, with perhaps the most renowned being two-time Oscar winner, Branko Lustig. Whilst Osijek’s city life is a place abundant in musical inspiration, it is the picturesque nature of the surroundings that Phrasal feels particularly drawn to. For the backdrop to a recent promo video, he chose the woods of Baranja. And as his ambient, transcendental sounds fill the air, we watch the young man’s serious expression soften. Suddenly, we understand everything he cannot express through words.

“When I play, I feel free. I don’t set any limits.”

Phrasal’s music is characterised by a layered, dense and dynamic sound. Smooth and melodic undertones perfectly complement a base of fast, punchy and rhythmic techno. The DJ’s sets carry listeners away, enabling them to flee the conservative world to the subjective reality that Phrasal creates drawing on nature’s elements. “When I play, I feel free,” he says, “I don’t set any limits. The sets simply have to be rich in rhythm, not letting you stop dancing. For me, it’s all about standing behind what I play, about really living that sound.”

For its vibrant nightlife, Phrasal returns to the city’s numerous clubs. It is here that he started his professional career as a DJ in 2016 when he was booked for his first performances. In barely any time, the emerging artist evolved from being a local newcomer to the youngest member of TRAUM, one of Croatia’s most famous club nights. When talking about TRAUM, Phrasal’s voice is full of gratitude: “TRAUM is the most beautiful thing that happened to me. It involves three other wonderful DJs who are incredible artists and two of them, Insolate and Volster, even have their own labels. You cannot imagine how honoured I feel to be part of this crew. The constant work and the way we push each other forward are part of a spirit that always leaves me speechless.”

With the current pandemic hitting the clubbing scene particularly hard, Phrasal is going through a time of challenge, but his passion for music has instilled an inexorable, unshakeable faith in him. “We will all come out stronger from this,” he tells Staiy, “much more than we think.” The Croatian artist is one of those remarkable humans who sees difficulties as an opportunity for growth: “I realise now, more than ever, my responsibility for the planet and the next generations. In a situation like the current one, we all have time to work on our contribution to a better future, and I strongly believe we should use that time for a good cause. In my home country, we need to improve ecological consciousness and education about topics like sustainability. I personally recycle, and I like to buy my clothes at second hand or vintage shops. But I feel that I, and most of us, still have a long journey ahead of us. Now is a good time to take the first steps.”