If you want a rough outline of Daniel Stoyanov's life, have a good listen to Embrace, the ninth of eleven tracks on his debut album Motor Songs.
In eight and a half minutes, Daniel aka Bulgarian Cartrader tells his life: Halley's Comet moves across the sky when he is born in Sofia, Bulgaria. Simultaneously with the comet, a "Slow Bullet" appears, which wants to haunt the protagonist of the story throughout his life, until the moment when it finds him - and hits him. A slow bullet? What the…? Exactly: welcome to the Bulgarian Cartrader universe.
Bulgarian Cartrader's debut album is called "Motor Songs" and is the result of countless days and nights in the studio, the product of tons of notes - transcribed in a weekly routine from cell phone lists: sometimes a word, a maximum of one sentence, compiled melodies, Trigger words, a lot of gut feelings and memories.
Behind the Bulgarian Cartrader persona lies the smart brain and poetic heart of Daniel Stoyanov, whose former band Malky is well known. And in between, he always keeps busy: Daniel has played and worked a lot as a musician and songwriter for Solomun, rapper Casper or the Berlin institution SEEED - and he also states "Salsa dancer" in his CV.
With Bulgarian Cartrader, Daniel has created a persona that he primarily enjoys, but also has a lot of therapeutic potential:
"BCT is a role, a character, but it's completely based on my personality. Some things are maybe a bit grotesque, so that I can be more relaxed myself. The more I get something deformed - for example something macho-like - out of the character, the less it's in my system afterwards. I've never been able to use the humor with which I want to make the character likeable in other projects before, but that's exactly what helps me now. As self-protection. The path is so difficult and rocky - if you don't laugh at yourself, you break because of it, so you remain unaffected by the difficulty of the road."
The path led Daniel Stoyanov from his country of birth Bulgaria to West Germany in the 90s, but the first years of his childhood left their mark - and inform his artistic expression to this day. So, then the car love is not a scam, but real engine oil that flows through his veins and a music encyclopedia created by MTV is part of his enormous reference DNA:
"While my parents worked at the gas station, I sat on the velour couch at home and watched private television - it was wild and incredibly exciting and overwhelming. There was also something shocking, morbid about MTV. As a kid you have a curiosity and closeness to the morbid: I watched as the MTV logo was eaten by worms, skeletons rode it and everything looked like melting plastic. The Nirvana video with its sick orange light, Beck having a coffin rolling across a lawn - and there was this U96 submarine song that scared the shit out of me. Then again, I couldn't wait for the song to play again. I couldn't understand all of that, but I could feel it all the more intensely and unrestrictedly."
And a recurring motif is actually cars:
“These awesome aesthetics of 80's and 90's cars - the engines, the manifolds, so many interesting details. This transition from the angular to the round. The optics. As a child of almost three years old, there were these little gray shoes that I always wanted to wear - I think a lot of kids have that, a basic aesthetic feeling. And that continued with me with the cars. I find the shape of a Passat, a Mercedes very aesthetic.
My parents' gas station manager had a 124 coupe, an absolute boss car. The baker in the village was quite rich and owned one of the cheapest Ferraris. There was a hill in the village from which I could look - once I managed to see him driving out of the garage. And then you heard that all over the valley. I connected everyone around me to the cars they drove.”
All these cinemascopic images, sensory impressions and moods can be found in the eleven "Motor Songs", which are ultimately quite autobiographical.
The songs bear an unmistakable and very own signature: Indie with great pop appeal, which drives straight ahead, rapid smasher descents and immediately afterwards takes us on branching roads and paths through landscapes of pure musical beauty:
Sparkling droplets on the cinematic "Stabat Mater" which incorporates elements from very early demos on which Daniel sang all the instruments instead of playing them. Velvety sundown grooves on "Golden Rope", which spreads the laid-back 90s California flair and makes it clear through cleverly used guitar pickings: potential for a hit.
The areas that Bulgarian Cartrader travels are sometimes like a computer game - "No other drug" and "LAB" grab charming arcade sounds under the nail and hammer the elegant, catchy melodies straight into the brain stem.
With "Mavrud" and "Remedy" Bulgarian Cartrader touches on the realms of his Bulgarian origins, but never takes the path of folklore impression - everything is plumbed by his love of music history and is never released into shallow waters.
"Embrace" doesn't care about transparency and rebels pleasantly against all current listening habits: Much too long, spoken word, no chorus - and of epic beauty.
"Camden Free Public Library" follows a similar path, which bears witness to Bulgarian Cartrader's immense musical education - finely sparkling jazz emerges and drapes itself so naturally on the back seat of a convertible, as if he had always been there reading a Steely Dan biography . The album closes with the track "Gang," which channels fantasies of Sting recording an Outer Space anthem at Paisley Park studios.
The album's focus track, however, is "A Different Kind of Jump," which enjoyably breaks with listening habits: a four-line mantra spanning three acts of a fairly psychedelic journey.
When Bulgarian Cartrader wrote this song, he went back to his childhood for it:
"I remembered running into my room as a kid and simulating a disco in my head - with everything, with dancing and letting out energy. That's how it felt to me.”
I hope we chose the right dose: "For me, the perfect album is eight out of ten songs with absolute energy and two numbers that are completely calm and quiet. The quietest numbers you can imagine. Extremes are important to me. Yes, there is definitely a certain bi-polarity in it. The more of them there are, the more there is to discover in an artist.”
Neither Bulgarian Cartrader nor the audience need worry that this eclectic selection of songs is too aloof: the sound of the record is always catchy, always approachable and gets your feet pumping. "Slightly delirious, without ever currying favor with anyone" was the admiring success of the Reeperbahn Festival - BCT played twice at the renowned Newcomer Festival 2022 and won. At the same time, each song is blessed with a natural pop appeal that cannot be trained.
For Bulgarian Cartrader there is a separate system of right and wrong coordinates, which for him counts above all in indie music: “Good indie music is actually like an impossible experiment: you lean a few objects against each other, which from a purely physical point of view shouldn't hold each other up at all."