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PLAYLIST: Liverpool Psych Fest On Polish Psych
The Quietus , September 15th, 2016 14:54

Selected by Anna Szynwelska – artistic director of SpaceFest! and curator of Pure Phase Ensemble -and Karol Schwarz – curator and founding member of Pure Phase Ensemble, musician (7faz, KSAS), producer, and head of Nasiono Records label - ahead of Liverpool Psych Fest later this month

The psych scene in Poland used to be rather dispersed – it clearly lacked the feel of community, so our mission with SpaceFest was to integrate the bands as well as fans of all sorts of psychedelic music, shoegaze and space-rock. Back in 2011, when we started with our first edition, it was really difficult to find good bands exploring these genres in Poland – but now the situation is palpably different. We hope that our small festival may take part of the credit for raising awareness of this type of music and inspiring some of the artists.

Pure Phase Ensemble – the workshop band that we brought to life – was a phenomenon of sorts, which might well be the only such project in the festival world. SpaceFest and Nasiono Records teamed up with Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art to organize a four-day jam session, during which selected musicians from Poland and abroad (most of whom have never worked together and didn’t know each other) form a band – an ephemeral shoegaze orchestra. They collectively compose a concert’s worth of music, which they present by the end of the week to festival goers.

Each year this unique performance is recorded live and subsequently released. Every incarnation of PPE involved a new musical director – so far we’ve worked with Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab), Chris Olley (Six By Seven), Steve Hewitt (formerly of Placebo), Jaime Harding (Marion), Mark Gardener (Ride), Hugo Race (The Bad Seeds, The True Spirit) and Ray Dickaty (formerly of Spiritualized). This year, we’re taking Anton Newcombe on board – visit us on December 2-3 to hear the results!

This playlist is a kind of a family tree representing the roots of Pure Phase Ensemble, its development and the original bands of Polish musicians who joined PPE within the last 5 years. Looking back, we counted 39 artists who played in our collective and over 33 bands they were related to, so we had to make a subjective selection for the purpose of this playlist. Some of the groups are unquestionably psych, others are oscillating somewhere near this scene, but are so good that we decided to present them to the wider public.

Nasiono (Shoegaze) All Stars – 'I Never Wanna Feel Like'

This is how the PPE idea was originally born: musicians from the neighbouring cities of Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia spent a couple of lazy summer days in a rehearsal studio to form a shoegaze collective and compose music together. The initial concept was to make songs based on a wall of sound, with guitar effects, delays, reverbs, electronic beats and a phase in the background (‘phase’ as in ‘Pure Phase Tones For DJs’ by Spiritualized), plus heavenly female backing vocals.

Wilga - 'Going Home'

An upcoming band that deserves to be noticed – they write astoundingly beautiful music from the regions of shoegaze and dream-pop and spend so much time perfecting their songs in the studio that it’s hard to catch them live. Mark Gardener had a chance to attend their gig when he visited Poland, just before starting work on PPE 4. The Ride frontman stated that as soon as he’d heard the rhythm section – Jacek Rezner and Kamil Hordyniec – he knew that their collaboration was going to be special. And just a week later, they gave a 5-star performance together on the SpaceFest stage, which we’re hoping to recreate at this year’s Liverpool Psych Fest.

Enchanted Hunters – 'Twin'

Fairytale-like, dream-pop sounds that also bring to mind American psychedelia of the 60s and 70s. The main members are two young girls – Małgorzata Penkalla and Magdalena Gajdzica – whose beautiful voices layered in harmonies take the listener to another dimension. They were invited to join Laetitia Sadier in PPE 3 – just imagine how breathtaking it sounded when they sang and played together – pure magic.

Karol Schwarz All Stars – 'Krasnoludki'

I suppose this has to be the ultimate psychedelic anthem: imagine kidnapping Leonard Cohen and taking him on a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas trip – but ending up in a remote Polish village by mistake. A song about looking for magic mushrooms sang by Szymon Albrzykowski – a member of the legendary Polish experimental noise band Szelest Spadających Papierków (which translates as “The Rustle of Falling Pieces of Paper” – you get the drift), who’s also featured here on his analogue synthesisers. This ironically named band fronted by Karol Schwarz, the founding member of Pure Phase Ensemble, rides like a rollercoaster from one extreme to another, spanning dirty electro noise and candy-sweet shoegaze ballads.

Kiev Office – 'Dwupłatowce'

Kiev Office is a trio fronted by Michał Goran Miegoń – the most outrageously talented multi-instrumentalist and a mystic with ADHD who’s also obsessed with watercourses and streams. We love his spaced-out lyrics (Google Translate is your friend here) and weird DIY videos. He joined the first edition of PPE in 2011.

Popsysze – 'Ali Song'

This is one example of an indie-rock band gradually turning psych, whose members are growing longer hair and beards as their music undergoes this metamorphosis. In 2012, they played as Damo Suzuki’s “Sound Carriers” in his Network project at SpaceFest, and joined PPE 3 curated by Laetitia Sadier the following year. They are currently working on their new album inspired by nature, the Kashubian Lake District and cosmic energy – with lengthy psych/space-rock compositions. Stay tuned!

Hatifnats – 'World2'

The only Warsaw band on our list – their first album was a huge success and got a lot of airplay on the seminal Polish Radio 3. Frontman Michał Pydo has the most extraordinary, beautiful, angelic voice – in fact, it’s often confused with female vocals. We invited him to play guitar and sing in PPE4, so it will also be possible to hear him live at Liverpool Psych Fest this year. For the playlist we’ve chosen this atmospheric, dream-pop track opening their debut album. Karol says he’s disarmed by this song every time he listens to it.

Klimt – 'Dom bez ścian'

Klimt is a solo project of Antoni Budziński. Antoni has the most impressive pedalboard with tons of effects (which can be seen in the video to Nasiono (Shoegaze) All Stars' 'I Never Wanna Feel Like' in which he also participated). If you want a perfect wall of guitars in one you just have to take Antoni on. He’s the most quintessential shoegaze guitarist. And why this track? Because it’s not too slow, not too fast, with a good beat – pure Slowdive, or even better.

Asia i Koty – 'Heavy Mourning'

Joanna Bielawska, better known by her stage name Asia i Koty (Asia and the Cats), is a singer/songwriter who composes, plays electric guitar and experiments with loop stations. It’s minimalistic songwriting, enhanced by multi-layered harmonies and mantric repeats. Joanna’s voice is the most distinguished element – it’s deeply moving, clear and mature - probably one of the best on the Polish music scene. Maybe her solo project is not that psych, but Joanna collaborated with several psychedelic bands (like Karol Schwarz All Stars, Mordy, 7faz, Popsysze) and took part in two editions of Pure Phase Ensemble – singing alongside Jaime Harding (Marion) and Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab). It’s certainly worth checking her out.

Ampacity – 'Masters of Earth'

Initially, it was supposed to be just a one-off performance at SpaceFest in 2012. Karol asked a local stoner rock band, Broken Betty, to prepare a set especially for our festival that would be a homage to Hawkwind. It turned out that the guys liked the idea so much, and felt so good and natural in the space-rock realm, that they took it a step further. Under a brand new name, they composed music that went down like a storm and left the audience jaw-dropped. They have since become one of the best psych bands in Poland, so we’re particularly proud that our festival sparked off something like that.

7faz - 'Faza A cz.2 (Basketball)'

This is a brand new conceptual music project: seven phases create seven musical spaces recorded on seven separate discs. Each phase usually consists of two parts: tuning (a calm, contemplative part) and a trip (culmination, a louder part). This particular track is like a flight of a ball thrown high up and falling to bounce again; the instruments playing extremely loud hit unison in an escalating tempo to finally intertwine in a radical noise chaos scattering again – in time – into a rhythmical beat. Musically it is based on PPE’s ideas - but taken a bit further into experimental spheres. The music is created by a band of 9 musicians representing different generations of the local Gdansk music scene. Tomasz Gadecki’s (PPE1) saxophone is the leading instrument.

Pure Phase Ensemble – 'Darkest Sun'

To conclude the playlist, here’s one of the monumental songs created during the first edition of PPE in 2011, although the bass line was written by Artur Tobolski back in 2000. The idea morphed through the years (like a wall of 8-bit guitar sounds and some samples from porno movie soundtrack were added) but it always lacked a certain something. This backbone of a song was brought to the PPE workshop 10 years later and got developed by the group of 12 musicians, including Ray Dickaty as artistic director (ex-Spiritualized, now an active representative of the Warsaw improv/free jazz scene), Jaime Harding (Marion), Piotr Pawlak (legendary Polish guitarist from Kury, Łoskot), Borys Kossakowski (Towary Zastępcze), Kamil Szuszkiewicz, Tomasz Gadecki (7faz), Antoni Budziński (Klimt), Tomasz Żukowski (Cocodraże), and Michał Goran Miegoń (Kiev Office). After that the piece gained incredible power and when Joanna Bielawska (Asia i Koty) added her beautiful, hypnotizing backing vocals, the song was complete.

Liverpool Psych Fest takes place at the Baltic Triangle from September 23-24 with The Horrors, Super Furry Animals, Demdike Stare, Silver Apples, Gwenno and many more on the line-up. For more information and to get tickets, click here

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