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Organic Intelligence XXIII: Magic Realism In Polish Experimental Music
Justyna Banaszczyk , August 11th, 2023 11:14

In this month's antidote to the algorithm, Justyna Banaszczyk (whom regular tQ readers will know as the musician FOQL) guides us through summer woodlands and murky memory with a terrific selection of Polish contemporary experimental music, including Krolowczana Smuga, pictured below.

There is something otherworldly about hot summer days in Poland. Perhaps it is the sun-warmed air that alters the perspective, the scent of hay and herbs, ubiquitous insects, and the songs of the scythe that an atmosphere approaching the mystical. Perhaps it is connected to the famous Slavic melancholia, characterised by a profound sense of nostalgia, introspection, and a longing for something elusive or unattainable. This melancholic disposition is often portrayed as an inherent part of the Slavic soul and has been a recurring theme in Slavic literature and artistic expression. What makes it all even more strange is that the more beautiful a summer’s day it is, the more melancholic we become. This month’s Organic Intelligence is a selection of music by contemporary Polish artists that take my mind into this idea of summer melancholia and magical realism in literature or painting.

You can listen to playlists of this edition of Organic Intelligence on Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL

Miłosz Kędra – For Aeons

The latest release from the Ciche Nagrania label is an album by the composer Miłosz Kędra from Poznań. Called For Aeons, in it he draws inspiration from medieval stylistics, infusing them with a futuristic vision by blending pipe organs with electronics. This fusion places music traditionally associated with church spaces into a fresh context. The association with Kali Malone is not unwarranted, but Kędra's music is less minimalist and relies more on compositions that evoke a more cinematic feeling.

Duch – Y

Duch means ‘ghost’. He began recording looped, overlapping layers of improvised sounds on home cassette equipment and this album consists of tracks selected from about 100 cassettes. It’ll appeal to anyone of a hauntological bent as it summons the eerie emotions of temporal dislocation, where the past's cultural ephemera and abandoned futures cast shadows on the present. Throughout, Y’s atmosphere is brimming with spectral and ghostly sensations, the synthesiser-looped melodic motifs sound like a soundtrack to undefined emotions, somewhere hidden deep in the foggy recesses of memory.

Olga Czech – Wszechświat

While listening to Czech’s music, I’m transported back to my childhood, perhaps because it slightly reminds me of the soundtracks of Soviet animated films that we all watched in our youth (which were excellent, by the way! Animation in the USSR was a realm of boundless artistic freedom). In my imagination, I return after a whole day of running around sunlit meadows and forests, swimming in the river, with the scent of summer, back to our little summer house – in Poland, there is a popular culture of having small modest houses away from the city, known as "działka". For dinner, I enjoy fruits picked from the garden, all topped with sour cream. Then, I close my eyes, and my past and present join in my mind to the sound of this wonderful album.

Lemta Toro – Kapitałka

Lemta Toro is the pseudonym of a young man who describes himself as an “emo ambient being”, and I can feel that through this music. His album is an intriguing oneiric blend of mournful songs and lo-fi ambient, folk, and drones. True Religion, his debut cassette, focused on experiments with tape loops and field recordings. In April of this year, he released the album Kapitałka, in which he combines raw, synthesiser-based soundscapes with vocals. ‘Biały śpiew’ (literally "white singing" in Polish) refers to a specific vocal style characterised by a clear, bright, and sometimes ethereal quality and is often associated with folk singing traditions. Indeed, there is also a peculiarly twisted spiritual aspect to the songs. For instance, ‘Szczęśliwy Kto Sobie Patrona’ originates from the collection of Catholic religious hymns for both church and domestic use, published in Pelplin in the year 1871.

Dawno Temu – Automatic Reply

Automatic Reply is the debut solo album by Dawno Temu, also known as Agnieszka Bykowska, a versatile artist recognized for her roles in Caluskov 102 and Godot. The album's creation unfolded between 2019 and 2021 in Bydgoszcz. It delves into the tale of a sensitive individual who unexpectedly finds themselves entangled within the confines of a colossal corporate system. Featuring an array of expressive elements, the album encompasses ethereal vocal clouds and choir recordings made with a corporate headset. Enchanting synth chords, unsettling bass lines, and haunting reverbs merge seamlessly to create an enigmatic atmosphere. The addition of randomised mellow arpeggios and experimental samples captured on a two-string guitar further enriches the sonic experience, forming a captivating soundtrack for the realm of dreams.

Królowczana Smuga – Żałosne

Apocalyptic folk from Biłgoraj, Poland. The village has a rich tradition of basket weaving that dates back to the city's early days in the 16th century. The craft of creating baskets and sieves has become a significant part of the local identity, with many residents engaging in this traditional trade. It is a local custom that when the weavers set off on their journey with the baskets, their wives, relatives, and friends accompany them all the way to the statue of St. John Nepomucene, located just outside the town on the Zamość road. There, they bid them farewell, offering them vodka and arak, which is called "pathetic". Pathetic (Żałosne) is an album about separation and the experience of mourning associated with it.