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Raphael Rogiński 
Talán Spencer Grady , September 6th, 2023 08:03

Polish guitarist seeks inspiration along the Black Sea’s coastlines for his latest set of haunted blues meditations

It’s been several years now since Raphael Rogiński released his much-lauded solo albums, Plays John Coltrane and Langston Hughes African Mystic Music and Plays Henry Purcell. Both contained gorgeously intrepid interpretations of former eminent works, the inherent spirituality of the originals repurposed in sensitive lattices of chiming arpeggios and elusive wraithlike melody, while carrying the scars of the guitarist’s fruitful associations with jazz improvisation and some decidedly abstract blues forms. Under Rogiński’s deft stewardship, the religious creations of past masters had been tempered into a subtle and secular soul music.

His latest offering, Talán, is another vessel for the mystical, this time steeped in Rogiński’s deep fascination with the Black Sea, its shifting mysteries, histories and genius loci. Some of the pieces here were composed in Odessa, the war-stricken Ukrainian coastal city so often seen as the gateway between Europe and Asia. The region’s melting pot of divergent cultures filters through into the Middle Eastern-inspired riffs, Balkan folk runs, Phrygian mode fluttering and Sir Richard Bishop-style arabesques of ‘Electron’ and ‘Carpathian Transit’, as Rogiński seeks out inspiration from his own ancestral relationships with the area, and from the living traditions and legends of the people who inhabit it.

‘Lyre’ and ‘Flickering Glance’ are entirely representative of the album’s spidery calligraphy, outlined in lustrous reverb-drenched glissandi, subtly suggestive string-bends and occasional detours into explosive Bill Orcutt-indebted hammer-ons. Similar hues and structures are redeployed in dovetailing manipulations across each of the album’s eight tracks, signifying a unifying mood, vision and thought, rather than a paucity of ideas.

Notes are left abandoned on the tail of repeated refrains, stunning tonal strays cast adrift like sky lanterns bobbing in midnight fields of background static, while electric low-ends throb in acute cardiac trauma. ‘Cliffs and the Sea’ introduces some provocative feedback tease and a clangorous fretboard workout on prepared guitar, instigating a delicious shakedown of disembowelled clockwork parts, before reverting to more familiar picked patterns and ripples, graced with a clarion of ersatz kalimba ping.

Like the enigmatic ‘impossible sea’ which inspired it, Talán is beautiful, curious and intriguing, an endless source of fascination and wonder. In keeping with all of Rogiński’s previous solo works, it can also be understood as a catalyst for deep introspection and heuristic exploration, its righteous purpose made explicit via a highly personal, meditatively paced-suite sublimely aligned to its divine mission.