While in London, I was lucky to catch one night of the Jazz and Experimental Music from Poland Festival which ran December 5-7. I went to England primarily to visit family and to go to All Tomorrow’s Parties, so this was some nice icing.
I went on the 7th which had Piotr Kurek headlining with Kacper Ziemianin playing second, and Maciej Miskiewicz opening.
Piotr Kurek‘s set was fabulous. I have never heard his music at all so I had complete virgin ears. His set followed Kacper Ziemianin’s set which was much noisier so in some ways I was relieved to hear melodic patterns.
I often write about show order and how it effects my perception because I do feel that it is impossible to experience something objectively. I’m often a victim of tired ears, or a certain kind of mood and I can’t review people’s music without owning up to that. That night’s set order was perfect.
Piotr uses an electric accordion and modular synthesizer on stage. I had never heard an electric accordion so I was a bit mystified. There are still western instruments I have not heard!! The combination of the two sounds was compelling because the synth was sounding reedy but it wasn’t too much. Sawtooths? He laid down minimal layered melodies that interplayed with each other. The music has a wailing element, a bit like Balkan vocal melodies and performances. This was the aspect I really enjoyed – a very electronic sound but composition that has strong folk elements in it. I would also describe it as psychedelic, it put me in a that kind of zone where I just wanted to move my head in a circular motion and have my eyes closed. Smoking something would have been fitting.
As a performance, it is pretty mellow. Piotr just sits calmly in from of his rig and plays, twittering his knobs and playing his keyboards; his head bobbing. It wasn’t the most active performance, but the music doesn’t call for it and more than makes up for it (plus it was hard to see him from where I was sitting).
And here’s a youtube someone posted:
Kacper’s set was varied but began and ended the same way. He uses all instruments that he has created by circuit bending – he seems to have quite a collection. My memory fails me but I remember that he started off and ended his set with a toy that played “twinkle twinkle little star” or something of that nature. Perhaps it was a speak and spell.
Then we go on a long journey of varied circuit bended sounds that are not necessarily related to each other. Truly a journey that has very little holding it together besides the experimental nature of some of the sounds. Kacper kindof fascinates me in that way. I don’t understand his compositions. I saw him at the Audio Art Festival in Krakow playing with another guy, and I felt the same thing, I wasn’t sure how all the sounds were connected.
In the middle of his set he played a drone sound, which I recorded (below) because I really enjoyed it. It was quite a lush, heavy sound to be coming from a little toy. His piece that night had a mirror structure. I think he literally started on one end of the table worked his way to the middle and then back. In some ways a very appropriate way of organizing your sound if you are in fact going to play your toys in a row.
Kacper may not be my favorite composer, but he is an interesting performer. He is jovial and fun to watch. During his performance he was standing and it was gratifying to see him messing around with his toys. Circuit bending or circuit bended sounds are not new, but I do think he has a unique perspective on it, and manages to pull out some really ripping sounds.
Maciej’s set was dreamy and multi-layed. He had a turntable and other playing devices – cassette players, pedals, some sort of digital device and the rest I don’t remember. (note to self, take a picture of the gear) I should really get better at writing these reviews within a few days of the performances. I felt that he played some amazing music (not original) but also had a keen gut intuition on what to layer, what to mess with. It really put me in a spell. It wasn’t transparent in the least, my intellect wasn’t able to completely dissect what was going on and I loved that.
Overall a wonderful night, turns out the bar owner is an old friend of mine, so I will certainly be back to Servant Jazz Quarters. The place itself was old and dank but had a great atmosphere, awesome drinks and beers, a very nice staff, and and upstairs and downstairs which is awesome for shows. The bar was upstairs and the stage was downstairs so it was possible to enjoy the music without a ridiculous amount of crowd noise. I would say there were about 40 people there and that was enough to fill the small performance space downstairs.