When Jacek Sienkiewicz reaches for the abstract instead of the 4/4 metre, his music becomes more dense. Individual pieces are intriguingly multi-layered, though still forming a coherent whole. This is a work of inspired precision: despite the many analogies, each record from the newly released trilogy showcases a different aspect of the musician.
Translation: Aleksandra Szkudłapska
Jacek Sienkiewicz, one of the pillars of the Polish electronic scene, is a diversely prolific artist, regularly churning out dozens of singles and EPs. When he does make full-length records, though, they’re always packed with original, sophisticated ideas.
Three years ago I reviewed four (!) of Sienkiewicz’s albums released over a few months, showcasing both his varied interests and skill in switching between aesthetics and ideas. This broad spectrum is important here: the monumental IMOW, BTWN and Drogi, which appeared almost simultaneously, while more coherent than the aforementioned quartet, offer a similar tour de force of the musician’s imagination and creative erudition.
The first acronym stands for In My Own Wave (released on vinyl only, album preview available on Bandcamp) and takes its base in drones that quickly take on a very mechanical character. When quasi-beats – a peculiar structure, as if trying to find rhythm – take centre stage in “Superior”, the piece begins to resemble a duel between the digital and the human factor. The album has a slightly cinematic and cosmic feel – Sienkiewicz plays with textures and timbres, developing ideas only to deconstruct them a moment later. He often focuses on micro-elements and sound snippets brought out through repetitions (“Me”). At the same time, the music sounds very organic and clear, like a contemporary soundtrack illustrating a vibrating, musically complex organism. Sienkiewicz doesn’t look for rhythm, doesn’t seek refuge in simple forms, but seems to dig around in the sound to produce an array of possibilities. In spite of the metallic forms in the foreground, the overall impression is one of warmth and accessibility, even though the smooth ambient-pop moments (“Museum”) are immediately counterbalanced by more rough-sounding ones (“Flock”).
BTWN (Between, available for free download on the artist’s Bandcamp) sounds very spacious and coherent for a compilation of found footage from various recordings and captured software errors. These details are extended over time and their drone surface builds a state of suspension and resonance. Even track titles seem to come from some vast archive. The similar, monotone form of individual pieces gives the impression of a monolith, yet without the heaviness this word brings to mind. BTWN’s lethargic, slightly subdued character seems in contrast to IMOW. All microinterventions, accidents and errors are standardised through dynamics and monotone resonance. Out of an illusion of noise comes a subtle, vibrating sound, gradually revealing its subsequent layers. “BTWN58” has a uniform, mantra-like quality, drawing you into its atmosphere. It is followed by a completely different “BTWN63”, which departs from raw, distorted samples, and yet, owing to its length, sounds very dignified and intriguing. The album is longer than IMOW and requires the listener to become immersed in the sound: drawled out, as if suspended in time, even taking on a slightly sacral feel in “BTWN66”.
Drogi, the last part of the trilogy (co-released by Bołt), was recorded as a tribute to Bohdan Mazurek, a composer and sound engineer at the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, who assisted such greats as Krzysztof Penderecki, Bogusław Schaeffer and Włodzimierz Kotoński. While Drogi seems to be the odd one out of the three, it also features Sienkiewicz’s unmistakable creative touch. Instead of reworking original samples from the Studio, the artist set out to recreate Mazurek’s creative method, cutting and pasting musical forms from his archive within a very open and abstract formula. Highlighted details take centre stage here, yet Drogi are the least atmospheric album of the three. It’s a concoction of ideas: electroacoustic variations interlaced with sampled mini-melodies and humorous statements. The album reminds me of a radio drama, packed with a mix of ingredients that contribute – if only for one sparkling moment – to the ensuing rich sound structure. At times more electrified, at times strictly acoustic, these details are either presented in a dense cumulation or singled out to resonate on their own. The key aspect here is the diversity of collected material, but also its coherent sound, as a result of which the album turns into a colourful sound diary of sorts. The synthetic “Bulldance” is entirely different to the lyrical and calm “Drogi 3”, “Losturysta” is peppered with near-futuristic moments, as if taken out of the Orange Milk Records catalogue, but another intriguing moment is when the synthetic sound overlaps with a long vocalisation. “Oleśny”, on the other hand, presents quintessential Mazurek-style wit: the entire piece is based around loud, male snoring, which serves as the basis for broken, rough, rhythmical forms.
What all three records have in common is their focus on the detail prolonged over time. At the same time, IMOW, BTWN and Drogi all maintain a coherent and engaging narrative using a whole array of effects – the microsounds are transformed into lengthy suites, stretched to approximate infinity. When Jacek Sienkiewicz reaches for the abstract instead of the 4/4 metre, his music becomes more dense. Individual pieces are intriguingly multi-layered, though still forming a coherent whole. This is a work of inspired precision: despite the many analogies, each record from the trilogy showcases a different aspect of the musician. IMOW is atmospheric and undulating, thoroughly contemporary and techno-ised; BTWN focuses on layered and varied drone passages that resonate over time, and Drogi is a set of miniatures combined in a witty narrative structure. The trilogy is a lot of material to take on, luckily of very diverse character. An epic work that – if administered gradually – will leave you wanting more. This is required listening.
Jacek Sienkiewicz, IMOW, BTWN, Recognition Records
Jacek Sienkiewicz, Drogi, Recognition/Bołt