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Pink is the new Black

The colour pink on the covers of Siksa, Blóm and Mentos Gulgendo’s new albums is confusing. It indicates a new feminist perspective, but not just that.

Translation: Aleksandra Szkudłapska

Pink is a treacherous colour. It seems nice and soft, but can surprise you by turning sharp and coarse. It may be perceived as infantile, but I guess we’ve finally arrived at a point in time when such opinions are really out of place. Pink often contradicts that. On the covers of new albums by Siksa, Blóm and Mentos Gulgendo, pink has a confusing effect.

Siksa, Zemsta na Wroga, Antena Krzyku

Siksa’s pink, contrary to certain opinions, is way more intricate than punk. The dramatic radio opening of “Upiór” (Demon) shows that they’re much closer to avant-garde thought than basic riffs. When Alex Freiheit begins her story, accompanied by Piotr Buratyński’s bass and church bells in the background, the complexity of their ideas – brilliantly produced by Konstanty Usenko – really comes to the fore. Siksa’s hybrid of spoken word and music makes us face stereotypes, chauvinism and family nightmares. In “La Dolce Vita”, sampled messenger sounds and industrial beats are mixed with creaking bass. “Judy” works wonders when Alex’s voice, backed by reverb, is accompanied by semi-acoustic guitar. Buri underlines a different dimension of the bass guitar – not so much in terms of the sound, because this is rather typical for punk and hardcore, but by placing it in the centre, where, stripped from its rhythmical function and devoid of percussion, it shines in a completely new light. And further strengthens Alex’s darkest moments, when in “Bunt na zamówienie” (Rebellion for sale), she shouts come on, you fucker, and come have tea with my rapist or retorts why don’t people tell it to little girls, whose reality is divided into the one before and after the rape. Powerful, poignant words. Or when Alex imitates a male voice, patronising his female companion in “Puch marny” (Poor dust). To back this up, we have samples of beating, as if taken from computer games – a moving picture of family trauma. Pushed to the brink of caricature, this is the dark truth of many homes. Siksa enters the part of Polish reality that’s often overlooked, unpleasant, as ordinary as it is terrifying. Zemsta na wroga (Revenge on the enemy) is a remarkable personal diary that paints an image of our times, the frightening and often marginalised world of women. You can experience a sense of catharsis with Alex, as she throws her darkest experiences out there, experiences that are still perceived by many as too trivial or passé (as she shouts in one of the tracks) to form part of public discourse. Luckily, Siksa is not the only one who believes we should be constantly reminded about that.

 

Blóm, Flower Violence, Box

Blóm’s pink comes at you already from the cover – in a tricky way, as the title is clearly an oxymoron. Helen Walkinshaw, Liz McDade and Erika Leaman’s music is more rooted in punk, noise rock and no wave than Siksa’s. The classic bass-drums-guitar line-up is not a limitation, though – as they explain, some tracks were the result of free improvisation, while others were polished in post-production. Blóm’s message is a scream that encompasses everything that stirs societies nowadays, not just in Poland (although here it would be welcomed with open arms): feminist and queer issues, gender identification, socio-economic aspects. These five tracks are unimaginably intense, which comes through already in the opening of “Audrey”, when heavy riffs and thrashing percussion accompany Walkinshaw as she screams You saved my life and you break my heart. We’re instantly aware that this is a vivisection of anger and trauma. The knife from the cover is there to help. In “Meat”, the trio tackle sexual objectification (Objectify me, I am your piece of meat / I’m boneless, skinless, pre-packed, ready to eat), while “God” is a nihilist, hopeless perspective of the world (We didn’t want it, we didn’t need it, we didn’t ask for it), questioning God, faith, and probably also the institution of church.However, Blóm do look into the future, when in the final, teasing “Be Kind”, they shout Stand together / Queer your mind / Let’s all try a new design – after the heavy, doom-metal “Übermensch”, this sounds very evocative, bringing a glimpse of hope into the picture. In doing so, they go beyond their punk rock sound, entering the field of improvisation, quasi-electronic sounds, and almost danceable moments – most of all, though, infecting us with unbridled energy. Their pink is a path towards revolution – and it will stop at nothing.

 

Mentos Gulgendo, 1, Slip; 2, Endless Happiness
Antonina Nowacka, Lamunan, Mondoj

The pink of Mentos Gulgendo, the duo of sisters Antonina and Mila Nowacka, is a mystery – a message with an understatement. The basis of their music is the Godwin guitar organ, which sounds as if it was squirming, unable to settle in, buzzing under the surface to finally explode. The album is composed of two complementary parts, released one after the other by Slip (UK) and Endless Happiness (PL). Part one features shorter, improvised, more vibrating compositions – perhaps a study of the organ in search of new sound fragments.When Antonina employs her voice, she reminds me of Chinese singers, shouting broken phrases, chasing the instrument’s sound, counterpointing it. Part two offers almost an hour of music in just three tracks. Here the organ sound is more uniform, weaving a delicate drone layer that almost imperceptibly grows to fill the space; individual notes draw you into a trance, without too many twists and turns. The final “Suruliandr” is the most powerful here: the organ sound grows dense, until around minute six the two layers – noise and individual notes – intertwine, balancing on the edge of silence and reverb. At one point, the vibrating, krautrock-esque beat and light bassline give way to Antonina’s liberating vocals, resounding loud and clear. Her scream is different to Siksa or Blóm: it sends me to fairy tales about princesses locked in towers, but it also comes straight from the gut. A silent scream? The voice of trauma and hard experience? Let that remain a mystery.

Mondoj have also released Lamunan, Antonina’s solo album. There are no instruments here, just her voice resonating in a Javan cave and in the murky dungeons of the Modlin fortress. It no longer evokes fairy tales, but rather the sacral atmosphere that reminds me of Cucina Povera’s last year’s album. Antonina’s voice is clear, and the space is used for its added acoustic values. The vocal and its echo overlap, intertwine, leaving behind reverberating space, rustles, delicate buzzing, sounds of nature, noises that are hard to decipher. Their coarse nature brilliantly emphasises Antonina’s loud, clear, abstract voice. Although this pink – contrary to Siksa and Blóm’s – is harder to decipher, it’s no less evocative.