The Polish School of Electronics

Two new records by Bartosz Kruczyński: Selected Media 2014-2018 is a tour-de-force of his composing skills and blending various aesthetics into a coherent and toned down functional music format, which can function autonomously. Pulses – made with Sasha Zakrevska – in turn, shows their skills in playing live, improvising and building spacious aesthetics.

Translation: Aleksandra Szkudłapska

Two years ago, the National Centre for Culture published the Anthology of Polish Electronic Music (a sequel to the one on rap). For the older generation, this interesting compilation recounted (or shed new light on) the achievements of this fragment of the Polish electronic scene, while younger readers could treat it as an introduction to artists (more or less) rooted in electronic music, who made an inspiring and often very innovative use of its language and tools.

What could such a publication look like in two or three decades, were it to describe the present day? I, for one, would definitely include a section on Bartosz Kruczyński, one of the most active and creative Polish musicians – last year, his album Ostatni dzień lata, recorded under the moniker of Pejzaż, came first in the beehy.pe poll. And this is just the top of the iceberg. Kruczyński is also known as one half of Ptaki, an electronic duo looking towards the past, making music out of samples and old records; he made an easy-listening version of house as The Phantom, while his club incarnation was released as Earth Trax or under his own name (the brilliant Baltic Beat suite) – this broad collection of ideas encapsulates his versatility as a musician.

When Kruczyński records under his own name, the array of his interests seems broadest, which is brilliantly exemplified by his two latest albums.Selected Media 2014–2018 is his collection of “functional” records, previously used as a soundtrack to cultural programmes on visual artists. The echoes of Baltic Beat, but also LP1 are clear in the form of dream-like, ambient collages, pulsating sounds whenever the marimba makes an appearance (“A6”) as well as a restrained use of live instruments. Yet this interpretation is made more complicated by the fact the material comes from different periods – resulting in an interesting venture into dub techno or cooler and more spacious sounds. Kruczyński is very skilful in the language of both club electronica and one that is more related to a composer’s precision – from the more dehumanized electronic sound towards analogue qualities and found footage. Judging by what he told me three years ago, the artist has plenty of ideas still – and you can hear that even on a compilation which wasn’t planned as a single record, he can blend everything into an intriguing whole. Paradoxically, without the accompanying images, treated as an independent work, it sounds really good, not just when it’s played in the background.

Then there is the more ambient and cosmic version of Kruczyński on Pulses, recorded entirely on analogue synthesizers together with Ukrainian-born Sasha Zakrevska aka Poly Chain. She presented her ideas for the first time two years ago, on a witty, ambient LP Music for Candy Shops. Having played a few sets together, both artists began to cooperate, and – according to Zakrevska herself – she managed to win Kruczyński over to analogue sounds and instruments.

The effect of their cooperation, often recalling the old records of Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh, is not too innovative – and this ought to be said early on. However, by improvising together and cutting out the most interesting fragments of such sessions, Kruczyński and Zakrevska inventively refresh such synthesizer-based music. They are not as heavy on motoric sounds as the aforementioned bands. What comes through in their music is a fresh approach to smoothly combining the sounds of various synthesizers, as a result of which the end-result is by no means kitschy or archaic. The witty arpeggios, made more dense using subsequent layers of synthesizer sounds, approximate polyrhythm, producing shimmering wafts of ambient and drone, or a non-standard, intriguing pulsation. The fragments they play together are sometimes very oneiric, but can also hit more emotional overtones. There are times when the duo yields to the temptation to step out from the ambient ranks, and spice up their take on kosmische Musik with a more club, more intense approach (“Fluxional”). This is a very symbiotic duo – no-one is trying to show off here or take centre stage; they play coherently as a team, without the need for any waffly improvisations. It’s clear that both of them listen to each other, at the same time playing in a very spontaneous, sometimes emotional manner.

Zakrevska shows a different version of herself here: a colourful take on music, freedom, and the joy of playing. Kruczyński adds another brick to his complex music inspirations. Selected Media is a tour-de-force of his composing skills and blending various aesthetics into a coherent and toned down functional music format, which can function autonomously. Pulses, in turn, shows his skills in playing live, improvising and building spacious aesthetics – in shorter forms than the Baltic Beat suite, although similar in character. Kruczyński has already made it to the canon of contemporary electronic music, but he sure has more surprises in store.

Bartosz Kruczyński & Poly Chain, Pulses, Into the Light / Bartosz Kruczyński Selected Media 2016-2018, Emotional Response