Pulsating hits

Recent albums by FOQL and Jakub Lemiszewski brilliantly showcase music based on incessantly pulsating rhythm, which forms a crazy yet coherent conglomeration. Dren’s rhythms, on the other hand, are as steady as they are sinister, and the duo skilfully create their ambient space.

Translation: Aleksandra Szkudłapska

Justyna Banaszczyk, known under the moniker FOQL, records her albums on various labels – from the Warsaw-based Pointless Geometry to New York Hunted – releasing a new EP- or full-length material roughly every year. Dumpster Diving Know-How has just appeared on CGI Records (USA). While it is classified as a mini-album, I have no reservations about treating it like a regular LP. Banaszczyk creates intriguing rhythmical structures, which she craftily clothes in technoid rave or tribal influences that often get skilfully deformed over times (“War Drums for Children”). Yet it is not the rhythm as such that’s the most important element here: the multi-layered structure of her music draws one in using acid-laden sequences; dense, yet sometimes surprisingly light and melodious layers of synths. After the aforementioned piece, the slightly new-age “Take a Deep Breath & Dive into the Bin” sounds bright in comparison, fairy-tale-like, emphasising the album’s narrative – a counterpoint to the aggressive rhythmical intro and its dark follow-up. Instead of hastily combining ideas without any deeper reflection – as is often the case with electronica (so many artists with albums that are twice or three times as long could learn succinctness from her!), FOQL diligently delivers her sounds and musical structures. Even when she turns towards what seems like the most classical form of techno (with a hugely industrial twist), there is a lot of nuances that lets on just how meticulously she creates the tissue of each piece: flapping beats, piercing sequences, metallic cascades and the emerging micro-melodies in “Architect Was Crazy” are a fantastic journey through rhythmical music, a colourful polyphony of synthesizers and sequences. Banaszczyk compellingly builds the rhythmical layer of her tracks, which undergoes constant transformations, additionally enhancing it with amazing sounds (like the fantastic finale of “So Share a Lot, Please”). While Dumpster Diving Know-How may sound overwhelming at first listen, it contains a brilliant set of ideas communicated with lightness and moderation, as a result of which each minute of the album draws you in and delivers new sensations.

I’ve been a careful follower of Jakub Lemiszewski’s work for a few years now. 30 minut attracted me with its colourful collage form, its turn towards childhood and the years of post-1989 transition , evocatively presented through music. Plunderphonics, cartoon forms and multiplied ideas shone on Hermes, a record that twisted slightly distorted electronic sounds, which heralded Lemiszewski’s future inspirations. Bubblegum New Age did not amaze me as much as it did the other reviewers; I preferred 2017 [nielegal], where Lemisz amassed his ideas and spiced them up with footwork forms, distilling a witty essence from the amalgam of threads, samples and concepts. 2019 seems to be his most coherent album to date and the best in terms of mastering; consistently exploring the reality of excess, a multitude of threads and a rhythmical, pulsating showcase of various aesthetics. Lemiszewski reaches for a futuristic sound when he enters the rhythmical orbit (“Yyvyvyvyy”), tinting it with deep bass or ornamented samples in the background. Like Banaszczyk, he is not compulsively excessive – 2019 makes for a pleasant listen, the material is even trance-like at times (take the hypnotising repetitions in “Gentle Transit”). This is not the first time when Lemiszewski demonstrates an utmost care attached to sound and small nuances, which – enhanced and looped – make for a very vivid record. The dark “Obccbo” stands out with its pulsating bass and ambient distortions, suddenly counterpointed with delicate footwork claps. The above is dominated by a quasi-pipe and its repetitive phrase, which – in a slightly kitschy form – brilliantly balances the electronic production of the rest of the material. Jakub Lemiszewski is a unique artist on the Polish scene; he represents a creative hyperactivity, dense eclecticism and inspirations minced into a broad array of sounds. The year 2019 in the title indicates the dating of ideas – after all, a lot may happen and change momentarily in the post-Internet reality. 2019 is also Lemiszewski’s most coherent album conceptually – in spite of the music sometimes being very dehumanised, almost mathematical, it is very approachable, full of melodies and clever compositional solutions.

Out of the three records discussed here, Dren’s rhythmical fascinations are the least diversified, but this does not work to their detriment. The title itself serves as a brilliant introduction to the material – the eight tracks represent a struggle with the passing of time and the shaping of form. Time & Form is a set of gradually developed, ritual tracks that tell a captivating (albeit relatively minimalist) musical narrative. The industrial sound is ornamented and diversified using bass (“I Am a Pilgrim”), but rhythmical narration is just one of the aspects here. There is also room for a densely woven dark ambient field, which creates a fascinating skeleton for the acoustic space. The simple, evocative beat in the foreground is often covered with dense ambient magma, glistening with various textures. Add noise static, which enhances the multiple layers (the amazing “Vermillion” with its subdued, breakbeat threads), plus a huge dose of air. All of it is contained within a dark, misty form, the music unfolds at a sluggish pace and – contrary to the above two records – is closer to meditation than juggling with ideas. Dren drawl out their sounds, which clearly, one by one, resonate in the structures of the tracks. Instead of a cumulation, there is polished minimalism. Even if the duo’s material is not as fresh as the two aforementioned releases, it nevertheless represents an engrossing, meditative story with a horror-like atmosphereand a lot of surprises in store.

FOQL, Dumpster diving know-how, CGI Records

Jakub Lemiszewski, 2019, Pointless Geometry

Dren, Time & Form, Zoharum