Despite the fact that this is the name of a fanciful cigarette brand from the Philip K. Dick novel The Man from the High Castle, it is also the name of a music project launched by Kuba Ziołek and Łukasz Jędrzejczak. The group transformed into an experimental quartet, with Rafał Kołacki (known from: Hati, Innercity Ensemble) and Mikołaj Zieliński (Alameda 3, Alameda 5) joining the band in 2015. ‘Heavenly music’, as ‘T’ien Lai’ translates from Japanese, is a play with processed radio waves, effects, rhythms, loops, synths, contrasted with heavily distorted instruments and organic sounds. Just as in Dick’s books reality alternates and blends in with fiction, here, the electronic universe meets with the acoustic. The vibes of T’ien Lai are often described as a confrontation between technology and nature, or between ritualistic rhythms and raw industrial electronics. The musicians themselves select categories such as quasi-shamanistic trans, or even techno pastiche, as tags for their sound projects. What is more — the masked artists have their own manifesto. Entitled ‘Magic Brutalism’, Kuba Ziołek has written and presented where his critical approach to magic realism and the holiness of the matter, as well as his inspiration from Le Corbusier’s understanding of brutalism.
The „Old River” in English, is another project (among many others like: T’ien Lai, Innercity Ensemble, Ed Wood, Hokei) by Kuba Ziołek, a composer and multi-instrumentalist with an undoubtedly unique capacity of combining diverse musical genres. Guitars, effects, minimalist samples and drums are characteristic of his work. Stara Rzeka’s manipulations result in a surprisingly clever combinations of acoustic guitar sounds with influences like black metal or krautrock, turned together into a coherent integrity. Many listeners connect the band with folk music, although Ziołek distances himself from associations with traditional music, claiming the German music of the 70s as his major musical inspiration. Nevertheless, in Stara Rzeka he seems to be a passionate storyteller contemplating places, rivers and forests, nature and the essence. Whether he would agree or not, the romantic factor in these compositions is fairly (if not strongly) noticeable.
It all started at the beginning of 90s by three girls – Agata Harz, Katarzyna Smoluk and Ola Nakonieczna. As the band explains, they chose ‘moon’ as their symbol/name, because of its feminine, poetic and natural connotations. Moreover, their name also reveals quite clear and direct influences of traditional music from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus in their compositions. Moon/Księżyc is a melancholic journey, recalling a return to the roots or even an insight into unconsciousness through the sounds of Slavic, medieval and pagan-like folk music. Playing on acoustic instruments and using specific vocal techniques allows them to create psychedelic, lyrical and minimalistic sound projects.
The group disappeared in 1996 but later reactivated under a new line-up. After almost two decades of myths surrounding Księżyc, A. Harz, K. Smoluk, L. Polak, R. Mazur-Hanaj and R. Niziński turned the band into a living legend. They came back in 2013 after reissuing their debut album by British label Penultimate Press, and later by Polish label OBUH. Their comeback concert took place at Unsound Festival in 2014.
MCHY I POROSTY
Mchy i Porosty (mosses and lichens) is the entire, condensed packet of Bartosz Zaskórskis’ feats. He is a multidisciplinary artist, whose projects constitute multipart stories consisting of illustrations, radio plays and written episodes. Bartosz undertakes the subjects of small villages, reports strange half-imaginary situations in a charming way, sometimes focusing on such unobvious and seemingly unattractive elements in our reality such as pipes. As he confessed, he likes to identify himself as a sort of village fool storyteller, who observes, analyses and passes on, slightly embellished stories derived from reality. Musically his work can be described as radio-turbulence, controlled and dense hums and noises fusing with disturbing, compelling details and sometimes unidentified beats. All that is mixed together with real noises and incredible stories.
His graduate project ‘I wtedy okazało się, że umarłem’ (‘And then it turned out that I died’) was released in the form of a cassette-book by the label BDTA and his radio plays were presented during his exhibition in the CSW Zamek Ujazdowskie in Warsaw. Check out his bewitching publications/releases.
Written by Anna Prokop
Edited by Maggie Kuzan