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CD Feature/ Tomasz Bednarczyk: "So Nice"; "Summer Feeling"; "Painting Sky Together"

img  Tobias

The old city centre of Warsaw is an imposing, luxurious area marked by an air of noblesse, Mediterranean elegance and winding cobblestone roads leading visitors past poche restaurants, traditional pubs and dimly lit cafes. Somehow, when listening to his music, I find myself imagining Tomasz Bednarczyk sitting in one them, bent over a copy of Proust's „A la recherche du temps perdu“ while drawing on a Vanilla-flavoured Cigarillo, a walking cane and a pair of white leather gloves lying next to him on a red-cushioned couch. Every few minutes, he will look up from his book, his gaze roaming a distance outside our physical reality, before slacking a sigh and returning to the world contained within letters, love, desires and dreams.

To cut this flowery introduction short: Bednarczyik is a romantic artist, a sensitive soul whose sounds mirror deeply-felt emotional states. His pieces are immediate yet borderless states, meditations on moods and things which have either not yet come to pass or keep occupying his mind without hope of resolution. Revolving around no more than a handful of carefully selected and harmonically balanced elements, each track is a timbrally defined galaxy of sustained textures and short, almost ephemeral motives (the term 'melody' would seem too grand in this context), which are developed by slightly-out-sync repetitions, delicate variations and gradual thematic ornamentation.

Quotidian scenes, fleeting observations and the little miracles of life are the basis for his work. While most quickly forget about them, Bednarczyk follows them down to their universal emotional core like a poet turning seemingly trivial words into tantalising wonders. Tellingly, his tracks are nominally culled from concrete situations and private episodes, like headers to passionate scribbles and sketches in a diary: „A Bus-Ride with a Red-Haired Girl“, „Agata's Film“, „Sad Man on the Train“, „Saturday Evening“, and, even more intimately, „Your Whiteness“ and „Freckled Cheeks“. One of them is simply called „Love“ - you could blush just by reading the titles to these pieces.

On his first outing, the CC-licensed „So Nice EP“ on the Polish Audiotong imprint, this translated into a recognisable musical vocabulary closely connected to a scene of artists dealing with a translation of soft acoustic vibrations and software-induced irregularities into a pure, tender and naive language. As a sound source, the Guitar took prominence, with Bednarczyk chopping up its melodic lines into smaller, intuitive chunks no longer bound by intellectual guidance. Segments of a mere two notes were looped to create the kind of subtle pulsation of early minimalism, overtones amplified to condense into weightless, oscillating drone sheets. Even though he would go on to grow as an arranger and in terms of an album-builder, all the ingredients of later publications are already present on these four tracks: The magical interaction between a tender timbral tissue and discreet field recordings, a slow and hypnotic flow as well as the inclusion of plop and crackle as equitable compositional themes.

In fact, if you listen to „So Nice“ and the ensuing full-length „Summer Feeling“, the latter at first seems like a natural continuation. And yet, a lot has happened in the two years separating the releases. Bednarczyk reserves more time and space for his creations, confidently allowing them to continue for one or two entrancing minutes where he would earlier resolutely cut them off. There is a palpable narrative connecting these pieces inspired by the sweet and sweaty heat of Polish Summer, always infusing each moment of carefree bliss with the impending darkness of the upcoming frosty Winter. Most importantly, the Piano has made its entrance into his oeuvre, a deciding change compared to previous works because it caters to Bednarczyk's penchant for drawing a maximum of meaning from a single tone and for his love of the decay of sounds. Often, electronics will answer the Piano like afterthoughts, creating rotating structures of breathing pads and intertwined melodies. Eric Satie, much more than Brian Eno or William Basinski, seems to have been the conceptual and spiritual godfather of this immersive musical journey.

While „Summer Feelings“ was published as a digital download, „Painting Sky Together“ marks Bednarczyk's arrival in the world of physical releases. Both, however, are part of the closely quality-controlled catalogue of Australian record company Room40, which sounds like a near-perfect combination for the artistic development of the young Polish artist. Just like him, Lawrence English's label, after all, is occupied with surfing the tangents between progressive Sound Art and tradition and capable of accommodating the various potential future directions Bednarczyk has created for himself. „Sky“ sees him add further colours to his palette, the album switching between typical Piano-ambiances and works with a more demonstrative use of environmental recordings (most noticeably on „Tokyo“, which sounds like the summary of a day spent walking the woods and fishing). The hermetic and deep moods of „Summer Feelings“ have been replaced by a succession of open and light-filled pieces on the one hand and more embrasive ones on the other. „Freckled Cheeks“ is the closest thing Bednarczyk has come to scoring a song based on melodic hooks and on „January“, he builds a labyrinth of truncated and hickupping Bell-sounds over a backdrop of a distant motorway – an experimental extension of his style, which feels anything but out of place.

Escapism is not just a theme here, it is a vital component of the concept. I know that Bednarczyk lives in Wroclaw, not Warsaw, that he is writing college examns instead of spending hours in Bohemian coffee houses and that he communicates through MySpace and email rather than by ink and feather. But there is a charmingly naive quality to his work which makes you go all  dizzy in the head and believe in these kinds of pleasant daydreams rather than hard facts.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Tomasz Bednarczyk
Homepage: Audiotong Records
Homepage: Room40 Records

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