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Szymon Kaliski: For Isolated Recollections

img  Tobias Fischer

For Isolated Recollections is music that thrives on stasis. This music rarely “develops” in the traditional sense. There are virtually no section changes in the pieces, no transitions, and little in the way of chord progressions. Instead, Polish electroacoustic composer Szymon Kaliski paints with a spare palette, revisiting an idea over and over and examining it from every possible angle. In the process, he achieves a lulling, hypnotic effect built on an economy of material—a piano, gobs of reverb, and the sort of non-discriminate ear that finds musicality in crunching leaves and the resonant frequencies of a room.

For Isolated Recollections opens with “Without Breaking,” two notes repeated pensively atop a single chord while found sounds crunch across the stereo field. The effect is reminiscent of footsteps walking over snow, and sets a nostalgic tone that pervades throughout the album’s entirety.  „When Facing North” acts as an extension of the opening piece—the tonality remains the same, and the same underlying pulse creeps forward. This time, however, the backing found sounds are more distant: footsteps echoing in a hall, quiet metallic clicks. Gradually, the backdrop becomes more crisp, the sounds more recognizable. The effect is that one becomes increasingly aware of the background—composed of less traditionally musical elements—while losing focus on the meditative, spacious notes of the piano.

By the track “Or Gently,” more pronounced musical and textural variations emerge. The piano’s pensive motif mutates into liquid, reversed notes. The crackle of field recordings gradually fuses into a white noise hiss that ultimately consumes the dreamlike musings of the keyboard. When the keyboard does reemerge, in “With Grace,” the EP’s next and final composition, it’s against a backdrop of wind and water. “With Grace” is the only piece that contains more than a hint of harmonic motion, cycling deftly through a minimalist chord progression over hypnotic hisses.

Throughout, For Isolated Recollections possesses strong senses of antiquity and intimacy. Reverb-laden piano plays into the haziness of memories while the field recordings lend the music a sense of place, bringing to mind the sound of leafing through a book or walking across an icy field. The most powerful parallel to recollection, however, is Kaliski’s continuous reworking of ultra-minimal material—his insistence on playing a note or two over and over as if trying to piece together something forever just barely out of grasp.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Szymon Kaliski
Homepage: Hibernate Recordings

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