martedì 30 aprile 2013

KALIBER 44 - "KSIĘGA TAJEMNICZA. PROLOG" (1996)

Kaliber 44 was a hip hop quartet from Katowice. They disbanded in 2003, three years after the suicide of the MC Piotr "Magik" Łuszcz. 
Their debut album was a milestone for the local scene: first of all, it marked the beginning of a new era for rap music collectives, as no one of them had released an high-profile record before (they had only some albums released by Kazik, as a spin-off from Kult, or by superstar Liroy, who approached the genre with a trivial, commercial mood). 
On the contrary, on "Księga tajemnicza" Polish rap was expressing for the first time an extreme, dark, experimental vision of life and music. 
Its beats and arrangements are amazing, absorbing industrial noise, dissonant samples, noir strings, and sharp synthesizers. Voices are crazy and furious, often changing mood like if they were part of a stream of consciousness.  
The album enjoyed a strong cult following, selling over 100.000 copies, and today Kaliber 44 is commonly regarded as the most important Polish rap group ever. 

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mercoledì 24 aprile 2013

SZTYWNY PAL AZJI - "EUROPA I AZJA" (1987)

Lead by singer Leszek Nowak and guitar player Jarosław Kisiński, Sztywny Pal Azji was one of the key bands of that second Polish post-punk movement which I mentioned recently (just think to Róże Europy, Ziyo, Kult, and so on).

This is their debut album, and it contains a dozen of eclectic songs which mix a loud new wave sound with unplugged arrangements (piano, acoustic guitars, congas), sometimes recurring to a bit of rock&roll energy. Faster songs emanate the choral sense of power pop, while the slower ones are soaked by an epic atmosphere, both decadent and romantic (they kinda remind me to the British martial folk movement which was coming out at the same time).

"Europa i Azja" was a mainstream success in Poland, with epic songs such as "Wieża radości wieża samotności" (transl. "Tower of joy, tower of solitude") and "Spotkanie z..." (also known as "Nie gniewaj się na mnie Polsko", transl. "Don't be angry with me, Polish") reaching respectively no. 1 and no. 2 in the LP3 chart. They both remain two of the most popular songs of the Eighties there.

Other notable moments include "Przybycie Makbeta" (five minutes of absolute darkness), "Twoja imitacja" (with its rhythmic whirlwind), and "Kurort" (a chameleon punk-folk operetta). 

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sabato 20 aprile 2013

LADY PANK - "LP3" (1986)

Lady Pank's third studio effort, the last of their new wave phase and their poppiest record up to that date. 
Even though the band had three no. 1 singles in 1985, "LP3" was somehow a commercial disappointment, selling only 100.000 copies in its first year of release. A satisfying sum for an average Polish band of the time, but not for Lady Pank, who were dominating the scene. The poor reception of this album is probably the main reason of the 1988 shocking change of style, which turned the band into an arena-rock act. 

This is not a bad album anyway. The opening track, "Made in Homo", is a wonderful dark-punk number, but it is kinda misleading, because the rest of the album is marked by an absolutely brighter mood. Just think to "Ludzie z Marsa" and "Osobno", two new wave songs with a relaxed guitar sound, or to "Babilon Disco Najt", a nice pop number which featured Urszula Mogielnicka's dreamy background vocals.

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martedì 16 aprile 2013

KULT - "SPOKOJNIE" (1988)

With a further improvement in their sound, Kult reached the peak of their first phase.

An entire universe is summarized in these tracks. The hit single "Arahja" is a psychedelic anthem characterized by a dynamic electric organ sound (somehow pre-dating the Madchester movement); "Patrz" is a pyrotechnical ska-pop song; "Jeźdźcy" is the melancholic moment of the album (with a striking arrangement for sax, vibes, and keyboards); "Tan" is a twelve minutes colossus which mixes jam and song-form, new wave and world music; "Wstać!" is its opposite: a choral punk assault which lasts less than two minutes.

By listening to it you would easily understand why "Spokojnie" is widely considered a classic of Polish rock music. It is also the best selling Nowa Fala record of the late 80s.

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giovedì 11 aprile 2013

CITY - "AM FENSTER" [aka "CITY"] (1978)

East Germany was not the most welcoming nation if you wanted to play rock music, expecially in the Seventies, when it was put under state control and artists had to obtain an Official License to record albums or play concerts. Obviously, that license was granted only to those who acknowledged many compromises (no long hair, no rebel clothes, no aggressive sound, no protest lyrics, and so on).
That's why a great part of East Germany's rock music in this era was bland and uninteresting. Anyway, there are some exceptions, and "Am Fenster" is definitely one of these.

Forget the five short tracks on the first side of the record (which represent the innocent face of the "license rock" I was saying), and skip directly to the title-track.
This 17 minutes folk-pop fantasia is nothing less than an epic masterpiece. It's kinda surprising that a long composition like this was accepted by the authorities, considering that it's full of strange violin solos (wonderfully executed by bassist and band leader Georgi Gogow) and experimental evolutions. Maybe its moderate lyrics helped them approving it. 
The song was presented to the audience as an evidence of East Germany's artistic brilliance, and its radiophonic edit enjoyed popular success in West Germany and Greece also. The album has sold 500.000 copies in its homeland up to 1997. 


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sabato 6 aprile 2013

KULT - "POSŁUCHAJ TO DO CIEBIE" (1987)

In the late 80s a second post-punk movement exploded all across Poland. With an impressive series of no. 1 albums and singles, Kult is the most popular and long-lived of these names.

If their debut album, "Kult" (1986), was slightly naive, this second effort shows a big evolution in their formula. The production makes the difference: the sounds are much deeper, expecially the rhythm section, which sounded like a demo on the previous album. 
A more professional approach also helped their songwriting to mantain a solid focus, generating moments such as the triumphant reggae-rock of "Wódka" (originally titled "Na całym świecie źle się dzieje koledzy", transl. "Things go wrong all around the world, friends"), the funky assault of "Post", and the atmospheric mid-tempo of "Hej, czy nie wiecie". The latter was a big hit in Poland, expecially because of the anti-regime lyrics (its chorus screams "Hey, don't you know you have no power in this world?")

The historic line-up of this album is composed by Kazik Staszewski (vocals & keyboards), Janusz Grudziński (guitars & keyboards), Ireneusz Wereński (bass guitar, previously a Brygada Kryzys member), Paul Szanajca (sax), and Tadeusz Kisieliński (drums). 

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