Kraków was the first stop on a lengthy tour under the Sangoplasmo tour banner: “A month on the train, daily”, confided the slightly-overwhelmed Piotr Kurek, who I spoke to prior to his performance. Both he and Lutto Lento, fellow traveller and Sangoplasmo label owner, are gaining momentum after an already-fertile period. Kurek’s latest release, the inventive Edena, was very well received, while Lento – a former post-industrial prankster turned established tape underground curator – enjoyed a positive reception for Duch Gór, his first cassette under this moniker.
The event took place at the Lovekrove & Radar Gallery; a popular venue in Krakow’s Kazimierz district with an intimate arrangement of scarce room space, which lends itself to contemplative sets like these. Kepa Yew (aka Piotr Cisak), opens the bill with a traditional, drony ambience, accompanied by bowed guitar. His steady, gradual structures are stretched a little too thinly, and while they eventually grow on the listener, they soon dissolve into transparency. His successor, Lutto Lento, is, by contrast, a challenging act: loud, discordant and utilizing disturbing ritualised chants, found material, which sounds like folklore from nowhere, and an extremely exaggerated, pitche-down voice. There is a method to his madness though, and a thoughtful one: set in the context of dark ambient and industrial, the pitch-black wells from which current electronic music likes to draw, Lento’s set extracts these genres’ open secret: preposterousness and vis comica. His work could be described as amusing takes on the aforementioned style or extreme hauntology. Instead of referring to the usual themes (nuclear destruction, notorious killers, perversions galore) and uniformed seriousness, he chooses instead to make his sound as knowingly scary as it can be. Frightening like a mythical hag, a low-budget horror movie or a visit to a fun park, Lento’s is one of the most refreshing takes on the industrial idio
Piotr Kurek’s set changes the mood towards a meditative, serene dimension. The warm, looping patterns known from Edena are reminiscent of some Silver Apples, some Schulze, some Cluster – but most of all they evoke the enchanting, balanced analogue tones occasionally found on lesser-known library music LPs. Kurek’s melodies are filled with focus, radiance and twinkling, hallucinatory passages. Kosmische soundscapes co-exist with strange, quasi-Renaissance melodies and capricious twirls. Analogue-era references are commonplace these days, but Kurek adds his own quality of slight awkwardness, hand-crafted idiosyncrasy. His involvement in theatrical soundtracks might provide an explanation for this: the whole listening experience appears to be haunted by the spirit of a rickety Pierrot or an odd echo of the long tradition of Polish surrealism in theatre, poster and animation art, which similarly combined the welcoming with the peculiar.
Overall, the headlining artists – even though operating in very different idioms – have something in common: the quality of making the familiar strange. Piotr Kurek’s performance – and, to a lesser extent, Lutto Lento’s – were displays of music which belong as much to a certain province of retromania as they do to the more remote territories of the outsider.