Review Summary: Music for the Sputnik generation
The ancient planks creak indignantly, woken from their stilted slumber by footsteps that climb somnolently, each step a rude awakening. The only light comes from the candle melting away in your hand, casting rays of light that tumble and chase fleeing shadows across the landing. Gradually the staircase comes to life, the knots in the wood come undone and the ascent becomes easier, till finally you stumble upon a door yawning wearily out of the wall. You touch the worn wood and it inhales reluctantly, revealing pitch black lungs filled with musty air. In the darkness you can make out dark silhouettes outlined by the sputtering candle as it gazes apprehensively into the gloom. Minutes pass as it explores murky recesses. Finally its light falls upon an age old clock slumped like an old man against a wall, counting down the fleeting seconds of life that leak from the room and down the silent stairs.
Welcome to the home of Jacaszek.
Polish composer and multi instrumentalist Michal Jacaszek is known best for breathing life into ancient sounds, and Treny
is perhaps the best example of his work. Featuring nothing but a handful of stringed instruments, a piano and a melancholic woman, it is a touching and brilliantly composed soundtrack to rainy days and profound thoughts.
The music seems deceptively simple, and deliberately so; Jacaszek wisely lets it breathe freely. A solitary violin slides across the sparsely tumbling keys of a piano, occasionally making way for lightly picked arpeggios played on a dust covered acoustic guitar. All the while a mysterious voice acts as the guiding light through the dark; a melodic firefly drifting languidly through the shadowy meadows of space and time. Underpinning the pieces are skeletal glitch drums that are so organic and subtly integrated into the music they sound as if they were generated on a computer made of wood. At first listen the meagre percussion is nothing more than a grandfather clock whiling away its lonely existence; only later on does it become obvious that these noises are dragged from circuits.
Above all, the highest praise must go to Jacaszek for his restraint in both composition and instrumentation – why fill a space with notes or beats when a rest resonates much louder?
The beauty of this album lies in its sadness and the poignant sorrow it emanates from every pore. Oxymoronically, however, it is not depressing in the slightest. Treny
resounds with positive emotion; awe and bewilderment at existence, not suicidal thoughts. Like Swans, it’s emotive music for emotive people who aren’t emo, people who don’t like bad clothes and fringes and self harming.
On second thought, it isn’t Sputnik music at all.