Wednesday, November 30, 2016

PSM – Lis (2016)


Łukasz Poprawski - alto saxophone, bassoon
Jan Smoczyński - Arp Odyssey, Roland Jx-3p,
Michał Miśkiewicz - drums, Roland Spd-sx



By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Jazz trio PSM, which comprises of saxophonist Łukasz Poprawski, keyboardist Jan Smoczyński and drummer Michał Miśkiewicz. It presents eleven original compositions, five of which were co-composed by Poprawski and Smoczyński and six were co-composed/improvised by all three members of the trio. The album was recorded at the Studio Tokarnia, which is owned by Smoczyński, who also engineered the recording.

The music is very difficult to classify, as it elegantly avoids any specific genre, perhaps due to the unique sound of the synthesizers, which dominates it. Smoczyński plays the classic analog synthesizer ARP Odyssey (or perhaps the new Korg reissue) and the vintage Roland JX-3P synthesizer, which were popular in the 1970s and 1980s (respectively), but are rarely used today. Listeners used to Smoczyński playing the piano will find his playing here completely different of course. Large parts of the music seem to be improvised, with the saxophone exploring the usual melodic plane while the synthesizer adds weird mechanical/industrial pulsing background.

Overall the music is completely unique on today's Improvised Music scene, incorporating elements of New Wave, Krautrock and other synthesizer oriented Rock movements from the 1980s transported thirty plus years forward in time towards today and overdubbed with almost Free Jazz saxophone improvisations. Of course my feeble attempt to describe this music verbally should be simply replaced by listening to the music.

The overall result is intriguing and certainly unusual, but is definitely not easy to listen to, except for very open-minded and patient listeners. The synthesizers sound definitely weird and uninviting and their combination with the solo saxophone work on top is challenging. The rhythmic pulse provided by the drums keeps the music on track, and enables the listener not to loose track, but does not ease the effort needed to follow the music. Of course all the individual performances are absolutely top notch.

Personally I admire Jan's and his colleagues' vision to make such a bizarre and challenging album, but I am afraid it will by way overhead of the average listener, even on the advanced and well educated Polish scene. Hopefully at least some people will find this album deserving their attention, as it is definitely worthy. As usual Jan proves he is one of the most interesting musicians/personalities on the Polish scene, who deserves to be followed closely.

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