Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sambar - Melt! (2014)


Paulina Owczarek - baritone saxophone
Tomasz Gadecki - baritone saxophone



By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish Avant-garde/Improvised Music duo Sambar, or saxophonists Paulina Owczarek and Tomasz Gadecki, both playing the baritone saxophone exclusively on this album. It captures a live performance by the duo at the legendary Alchemia club in Kraków, which is edited into four separate parts. Although not specifically attributed as such, the music is obviously co-created by the duo members. Both Owczarek and Gadecki are very active and prolific members of the Polish Avant-garde scene.

Avant-garde by definition knows no limitations or preconceived boundaries, and therefore we should actually never be surprised by anything artists active in that sphere will come up with. But there are always innovations that make us raise the proverbial brow, and this is certainly one of those. The baritone saxophone is not a very popular instrument in general and in Improvised Music in particular and a duo of baritone saxophones freely improvising is simply almost unheard of. And yet, once one listens to this album, even that surprising setup proves workable when handled by daring and creative artists.

The music on this album challenges the very fabric of our conception as to what music actually is. The traditional elements of melody, harmony and rhythm are almost completely irrelevant here and one is left only with pure sound and the way our brain interprets it. In fact listening to this music is really similar to taking part in the process of actually creating it. Sadly this is also this music's greatest weakness, not intrinsically but as a result of the inability of the vast majority of listeners to engage in such process. 

As a result this music will be fascinating to a very selective group of listeners but completely unacceptable (if not unlistenable) to the majority. This is the price tag associated with innovative artistic search processes and I have always had the deepest respect to those artists who are willing to pay that price. Overall this is a bold and very interesting artistic statement condemned to limited appeal. I wish the world was different, but I have no illusions on that subject. Respect!

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