Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Backspace [augmented] - AD_DA (2019)

Backspace [augmented]

Łukasz Czekała - violin, electronics
Zbigniew Chojnacki - accordion, electronics
Marcin Albert Steczkowski - cornet



By Adam Baruch

This is the debut album by Polish experimental/Avant-Garde duo Backspace, which comprises of violinist Łukasz Czekała and accordionist Zbigniew Chojnacki, who both also employ extensively live electronics in their music. On this album the duo was expanded (or "augmented") to a trio with the addition of cornetist Marcin Steczkowski. The album, recorded live (and unedited), presents four extensive pieces, which are not specifically credited and are assumably spontaneously co-created by the participants.

Chojnacki appeared like a comet on the Polish Jazz/Avant-Garde firmament just a few years ago, but his extraordinary talent and virtuosic performances on the accordion, a sadly much neglected instrument in Jazz and experimental music, earned him an almost instant stardom, despite his youthfulness. I have followed closely his development both as a recording artist and live performer from the onset of his career and invited him to perform a solo concert during the Singer Jazz Festival in 2017. In the process I witnessed his rapid metamorphosis from a timid wunderkind to a full blown and mature sound magician.

Another aspect of his development over time was the growing involvement with electronic sound devices, which gradually overshadowed the acoustic sound of the accordion and become almost completely a wall of synthesized sound effects, often completely detached from any straightforward melodic substance. And yet this accordion/electronics fusion, which might have caused some of his early admirers to stay behind, developed into a new phantasmagoric instrument that places Chojnacki right along the leaders of the pack.

However, in the company of Czekała and Steczkowski, who create a plethora of exquisite melodic passages, both brief and prolonged, his role as integrator and supplier of the sound layers behind the violin and cornet "soloing" is absolutely stunning. Listeners expecting to hear any unambiguous accordion on this album will be obviously disappointed, but there are plenty of brilliant passages created by Chojnacki. The performance of the trio is absolutely mesmerizing and offers a perfect model of what one might expect from contemporary electro-acoustic music. For the entire duration of the album there is an intimate closeness between the performers and the listener and a calm, wonderful warmness of co-existence. The interplay and coordination between the trio members is nothing short of being telepathic. I hope my attention to the role of Chojnacki in this recording does not overshadow the contributions of Czekała and Steczkowski, which are of course equally important.

Overall this is an absolute brilliant piece of contemporary music, cross-genre and beyond classification, which shows the way and explores uncharted territory, offering a non-aggressive, cohesive and aesthetically pleasing piece of modern sound Art (since calling it just music might not do it justice). There is almost nothing else I could recommend as warmly as this gem!

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