Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Paweł Szamburski - Uroboros (2021)

Paweł Szamburski

Uroboros (2021)


Text: Jędrzej Janicki

Translation: Piotr Andrzejewski

Polish Version: link


Back in the day, the 20 March 1971 issue of the popular magazine Disc & Music Echo carried the screaming headline: Good Heavens, Now Ian Anderson Wants Us to Think! What the editors had in mind was, of course, the phenomenal album Aqualung by Jethro Tull, which was released a dozen or so hours earlier. Over fifty years later, the slogan kept gnawing at my brain while I was getting more and more captivated by Paweł Szamburski’s album titled Uroboros. My God, Szamburski wants us to really feel something this time…

Calling Szamburski’s record a solo album would be ridiculously inadequate. It is rather a lonely – if not existential – jump in the deep water, both from the musical and philosophical perspective. Our renowned clarinetist chooses the mysterious Uroboros for his spiritual leader. The symbolism of this serpent eating its own tail has been often reinterpreted over the course of our cultural history, yet for Szamburski this ominous reptile becomes the adequate illustration of the cycle of life. Narodziny (Birth), Życie (Life), Śmierć (Death) – the seemingly banal titles of individual compositions reveal the unbearably brutal and ruthless pattern of life. So simple and yet so meaningful…

The album opens with the ambient sound of a clock ticking. The fans of rock oldies may be familiar with this motif, yet, as the joyful punk band from Gdańsk would say: To nie jest k…. Pink Floyd (This ain’t no f***ing Pink Floyd). OK, let’s cut out the antics, as the supermighty sound of bass clarinet from Birth does not really make us feel too convivial. Szamburski makes use of the often-monophonic drones, which are distant from the traditionally perceived melody, and yet they manage to build a landscape that is filled with suspense and anticipation. This illustrative climate dissipates only in the final parts of the composition. The seeming chaos of the experiment is broken with the toned down, yet unsettling, note of the clarinet, which brings a moment of relief. The most interesting part is, however, still ahead us… The great vocal performance of Józefa Albiniak in the traditional song Around a Child appears in the coda of this piece, and, ladies and gentlemen, what a coda that is! I must admit that it has been very long since I have heard a voice filled with such fire, passion, and emotion that, at the same time, would be underpinned with such an anxiety. Juxtaposed with the background of the lengthy sounds generated by Szamburski, it makes a truly thundering impression. It is the recurrent voice, deeply rooted in Polish tradition that delivers the explosive power of Uroboros. Modernity and tradition, past and present are intertwined in this work to create music that exceeds any timeframes. The piece titled Życie (Life) does not really compare (and even if it does, by no means does it compare unfavorably!) to the rest of the album, as it consists in a lengthy improvisation of Szamburski. Although one listens to it without a hint of boredom, the company of such powerful siblings as Narodziny (Birth) and Śmierć (Death) renders Życie (Life) the least attractive… And Death is not as terrible as it may seem. Even though it is filled with melancholy and, understandably, nostalgia, it reaches beyond our earthly despair to open us to some incomprehensible beauty. And the rough voices towards the final part of the composition leave us speechless, once we reach the real end…

Mr Szamburski! You made it! We have felt something. We are not entirely sure what it is exactly, but we are sure that we are grasping something exceeding the world of art…

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