Jacek Staniszewski- Zawstydzajacy Dar (CD Lumberton Trading)
The front cover of Jacek Staniszewski’s ‘Zawstydzajacy Dar’ depicts a malevolent looking cat having, well, a piss. The look on its face is part demonic and part elated. In a strange way it totally sums up the music ‘Zawstydzajacy Dar’ contains. Staniszewski has created music that contains both moments of sheer euphoria as well as terror. But considering the album is roughly translates to ‘Embarrassing Gift’ it all makes sense.
Opening track ‘Pengr’ tells us everything we need to know about the album. Shimmering cascading synths create hypnotic maelstroms that gently whip around us, while rhythmic glitches chirp just below the surface. It is disorienting, but not unpleasant. ‘Pengr’ also tell us that this will be an album where beats and basslines probably aren’t going to feature heavily.
‘Zefx’ continues this blueprint, but Staniszewski has added some percussive elements. Static scatter shots shower gentle bass rumbles, creating some low-tempo techno. The percussive motifs aren’t present for the 10 minute duration, but its inclusion sets ‘Zefx’ apart from the pack and delivers some of the albums standout moments.
Despite all its bluster ‘Zawstydzajacy Dar’ is an incredibly graceful album, chocked full of delicate melodies. At first there is a feeling of being overawed by the sheer scope of these sonic workouts, as at times it feels like everything will collapse under their weight, but Staniszewski has layered some serious foundations. As the synths gently sway they are underpinned by glitchy sounds that prevent the songs becoming stagnant. As graceful as the synths are, it’s these stuttering undercurrents that are the standout moment on each track. Sometimes they are used sparingly, to punctuate the drones, but in songs like ‘Toglos’ and ‘Zefx’, they are the focal point.
The main complaint about ‘Zawstydzajacy Dar’ is that the first four songs could easily be trimmed. Each one is way over the 10 minute mark and ‘Toglos’ is just shy of 25 mins. There are long sections that are interesting as you can see what Staniszewski is doing, but they don’t really work. Yes, overall the album feels like an exercise in tone vs. tune but these elongated sections can be a slog to get through. That said the album works best when you just press play and let it wash over you, whilst picking out phrases that pique you.
What ‘Zawstydzajacy Dar’ does well, however, is to invert contemporary dance/electronic music, a world where beats and basslines aren’t the main event, instead we are confronted with visceral melodies that terrify as much as they excite, much like the artwork for ‘Zawstydzajacy Dar’. It’s a world where not everything makes sense, or works, but it is exciting to be. NR.