A Foreigner's Guide to Polish Electronic Music
small, A Foreigner's Guide to Polish Electronic Music, Krzysztof Penderecki and Eugeniusz Rudnik in Polish Radio's Experimental Studio, April 1972, photograph from Ludwik Erhardt's book "Spotkania z Krzysz, penderecki_studio_eksperymentalne.jpg
2016 update: You can read our fancy new multimedia version of this guide by clicking on the image below. It features even more up-to-date artists and music, including a tuneable radio!
Getting Started With Polish Electronic Music
Culture.pl’s hope is that the stories and examples which can be found below will encourage you to explore the universe of Polish electronic music and discover the planets which fit your taste best! Feel free to post any comments – there is no way this guide could be fully complete or comprehensive, and your input could be a valuable contribution to the first ever Foreigner’s Guide to Polish Electronic Music. Off we go!
1. Could one hit of a Turkish cymbal have changed the history of electronic music?
2. Given that I'm an engineer, can I still become a prophet of electroacoustic contemporary classical music?
3. Did those venerable composers of electroacoustic classical music ever try to perform live?
4. What happened when computers became a common thing?
5. I love fantasy, sci-fi, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk! Anything similar in Poland?
6. I am a loner and I like to listen to other loners’ music when I am alone.
7. Is it possible to keep up to date without free media, going abroad, or recent albums on shops’ shelves?
8. Polish Techno? - That sounds wild! Tell me about it!
9. I’ll listen to Polish electronic music, as long as it is on vinyl.
10. The only things that come mind when I hear about electronic music are the Cinematic Orchestra, Jazzanova and Bonobo…
11. I don’t really care about the history. Tell me what’s up NOW!
12. Please don’t torture me with all this avant-garde-underground-experimental things! I want disco and nothing else!
13. Any kind of mainstream music is boring. Any micro-genres that you Poles specialise in?
14. For me remixes are the essence of electronic music!
15. Boiler Room is the only trademark I trust. Did it reach Poland?
It All Started With One Hit of a Cymbal – The Polish Radio Experimental Studio.
The temporary liberalization of political life in Poland in October 1956 (called the Polish October, or Gomułka’s Thaw) brought with it the establishment of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio. The event was no less than a unique phenomenon for this part of Europe. Ahead of Stockholm and many other centres of music which would establish electronic workshops in the 60s, Poland became an outpost for electroacoustic music. - Marek Zwyrzykowski, Polish Radio journalist.
This is how it all started! Soon the most avant-garde composers – Włodzimierz Kotoński, Krzysztof Penderecki, Andrzej Dobrowolski and Józef Patkowski – guided by the studio engineer Eugeniusz Rudnik and sound engineer Bohdan Mazurek – started to experiment in search for new means of creating contemporary classical music. They started by over-processing a single sound so that it could become the basis for a whole piece of music. The first piece ever to be produced or composed in the Polish Radio Experimental Studio was Włodzimierz Kotoński’s piece titled Study on One Cymbal Stroke.
Study on One Cymbal Stroke – Włodzimierz Kotoński.
Their method of work was very analytical and rooted in an academic way of thinking. After recording the sound of the struck cymbal, they transmuted it in many ways to acquire a wide variety of different sounds. Then, using those sounds as ‘musical bricks’, they implemented contemporary classical music composition techniques – serialism, dodecaphony and the aesthetic means used in musique concrète. The first pieces recorded at the Polish Radio Experimental Studio were even transcribed and published in the form of scores by Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne – even Study on One Cymbal Stroke!
Another sign of how much the traditions influenced the pioneers of electronic music is Andrzej Dobrowolski’s Passacaglia, a piece that follows all the strict rules of the form of Baroque passacaglia but is created with electronically processed sounds only – in this case from five drum noises. Krzysztof Penderecki went even further by introducing electronics into sacred music. By that time, he was already a recognised composer, having to his merit a few widely-acclaimed vocal pieces such as Psalms of David, Strophes and the vocal instrumental Dimensions of Time and Silence. His electroacoustic Psalmus 1961 was composed using similar techniques that Kotoński used for his Study on One Cymbal Stroke but instead of a cymbal’s sound Penderecki used the human voice (spoken or sung vowels and consonants of different length and intensity) as the source material.
Krzysztof Penderecki, Psalmus (1961)
Marek Zwyrzykowski wrote of it:
Two things can be said of the work. On the one hand, it is an expression of the composer's interest in the new media, on the other, it reveals his attachment to tradition. The title – Psalmus 1961 – indicated the contemporary technological context in the centuries-old tradition of psalms in music. Another idea that Penderecki relocated into instrumental music was the underlining of clusters in the score.
Enter Eugeniusz Rudnik
As mentioned before, the group of composers perfectly educated in classical music composition was assisted by two engineers who played the role of their guides – revealing the arcane intricacies of electronic sound processing and working arm-in-arm with the composers on developing the sounds they needed. One of them – Eugeniusz Rudnik – soon turned out to be a visionary. Being conscious of the limitless spectrum of possibilities of the instruments he used, and at the same time not burdened with an overwhelming knowledge about the rules of composition, he started creating timeless pieces. One of his published first works was Collage from 1965, of which he said:
"It's the overblown music of the apparatus on which I performed all those precise, squeaky clean, sterile sounds. If you open the muffler a little wider, the console starts to whirr and tremble. There's a pulse, there's the subconscious gurgling of blood in the arteries and veins which we don't hear on a daily basis. You have to close the human in an insulated room to make him hear himself. I recorded that soul, that pulse, that filth, that misfortune of the engineers and called it my work. I gave it a title and said: this is Eugeniusz Rudnik's composition. It can be classified in the great big branch of bruitism, the music of buzzing sounds, rotten materials, music made from non-precious sounds".
Rudnik soon started evolving as a composer, incorporating more and more characteristic movements, and adding a social context to his work. He increasingly smuggled ideas into his music critical towards the communist regime and made it even more sensitive and concrete. What is so inspiring about his music is that listeners can follow each sound's process of transmutation. You can hear almost every touch that Rudnik gave to the magnetic tape, you can notice when he starts using filters, mufflers… Maybe this is because he plays his instruments in a way much more comprehensible for a non-musician than the composers who did things as arcane as transposing the baroque form of passacaglia into electronic music. Rudnik admitted that simplicity and straightforwardness were always his weapons of choice:
I’m a widely known composer and sound engineer of contemporary electronic music in Poland, Europe and both Americas. The funny and unbelievable part of it is that I have never spent a single hour at a music lesson. I am a provincial man and this is my potato-analogue requiem. I always wanted my heritage to be hundreds of kilometres of my tapes which include sounds, drafts, samples and loops rather than devoting my time to an academic career. My dream is that in the years to come, young musicians will take my works and confront them with their music…
Learn more about Rudnik:
Krzysztof Knittel & KEW – Introducing Synthesizers
Around 1970, the Polish Radio Experimental Studio started introducing a new method of working – voltage control, and this opened a brand new chapter in the history of Polish electronic music. Before, the creative process was based on manually cutting the tape with previously recorded sounds and then editing it and layering it so that it became a full composition. It was a very laborious and time-consuming process. On the contrary, voltage control technology allowed composers to create music in real time, thereby performing live electronic music. Instead of editing pre-recorded sounds, they could play it live on synthesizers and gradually add more and more complicated structures. It made the performance of electronic music much closer to that of classical music. This new method ‘animated’ electronic music, which had previously been played mostly from tapes, so it was very much needed. Musicians were again indispensable as a middleman between the composer and listeners, and because this new music had its own new requirements and new instruments, it was very often the composer who performed his music himself.
In 1970, the Polish Radio Experimental Studio acquired its first Moog synthesizer and in 1973, a Synthi AKS synthesizer. In 1970, Krzysztof Knittel, an adventurous young composer of electronic music born in 1948, started his work at the studio. Krzysztof Knittel is probably the most independent Polish contemporary composer as he follows his own path, ignoring the main trends that have shaped the changing musical landscape of our times.
He debuted at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1975 with Points/Lines - a piece for clarinet, tapes and slides. In the subsequent year he created The Conqueror Worm, a composition based on electronic sounds and the electronically-processed sounds of the violin and trombone. His further exploration of combining electronic with acoustic sounds re-morphed by electronic devices made him present odds and ends (click here to listen...) at the Warsaw Autumn Festival 1978 – a piece for tape made entirely from the over-processed hums of Niagara Falls. Together with Wojciech Michniewski and Elżbieta Sikora, he formed the KEW Group and presented an experimental improvisation at the Warsaw Autumn Festival titled The Second Secret Poem (click here to listen...), the first multimedia composition in the history of Polish electronic music. At that time, he was already a well-known song composer. A song he wrote – Autumn Concert (click here to listen...), sang by Magda Umer – increased his popularity further.
Krzysztof Knittel is not only a composer but also a very active and innovative musician. He used to perform his own compositions, and take care of sound engineering at his own concerts, as well as playing other composers’ pieces. For example, he was the first Polish composer ever to use computer synthesis in electronic music, which he did for his performance of Włodzimierz Kotoński’s Spring Music at the University at Buffalo in the US. For this occasion, he prepared tapes using a computer language known as MUSIC V.
Krzysztof Knittel and KEW are eminent representatives of the second generation of electronic music creators, but there are many more names to be discovered such as: Paweł Szymański, Andrzej Bieżan and Stanisław Krupowicz.
More about Knittel:
Everybody Owns a PC… What Now?
After its period of blossoming in full, the Polish Radio Experimental Studio gradually started losing its role as the leading group of creators of electronic music. Not only synthesizers but also personal computers became affordable and common and soon every composer could easily equip himself with the appropriate gear. Moreover, the political consequences of martial law (introduced in December 1981) got long-time studio director Józef Patkowski fired. His successor, Ryszard Szeremeta, raised the very last generation of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio's composers: Magdalena Długosz (born 1954), Anna Zawadzka (1955), Edward Sielicki (1956), Hanna Kulenty (1961), Jacek Grudzień (1961), Krzysztof Czaja (1962), and Jarosław Kapuściński (1964). In 1998, he resigned, and in 2004, the studio came to the end of its history. All of its archives became the property of Programme II of the Polish National Radio and came under the careful authority of Marek Zwyrzykowski – a journalist who actively promotes electronic music on various radio shows.
Yet it was not only the Experimental Studio that lost its status as a compelling novelty. There was a global tendency for electronic music as a genre to become just another branch of music, and it became a day-to-day practice to introduce electronic parts into pieces of classical contemporary music. In 2002, the very last event distinguished as an ‘electronic music concert’ took place at the Warsaw Autumn Festival, but it already had a retrospective character as it presented composers from three subsequent generations: Włodzimierz Kotoński (born 1925), Anna Maciejasz-Kamińska, Józef Rychlik (1946), Mateusz Bień (1968) and Magdalena Długosz (1954).
However, the society of the creators and pioneers of electronic music in Poland remained very active. Knittel and Krupowicz are the heads of electronic music departments at universities of music in (respectively) Łódź and Wrocław. The latter city became the capital of Polish electronic music. It is the place where one of the important electronic music festivals - Musica Electronica Nova – takes place every year, an event that goes far beyond bare presentations of electronic compositions. Its artistic director Elżbieta Sikora (co-founder of KEW) said of it:
(...) Contemporary electronic music has a lot of forms and incarnations. It flirts with techno, noise and other, often just emerging, genres. Our aim is to introduce electronic music into spheres where it is not so often seen – into opera, ballet, video installations or video performances.
Festival’s website: http://en.musicaelectronicanova.pl/
In 2005, the Polish Society for Electroacoustic Music (PseME) was founded in Kraków. Its main goal is to promote Polish electroacoustic art (electronic music, sound installations, and audio-visual, video and interactive art) abroad, inside the network of festivals, concert series and all other electroacoustic art projects coordinated by the International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music (CIME/ICEM) in Bourges (supported by UNESCO). PSeMe was initiated by Józef Patkowski, Ryszard Szeremeta, Elzbieta Sikora, Krzysztof Szlifirski and Marek Chołoniewski.
Society's website: www.pseme.com
From the preceding section, one could conclude that the popularization of portable synthesizers and computers resulted in the collapse of Polish electronic music. Nothing could be more wrong! Analogue-electronic instruments soon became the weapon of choice for musicians not related to classical music. These musicians showed willing to create things more accessible by far than the music of Patkowski, Knittel and other composers deeply rooted in the atonal music of Italian futurists or Pierre Schaeffer’s musique concrete. Inspired by Tangerine Dream and Jean Michelle Jarre, Polish producers started creating their own world of electronic music. This is how El-muzyka (El-music) was born. What is El-muzyka? Jerzy Kordowicz, a journalist who devoted his entire radio career to promoting it, described it so:
Czesław Niemen and Marek Biliński created the name ‘El-muzyka’ for the purpose of distinguishing a certain style within the broad genre of electronic music. This style is also called ‘electronic rock’ or ‘synthesizer music’, the precise categorization of which is extremely difficult because of its very dynamic evolution.
El-muzyka is a name used to describe listening to music that consists of (mostly, but not exclusively) instrumental pieces created with the use of electronic instruments, over-processed sounds of nature and electronically generated sounds. These compositions were meant to inspire listeners' imaginations and introduce them to a certain ambience. They reflected composers’ and performers’ private ways of perceiving the world, new technologies, the universe and exceptional natural phenomena. They are also characterised by widely differentiated forms and lengths of arrangements; from terse etudes to elaborate suites and sound structures. (Excerpt from Jerzy Kordowicz’s programme on Channel I of the National Radio)
What is also very specific about this music is that it was usually designed in a way to be very concrete, to evoke certain associations, to tell the story of a land or culture. The best example of this is Władysław Komendarek, who claims to have never used (beside samples cut from pieces that were not his own) a single word in any language known to the human race. He improvises words and melodies, thereby creating chants from outer space. The suggestiveness of El-muzyka is not only manifested by the music itself but also by the semi-poetic titles which very often refer to emotions and the cosmos. Just a few examples:
- Powrót z materii międzygwiazdowej / The Return From The Interstellar Matter – Władysław Komendarek
- Przez pryzmat kryształu / Through The Prism of a Crystal – Krzysztof Duda
- Allegoric Conception of a Dream – Up Stream
- … and finally classic of classics: Lost In Outer Space – Igor Czerniawski
Its imaginative character can be observed as easily in the design of its CD/LP covers:
Even though El-muzyka nowadays may sound out-dated, its fans still form a very active and committed group. Until 2010, they gathered around Jerzy Kordowicz’s radio programmes broadcast by Programme III of the National Polish Radio, and when Kordowicz stopped fitting in with the radio station's format, after organising vehement protests, they moved to the Internet, starting numerous blogs, YouTube channels, and forums. Here is a short list of them:
Because writing about music is like dancing about architecture, let’s have a look at a few venerable El-muzyka masters' lives and works. Writing their proper biographies seems to be useless for the purposes of this guide (tl;dr), so let’s jump straight to what is so specific about each of them and let’s take for granted that their life was a success story and that they performed at all major festivals and hit the top of the electronic music charts (which, in fact, is what all of their biographies say).
As previously mentioned, Biliński is a co-creator of the term El-muzyka. Moreover, his most popular music video has become a flagship of El-muzyka and was voted the best music video of the year 1984 by viewers of state (there was no other) television.
Marek Biliński - Ucieczka z tropiku, 1984.
He is a true pioneer of El-muzyka, and was one of the very first to give live concerts with popular electronic music in Poland. His preferred way of performing is to take part in sound & light performances, because he thinks that electronic music needs a bit of illustration to get the listener into the desired state of mind. The music of Marek Biliński has been a source of inspiration for many artists from different fields of art, such as a ballet written to his music from Dziecko Słońca / A Child of the Sun. A fact surprising for foreigners – for several years he lectured at the Academy of Music in… Kuwait (which is not really surprising for those who know of the intense cultural and scientific exchange between Poland and Kuwait in the 1990s).
Komendarek is a truly iconic character of Polish electronic music. His personality, uncompromising attitude, and strange image, as well as his being a member of the progressive band Exodus, made him a very popular solo artist in the 1980s. His music is an extremely uncommon combination of progressive rock (Komendarek loves King Crimson), classical piano music and an endless craving for the wildest electronic experiments. Recently, he has been cooperating with Polish pop star Tomek Makowiecki by appearing during his live shows to play ground-shaking solos, proving his incredible showmanship. His output is so varied that it would take at least fifteen examples to give even the most general overview of his creativity.
What Niemen is commonly known for is his 1960s protest anthem – Dziwny jest ten świat / Strange Is This World (click here to listen...). The song made his career and assured him a place for evermore in the Polish pop stars hall of fame. Yet, he would never appear in this guide if it wasn’t for his unstoppable drive to push the boundaries of his musical inspirations. From the early 1970s, Niemen started intensive experimentation, and soon became a leading figure in avant-garde and psychedelic music. His first solo electronic album was Katharsis.
This extremely original album earned him a lot of attention and many comparisons to the classics of electronic music genre, such as Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze. Noteworthy trivia – he was the first pop musician to use the Moog synthesizer in Poland.
The youngest of the El-muzyka creators presented in this guide. His debut electronic album was released in 1993, and right from the start, he established himself as the most intriguing minimal/ambient artist, with his works inspired by Polish folklore and catholic spirituality. Throughout his career, he has recorded albums from industrial through kosmiche musik up to alternative pop – with the band Futro and then with the well-known singer Gaba Kulka. His name will come up again in this guide…
A Brief Step Aside Before We Get To Electronic Dance Music
Before we get to electronic dance music, there is one more character to be presented – Zbigniew Karkowski. He was a widely recognized composer of noise music (however, he always rejected being pigeonholed). His artistic attitude was the epitome of the constant chase for unlimited freedom. For this purpose, he left Europe as a teenager:
I never wanted to live and work in a society based on state grants (which is very common in Europe). I wanted to be independent, to make money on my work, without any institutional support, because I deeply believe that one‘s mind cannot really be free when you are always dependant on something. Without a free mind, there is no way good, strong things can be created – said Karkowski in an interview with Marcin Barski for Glissando Magazine.
Karkowski was very often opposed to the society of contemporary classical music. He used to criticise the fact that for 50 years, the same records had been sold and advertised (Steve Reich, Schönberg, Webern or Berg). He never took up an academic career, even though he was taught by the best masters imaginable (Iannis Xenakis, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez and Georges Aperghis). Zbigniew Karkowski died of cancer in 2013 but his works and character remain iconic among listeners of truly avant-garde music all over the world.
Electronic Dance Music Seeps into Poland
To understand the beginnings of electronic dance music in Poland, a very brief historical background has to be presented. Until 1989, Poland was a communist country, therefore subject to several rules that applied to all states within the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union. The most important of them was full state control of the media, travel abroad, and the import of goods. The way that the communist authorities executed this power was by ensuring there was no free and independent media, letting no one have permanent passport (you had to apply for it each time, and applications were rejected more often than not), and treating importing goods as the most suspicious of activities, which could easily bring the importer accusations of doing some dodgy dealings.
Electronic dance music was treated as a fruit of the moral decay of capitalist countries and was banished from the state-owned media. This is why until 1989, electronic dance music was almost absent from Polish music, and the only way it could get through the iron curtain was by private citizens buying vinyl records abroad and bringing a very limited number of copies to Poland in their own luggage. People like Krzysztof Knittel or Czesław Niemen, who could go on scholarships (Knittel in Buffalo) or tour abroad and buy synthesizers in Western Europe (Niemen), were some of the very few that had a chance to realize what the trends in new music looked like abroad. This is why the only word that appropriately describes the relationship the between Polish electronic music artists and those of the rest of world is: ISOLATION.
This is also why the first traces of Polish electronic dance music date back not to the 1970s but to the very late 1980s. In 1985, Polish punk band Bexa lala started introducing electronics into their music to create some sort of experimental ambient.
That was also the time when people already involved in creating listening electronic music and industrial rock started to engage in producing more dance-y tunes. One of the very first projects that was born this way was Trumpets & Drums. Daniel Kleczyński who was tired of being stuck in the industrial rock clichés decided to do something fresh. What he came up with was a combination of electro and heavy industrial sounds, resulting in music with a very dark and catastrophic mood.
The album Buy & Die was (ironically, given the title) the first and the last by Trumpets & Drums that was to be released in Poland (two more were released abroad in subsequent years), but their successors soon started to emerge. Bexa lala was in the game again. Its leader Cezary Ostrowski changed the band’s personnel once more and released an album inspired by industrial music and the early work of Prodigy.
1990s: Techno and House on the Full Throttle
In 1989 and 1990, Eastern Europe was finally emancipated from the yoke of the Soviet Union. In Poland, democracy gradually took over the power, and in Germany, the Wall dividing the country (and Berlin) was demolished. At that moment, the vivid, trance-like and hedonistic music from Detroit known as techno turned out to be the perfect soundtrack for the generation of youths coming out of the era of stagnation and overwhelming state control. In the documentary about the most famous Berlin techno club, The Story Of Tresor by Tilmann Künzel, the narrator says in the very first minutes of the film:
There was no freedom, there was frustration. When the wall came down, Techno arrived in Berlin. In 1990, 1991, 1992, the authorities were not interested in what we are doing. There was this feeling: ‘Hey, we can do whatever we want!’. The avalanche started and we went from a couple of hundred to about ten thousand people in one year.
The aura of spontaneity was present in Warsaw. Thanks to the new freedom to import music, DJs could buy vinyl records abroad, and they started playing pieces of all the new genres, non-existent in Poland until then: hip-hop, trance, jungle, breakbeat, etc. Moreover, it became standard for dance clubs to be organised into two rooms: one for dancing to techno, house or whatever, and the other, usually called the chill out room, where they served mostly ambient, minimal and later, trip hop. By this means young people could enjoy the freshest pieces from Western Europe and the United States.
Jacek Sienkiewicz & Recognition Recordings
One of the kids amazed by this wave of new music was Jacek Sienkiewicz. He started as a DJ but after his journey to Berlin, where he bought records by Robert Hood and Cristian Vogel, he started the gathering gear indispensable to a professional producer.
Eventually I bought a Roland TB303 in 1996 – he said in an interview with Paweł Gzyl for muzyka.onet.pl – At first I thought that it is enough to produce a whole piece but than I discovered it was only a bass synthesizer. This is how I started completing my equipment: TB303, then a sampler, drums, and other synthesizers. To be honest, I never stopped this process.
Jacek started producing in 1997, and in 1999 he self-released the very first Polish Techno album, titled Recognition. Surprisingly (for him as well) it became widely acclaimed not only in Poland but also abroad. He was invited to perform in the capitals of European electronic music – Berlin and London. Soon, he moved to Berlin and got the opportunity to record an album for Cocoon – a label owned and run by legendary DJ and producer Sven Väth. Jacek Sienkiewicz immediately became the most recognizable artist in Polish electronic dance music. In the following years, he released many magnificent albums and founded Recognition Recordings – to date, one of the strongest voices in Polish techno, gathering artists and collectives such as Chino, Sroczyński & Prus, Tumult Hands (Jacek Sienkiewicz is a part of it) and Jurek Przeździecki. Yet, when Jacek’s popularity started to grow, he backed down and continued his path as an uncompromising artist:
Back in the day, when I was beginning, everything was natural and spontaneous, people used to have fun and really devote themselves to music. Capitalism, though, did its job. Nowadays, electronic music has a similar status to pop and is subject to the rules of typical marketing. It is no longer the underground that I used to love. This is why I backtracked and decided to step aside. I returned to my psychedelic experiments designated to a more adventurous group of listeners.
Learn more about Jacek Sienkiewicz:
Katarzyna ‘Novika’ Nowicka
The burgeoning Polish electronic music had also its female incarnation – Katarzyna ‘Novika’ Nowicka. Just like Jacek Sienkiewicz, she was in her twenties in the mid 1990s and became totally absorbed by the new music. She started her career as a vocalist, joining DJ’s collective Boogie Mafia during their live acts, but soon moved to DJ-ing in chill out rooms.
With the passing of time, chillout music started to speed up – Novika said in an interview with Paweł Gzyl for muzyka.onet.pl. – this is how chill out rooms became alternative dance rooms! People no longer felt the need to listen to ambient and relax on the sofas…
It became obvious that there was a gap that has to be filled with new music, something danceable but relaxed and smooth. In 2000, Novika joined forces with Konrad Kucz (yes, that Konrad Kucz – the eminent El-muzyka artist) and they formed a band called Futro (Fur) that instantly became beloved among the nascent class of alternative pop listeners.
Even though Futro didn’t last long, Novika’s career continued, and to date she remains the first lady of Polish electronic. She releases solo albums, is a part of the popular Beats Friendly DJ collective and has appeared as a guest on many other records. Her role is so special for two reasons: she was a true pioneer for live acts and she did a whole lot for the promotion of electronic music. Even those who do not fancy electronic sounds have heard about Novika and thanks to that – about Polish electronic music.
Vinyl Culture Revived in Poland
The obvious thing about electronic music is its strong link with the culture of the black discs. First of all, it is about the DJs playing all-vinyl sets, but also about the audiophiles and music lovers who want to indulge themselves with music of the finest analogue quality. The beginnings of the vinyl revival in Poland were obviously not easy. Marcin Czubala, co-founder of the Currently Processing Records – one of the very first recording labels that produced vinyl records in Poland after 1989 – said:
It was all insanely complicated! We ordered the vinyl discs to be pressed at some factory in Czech Republic, because in Poland it was completely impossible. Then, all the issues with tax and customs regulations started. No one had a clue how to categorise our product! Moreover, we had to do all the work ourselves. One day, a huge lorry would arrive at our door and we would have to unload thousands of vinyl records on our own! (excerpt from an interview with Paweł Gzyl for muzyka.onet.pl)
From 1993, Wojcek Czern, an original character from the borderlands of eastern Poland, started producing and releasing vinyl records under his self-established label OBUH records. He did it just to make one of his many music dreams come true:
I release records on vinyl just because many of these groups are worth, it and even though they wanted their music to be published this way they never had the chance. Today, their albums are being released in the form of vinyl EPs as homage to their works, paid after many years.
The catalogue of OBUH records (now defunct) was very much varied: from jazz/improv through ambient and industrial to Krzysztof Penderecki’s soundtrack for the Jerzy Has' film The Manuscript Found in Saragossa.
Nowadays, vinyl culture is in full blossom and became standard for more demanding listeners. Almost all of the labels specialising in electronic music (Recognition, UKnowMe, Senseless) decided to press limited editions of their releases on vinyl and numerous re-editions of classic albums are being published as well.
Speaking of vinyl records:
If hipsters base their being hip on foreseeing what is going to be fashionable next month or year, then Skalpel did in 1998–2001 something that will be considered ultra-cool even tomorrow, over a decade after. The duo, originally from Wrocław (one of the biggest cities in the south of Poland) teamed up and seriously got into Polish jazz and fusion vinyl records. The next step of their cooperation was sampling all those classic LPs and spending months and years assembling their cut-and-paste mosaics and morphing dusty jazz pieces into the freshest nu-jazz tracks! The music they created was so strong and surprising that in 2003 they were offered a recording contract by Ninja Tune, which was the genre's most prestigious label at that time. Skalpel's music is the perfect combination of their fascination with the past and the future. Their highly original and extremely creative approach toward the rich-but-unknown improvised musical heritage of their country resulted in the creation of albums that were the subject of rapturous acclaim and popularity.
Skalpel remains active to date. Their most recent EP was released in 2014 and is titled Simple, but most thrilling of all – their first full-length release in 9 years (working title: Transit) is to be released in the foreseeable future.
More about Simple on Culture.pl
Disco is back!
Everything you wanted to know about Polish disco but were afraid to ask:
Polish Electronic Music Delights of the Present Day
The 21st century has brought an explosion of electronic music. Common Internet access, the popularization of mp3 format, p2p networks, YouTube, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, and a million other factors enabled everybody to listen to any artist they want, any time they want, for free or for a pittance (legally or otherwise). This huge and complex process resulted in a situation where the electronic music society became deeply globalized and the exchange of knowledge and experiences between producers became massive.
Here is a brief presentation of what is trending right now.
Tip: If you read the chapter: 1990s Techno & House on a Full Throttle, leave out the first few paragraphs.
Juke It (In Poland)
Recently Juke turned out to be a Polish speciality. Read the full story on Culture.pl
Re:polished - International Hits Remixed in Poland
Boiler Room comes to Poland
This year Boiler Room travelled to Poland to broadcast shows from Warsaw & Krakow. While we were there we explored the scene, talked to local artists and tried to find out what makes the music scene in Poland different from anywhere else.
Polish Radio Experimental Studio
electronic dance music
a foreigner's guide to Poland
Author: Wojciech Oleksiak, September 2014, with great help from the Culture.pl Polish section music editor Filip Lech (thanks man!).
Muzyka elektroakustyczna w Polsce – Mieczysław Kominek / Culture.pl
Studio Eksperymentalne Polskiego Radia i początki muzyki elektroakustycznej w Polsce - Marek Zwyrzykowski / Culture.pl
Ishkur’s Guide To Electronic Music / Techno.org
Mooza Muzyka Elektroniczna / Mooza.pl
‘Oceany i Komputery’ (Olga Drenda) / Dwutygodnik.pl
Początki nowej elektroniki nad Wisłą: jak wymyślano w Polsce techno i house (Paweł Gzyl) / Muzyka.onet.pl