During the unbelievable heat waves of summer 2015, KEXP, the world-famous radio and art organisation from Seattle, visited the OFF Festival in Katowice, an event known for being one of the best alternative music festivals in Europe. However, KEXP's experts didn’t come to Poland to look for international headliners…
Instead, they selected 10 Polish alternative bands, almost completely unknown internationally, and recorded live video sessions with them. The results turned out to be simply mind-blowing!
The bands captured by KEXP range from far-out avant-garde to mild alternative pop. So that you don't get lost or discouraged in case the first video isn't to your taste, Culture.pl has selected 5 acts to easily get you started discovering the best Polish alternative music from 2015. Here, we present only short excerpts of each performance, for full sets see the links below.
Coals – November
They come from Silesia, a region known for coal mining and its distinctive culture and traditional language, incomprehensible to other Poles. Coals' members claim to be escapists, looking for calm and nostalgia somewhere on the outskirts of the roaring present-day reality. Indeed, there is some sort of charming simplicity and modesty that leaves you no doubts as to whether their music is anything but pure honesty. Given that the duet has been working together for no longer than a year now, their potential seems to be limitless. Here's a little sample of it:
Kristen – Endless Happiness
Genre: Post-rock, noise
Kristen is the opposite of Coals in terms of the stage of their music's development. They’ve played together since 1997 and released seven albums, which can be used nowadays as Kristen’s travel diary, marking the subsequent steps of their changing musical inspirations and directions. At their session for KEXP Kristen played a post-rock set with easily recognizable noise influences, with a whole lot of improvisation but little left to chance. If you're looking for refinement, temperance, and consciously-dosed expression, Kristen is a must-hear!
Sutari – Kupalnocka
I’ve never seen anything quite like your performance and I absolutely loved it!
Those were the words of Cheryl Waters, the host of KEXP's Polish sessions. She must have been absolutely honest about this, because how on earth could had she have seen a trio that performs their own interpretations of traditional Polish country songs using three voices and traditional instruments as well as kitchen utensils, bottles of water and a spanner?
The main idea behind Sutari is to carefully transpose traditional folk songs into a musical language comprehensible to the present day audience but still to be able to convey the ambience and messages of the original chants. They sing in a very intricate way – their voices interweave so that sometimes it’s impossible to tell who’s singing what, they change their tone in unison, and interact and perform as if they were one organism. They recently took the international traditional music world by storm when they gave one of the best performances of the Womex World Music Expo.
Olo Walicki Kaszebe II – Las
Bandleader Olo Walicki is one of the most recognised Polish bassists in jazz and improvised music. Olo Walicki Kaszebe is his very personal project, his own artistic interpretation of the reality of the region where he lives – Kaszuby. This highly original music based on strong guitar riffs and firm melodies is a tribute to Kaszuby’s nature from one side, but carries a lot of social criticism on the other. The music is full of unexpected twists, characteristic sounds and hard-driving grooves. The lyrics for Olo’s first album dedicated to the Kaszuby region was written entirely in Kaszubian – a language/dialect used exclusively by the region’s inhabitants. A truly worthwhile rarity.
Hańba – Gmachy
Genre: Folk Punk Rock
Have you ever wondered how punk rock would sound if it had come into existence not in 1970s but during the interwar period? People don’t usually ask themselves this kind of question but Hańba's members did, and went even further by creating a time-travelling street band that simultaneously draws inspiration from two distant worlds and eras: the Poland of the 1930s and the UK of the 1970s. The outcome of this surprising fusion is a high-octane street band playing punk interpretations of songs directly taken or at least heavily inspired by Polish interwar culture. To get a taste of how engaging it is have a look at Hańba performing on the picturesque street of Nikiszowiec in Katowice’s historical district.
The remaining 5 performances recorded by KEXP (equally awsome!) are:
Małe Miasta (post hip-hop)
Enchanted Hunters (alt pop)
Ukryte Zalety Systemu (post punk, cold wave)
The Stubs (rock’n roll)
Author: Wojciech Oleksiak, 11.11.2015.