Innercity Ensemble, one of the most compelling young Polish bands, began as a group of random people improvising together at a jam session. The event went so well that the septet, without any changes to their line-up, has already published three LPs and show no signs of slowing down.
In the summer of 2011 at the Mózg club in Bydgoszcz a three-day jam session took place. That was the time when the members played together for the first time, and it marked the beginning of what later came to be known as Innercity Ensemble, a group of connected musicians from Bydgoszcz, Toruń, Poznań, and Warsaw.
Kuba Ziołek, who was responsible for the idea behind the aforementioned session, is one of the most active characters on the Polish independent music scene. He has a degree in philosophy, plays guitar, synthesisers and a sampler, and writes lyrics and sings, although he does not do vocals for Innercity. His solo project, Stara Rzeka, gave him recognition all around Europe. He used to be a member of a few guitar bands which, as he himself later stated, imitated western bands. These days he is keen on entering still stranger collaborations. He or the bands that he is/was in record with French guitarist Richard Pinhas and renowned Polish clarinet player Wacław Zimpel. At the Unsound festival in 2016 he even performed together with Samo, a group from Tajikistan. He is a member of a few groups: Alameda 3 i 5, T’ien Lai, Ed Wood, and Kapital.
Of course, listing all the bands that the members of Innercity play or played with would produce quite a lengthy and varied list, but just to mention a few: Something Like Elvis, Potty Umbrella, Contemporary Noise Sextet, Sing Sing Penelope, Mammoth Ulthana, Grobbing Thristle, Blimp, Dwutysięczny, and Hokei.
Coming back to the members, Rafał Iwański is in charge of the percussion section, playing drums, gongs, and much more. He sometimes records solo as X-Navi:ET, but he mainly focuses on the band Hati, co-founded with Rafał Kołacki, who is also a member of Innercity. He, in turn, plays gongs, bells and percussion, but also woodwind instruments, such as flute and horn. His contribution fills Innercity Ensemble’s compositions with a folk and ethnic feeling. Also, depending on their input and the way they compose their parts, the septet’s music becomes either more rhythmic, or more abstract.
Synthesisers are the domain of Artur Maćkowiak, a member of the post-punk scene who has published solo albums from 2011 on, and is also a curator and animator. Wojciech Jachna is the member responsible for trumpet and flugelhorn sounds. He in turn began as a jazz artist, and is, according to Ziołek, the only one in the band that is capable of reading music fluently. Electronic avant-garde is also represented in the band, namely by Radek Dziubek, who uses a computer and percussion, sometimes drum machines, but also incorporates various terrain recordings into his tracks. Last but not least, Tomek Popowski, an all-round drummer, who, together with Ziołek played in numerous different bands. However, his style is suitable rather for the most ‘noisy’ ones.
Even though Innercity is composed of musicians from many different cities which are not that close to one another, the band holds concerts quite frequently. Furthermore, they try to release new albums quite often. Their first, Katahdin, released in the autumn of 2012, is the result of their first session and exhibits a level of improvisation and freedom that is difficult to copy. Their second recording, called simply II, came out at the beginning of 2014, and was a product of yet another session from back in 2013. It was well thought-out but difficult to grasp in its entirety, where melodic and rhythmic music mixed with the psychedelic and avant-garde feeling of the 1970s. Yet another step further into their exploration of rhythm and ethnicity was the band’s subsequent album. III, the most polished and condensed album in their discography, which hit the shelves in the autumn of 2016.
Innercity Ensemble is probably one of the most well received Polish bands when it comes to the specialised foreign press. III was awarded third place on a chart of top 100 best albums of 2016 by British portal The Quietus, and two years before that II placed 13 in the same chart. Passive/Aggressive, a site from Denmark, even went as far as awarding III the top position in their Top 100.
In December 2016, when publisher Instant Classic celebrated its fifth birthday, a vinyl single was released. On its B-side It’s A Rainy Day Sunshine Girl could be found, a cover of Faust’s song, performed together with Jaśmina Polak, who helped Ziołek with vocal tracks.
The band has performed on many festivals: Incubate in Tilburg, Experimental and Jazz Music from Poland in London, Unsound in Kraków, Malta in Poznań, Off Festival in Katowice, Jazz Jantar in Gdańsk among many. They do not show signs of slowing down, as they already have numerous concerts and festivals scheduled for 2017.
Jacek Świąder, December 2016. Translated by As February 2017
2012 – Innercity Ensemble EP
2012 – Katahdin
2014 – II
2016 – III
2016 – One Louder – Instant Classic Birthday split single (B side track It’s A Rainy Day Sunshine Girl)