Pustki is one of the most Polish significant bands of the 21st century. They fused post-rock with avant-pop and sang 20th century Polish poetry.
One of the most Polish significant bands of the 21st century. They fused post-rock with avant-pop and sang 20th century Polish poetry.
Pustki originated back in in 1999. The band was founded in Ostrówek, near Warsaw, by two schoolmates – Radek Łukasiewicz (guitarist) and Jan Piętka (bassist and vocalist). Soon, Grzegorz Śluz (drums), Łukasz Nowak (keyboard) and Milena, Radek’s sister (percussion) joined them. They started rehearsing in a small building in Mr & Mrs Łukasiewicz's garden, which had previously served them as a temporary home when their house was being refurbished. They even invented a name for it: Pustki (Emptiness), which, in turn, became the band's name.
Excerpt from Made in Polska programme, TVP, NInA; whole video: ninateka.pl
First demo and Studio Pustki
It took them no more than a month and a half to record their first demo. It was critically acclaimed, getting enthusiastic reviews in Machina, City Magazine and Gazeta Wyborcza while their song Everybody Must Get Stoned featured on a compilation released by a print music magazine. One year later they were offered a professional recording session in the legendary Złota Skała studio (founded by rock ’n’ roll legend Robert Brylewski). Soon their debut album Studio Pustki was released and immediately received huge praise. Gazeta Wyborcza’s journalist wrote:
This album might actually be the missing link in Polish rock history.
The music on Studio Pustki discloses its members' fascination with the works of The Stooges, Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth. In the song Bruno they utilised the classics of Polish literature by using excerpts from Bruno Schultz’s Jesień / Autumn.
Music of the Eastern Wall
From the very beginning the lyrics were paramount. They described living in a provincial town and everyday journeys to Warsaw (Ostrówek is situated 30km from the capital), where all the band members studied. Łukasiewicz came up with a name for it: Music of the Eastern Wall, which not only perfectly reflects the geographical genesis of the band but also presents their identity of people who never became alienated from their origins.
Second album 8 Ohm is the most diverse of their discography, with songs successfully fusing post-rock rawness and avant-pop melodies. Most of the lyrics were written by Śluz (the drummer) and they describe the dilemmas of a young person entering adult life. Barbara Wrońska debuted on this album. She was born to a musical family and had to resign from a promising career as a violinist to be able to join Pustki and participate in long concert tours.
They played more and more concerts, supporting legendary punk band No Means No and being invited to international festivals: Park inn’ Pub in Lille, God Save The Kranes in Dunkirk, South By SouthWest in Austin, Texas, Liverpool Sound City, Canadian Music Festival in Toronto and Eurocultured in Manchester as well as all of the major Polish festivals: Malta in Poznań, Open’er in Gdynia, Union of Rock in Węgorzewo and Off Festival in Mysłowice.
Do Mi No and Musical Tributes
The album entitled Do Mi No turned out to be full of catchy songs: Telefon do przyjaciela (Phone-a-friend), Nic do powiedzenia (Nothing to Say) and Słabość chwilowa (Short-lived Weakness) all made it to the charts. Yet, one year after its release, the band’s line-up changed again. One of the founders – Jan Piętka left the band and was replaced by Szymon Tarkowski. Barbara Wrońska took over all the vocal parts.
With this new line-up they released Koniec kryzysu (End of the Crisis) with its hit Parzydełko (Scorch), the noisy and belligerent Zawracanie głowy (The Hassle) and the delicate, melodic Atrament (Ink). Pustki were awarded with Polityka’s Passport, Grzegorz Ciechowski’s Award and National Radio Programme 3 Award for this album.
In 2005 the group composed music for the poem by Władysław Broniewski Przekwitanie (Fading). The song was published on the compilation Broniewski. Three years later they created pieces to the words of Stanisław Wyspiański's Wesoły jestem (Happy Am I, Happy) and Jakżesz ja się uspokoję (How Can I Calm Myself Down). Pustki also took part in the project Gajcy and wrote music for the poem Wiersz o szukaniu (A Poem About Searching). These songs became a base for Pustki’s next album Kalambury (Puns) where they interpreted works by Bolesław Leśmian, Danuta Wawiłow and Julian Tuwim. Katarzyna Nosowska and Artur Rojek appeared on the recording as guests. Soon, in 2012, Szymon Tarkowski left the band.
In 2014 Pustki recorded Safari. This time Barbara Wrońska composed the music and wrote the lyrics with Radek Łukasiewicz. Their new album was supposed to be more coherent and limited when in terms of the variety of sounds.
What is left from the intended minimal character of the songs? – writes Jacek Świąder – For example, quiet moments in Rudego łyska (Łysek the Red). The song, based on a simple rhythm, with voice and keyboard parts played by Basia, lights up when the lively bass guitar steps in. The structure of this piece envisages the appearing and vanishing of the subsequent themes, quiet and noisy lines and several rhythmic overdubs. The whole mastery of the compositions evinces itself when only bass drum, voice, tambourine and light guitar strums are left. The album is full of ideas! There are enough of them in these ten songs to make another thirty out of them.
Music for Theatre and Film
A separate part of Pustki’s activity is composing music for film and theatre. In 2001, they created musical illustration for the open air show about Gdansk’s history - Predicatorum Gedanensis, directed by Andrzej Gołębnik. Later, they cooperated with Bodo Kox on his films Marco P. i złodzieje rowerów (Marco P. and the Bikes’ Thieves) (2005) and Nie panikuj! (Don’t Panic!) In 2005 they wrote the music for Przemysław Wojieszek’s film Doskonałe popołudnie (Perfect Afternoon) and his theatre plays: Cokolwiek się zdarzy, kocham cię (Whatever Happens, I Love You) (2005) Dwoje biednych Rumunów mówiących po polsku (A Couple of Poor, Polish-speaking Romanians) (2006) czy Osobisty Jezus (Private Jesus) (2006).
In addition, they have composed music for silent films and performed in cinemas all over Poland as well as several times abroad. They created musical ambience for the reading of Paweł Huelle’s Ostatnia wieczerza (Last Supper) at the National Radio Programme III as well as for a exhibition of Kuba Dąbrowski's photography.
Barbara Wrońska and her sister form another popular band named Ballady i Romanse.
- Patyczak / Common Stick Insect (dir. Andrzej Dąbrowski)
- Wszystko jest nieczytelne / Everything is unreadable (dir. Andrzej Dąbrowski)
- Doskonałe popołudnie / The Perfect Afternoon (dir. Grzegorz Korczak)
- Słabość chwilowa / Short-lived Weakness (dir. Bodo Kox i Filip Zawada)
- Jakżeż ja się uspokoję / How Can I Calm Myself Down (dir. Julia Kolberger)
- Parzydełko / Scorch (dir. Janek Koza)
- Nie zgubię się w tłumie / I Won’t Get Lost in the Crowd (dir. Krzysztof Ostrowski)
- Nuda / Boredom (dir. Kuba Czekaj)
- Kalambury / Puns (dir. Grzegorz Jankowski)
- Lugola (dir. Przemysław Wojcieszek)
- Studio Pustki (CD), 2001, Antena Krzyku
- 8 Ohm (CD), 2004, Polskie Radio SA
- Nic do powiedzenia / Nothing to Say (EP CD), 2006, Polskie Radio SA
- Do mi no (CD), 2006, Polskie Radio SA
- Pustki (CD dołączone do „Notatnika Teatralnego”), 2007, Notatnik Teatralny
- Koniec kryzysu / End of Crisis (CD), 2008, Agora SA
- Kalambury / Puns (CD), 2009, Agora SA
- Najmniejszy koncert świata / The Smallest Concert on Earth (DVD), 2010, Agora SA
- Safari (CD), 2014, Agora SA, Art2 Music
Author: Leszek Gnoiński, maj 2011, akt. 2014, Translated by W.O. March 2014.