This electronic duo, despite being very active in performing concerts, long kept people waiting for its debut album. When Hellada finally appeared it gathered many warm reviews. Both of the musicians involved with the band make a living from playing music, and both of them have quietened down their side-projects and placed their bets on Rebeka. Initially, however, the band was Iwona Skwarek’s solo project.
Electronic duo, which is very active concert-wise. When their first album 'Hellada' appeared, it gathered many warm reviews.
Activity under the name Rebeka began in Poznań in 2008. At first, Skwarek performed at house parties, singing to the accompaniment of a cheap Casio keyboard. She reminisced about the instrument:
I got it for my first Holy Communion. Years later, I took the keyboard out of its box and took this instrument to Poznań. One day I sat down on the floor with the keyboard and a recorder, intent on improvising. Back then I was fascinated by a song from the movie “Mulholland Drive”. The melody Stars was created on the carpet at that moment. And the Casio stayed with me. The keyboard has 99 sounds and 99 different beats.
In the winter of 2012, as part of the pop-rock band Hellow Dog, she released an album titled with the name of this group. The band, however, became of secondary importance because of the success of Rebeka, which allows Skwarek to realize her own creative vision - something which wasn’t all that easy within the five-person line-up of Hellow Dog. Rebeka itself gained momentum when Skwarek was joined by Bartosz Szczęsny in the summer of 2010. He was to provide production assistance and help arrange Rebeka’s tracks for concerts. He stayed for good.
This producer and instrumentalist began to learn how to play the piano when he was a teenager. He is not related to Dawid Szczęsny, who forms, together with Wojciech Bąkowski, the duo Niwea which is also active in Poznań. Under his own name (or rather as b szczesny), Bartosz Szczęsny released the EP Beyond Midnight in 2010. Although he has set aside his solo career for now, he still prepares remixes for other artists. He played with the band Adre’N’Alin (as a keyboardist), sometimes he backs Kamp! on stage as a bass player.
In an interview he explained:
Playing keyboard or bass isn’t my domain, because I’m a very bad keyboardist and a bad bass player. I’m interested in arranging and composing, and whether I use more of the keyboard or more of the guitar is a matter of choosing between certain means which I have mastered enough to be able to give the expression that I want to give.
Skwarek provides melodies and texts, Szczęsny becomes active in the production and arrangement phase. Apart from cheap keyboards such as the aforementioned Casio, the instruments used in Rebeka’s compositions include: virtual and computer synthesizers, an analogue Moog, and more rock instruments such as bass guitar and electric guitar. Iwona plays the guitar and operates the electronics, Bartosz uses the synthesizers, keyboard instruments and plays bass guitar.
Rebeka’s debut album appeared as late as spring 2013. It was released by the company Brennnessel which is run by musicians from the Łódź band Kamp!. The duo worked on this record for two years, so the positive reviews were well earned.
The musicians emphasize that in their songs emotions play an important part – this is best exemplified by the captivating single Melancholia / Melancholy. The lyrics tell of hesitance, fear, and as to whether it’s worth getting out of melancholy, when in this state we feel like ourselves. The melody and atmosphere of this song are absorbing, although gloomy – at the same time the beat of Melancholia makes you want to dance. The compositions on the album Hellada / Hellas may be musically associated with the 80s, when synthetic sounds were mixed with guitar ones by, for example, such bands as New Order, Ultravox or Depeche Mode. Journalists also mentioned the newer groups The Kills, The Knife and Austra. The Polish duo admitted to listening to Mount Kimbie, a band that merges guitar and synthesizer sounds. The two musicians from England have a more harsh, sharp sound, they lack, however , a voice as good as Skawrek’s.
Rebeka treats its live performances very seriously. Both of the musicians are perfectionists - they keep repeating that work on the band’s concert sound never ends, they devise new variants of particular compositions and of arrangements of entire performances. The objective is to control what happens on stage – this isn’t about recreating the material that was recorded in the studio but about playing as much live as possible, which isn’t all that easy for a duo. That is why in concert one hears something else than in the recordings.
The Poznań duo has already performed in England (The Great Escape), Germany, France, the USA (CMJ Music Marathon) and Slovakia. Even before Rebeka published its first album, the band played at such Polish festivals as Open’er, Selector and Free Form. In 2011 Rebeka was nominated for the title of artist of the week by the program MTV Iggy. Even though the band eventually didn’t receive this title, Iwona Skwarek was compared on the internet site of this program to Beth Gibbons, the vocalist of Portishead. Accurately and deservedly.
Rebeka has under its belt not only the albums and singles released by Brennnessel but also singles released by the Portugal label Discotexas.
Author: Jacek Świąder
Translated by: Marek Kępa