Skalpel is comprised of Marcin Cichy (Meeting by Chance) and Igor Pudło (Igor Boxx). They were active from 1998 to 2006, but reunited and released new music in 2014. The duo is not only one of the most important contemporary acts in Polish electronic music but also one which made a milestone step for Polish sample-based music and the whole digger community. It is said that one can learn the history of jazz from their recordings.
Marcin Cichy i Igor Pudło w poszukiwaniach korzeni jazzu.
Skalpel became famous even before the duo had released their first album. Their DJ mixes, recorded on four turntables, were played by Matt Black and Jonathan More (creators of Coldcut) on their Solid Steel broadcast on the BBC London. Meanwhile, Polish listeners got to know Skalpel’s music thanks to the Virtual Cuts tape. Black and More are the founders of Ninja Tune, a music label that has been setting the path for the hip-hop and electronic scenes for many years. The Polish duo’s talent and above-average DJing ability was also noticed by DJ Vadim, a music producer from Leningrad working for Ninja Tunes, who invited them to join him on a tour. In 2003, Skalpel signed a recording contract with Ninja Tune.
It’s hard to imagine a better start, but how did it all begin? Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudło met through the hip-hop scene. Cichy (currently active under the pseudonym Meeting by Chance) started his adventure with music at home. Later he learned to play the piano, played in a rock band, and recorded music for commercials on an Atari computer. In 1999, together with Marek ‘Pro’ Gluziński, he founded Blend Records (1999-2012), a label that released the debut albums of Grammatik, Fenomen, and Wzgórze Ya-Pa 3. Igor Pudło (currently performing solo as Igor Boxx) was a punk guitarist in the 80s. He had also been making music on a computer, and later became involved in hip-hop – he worked in a record store, was a DJ and co-created a magazine entitled Klan (1997-2005).
After a successful tour with DJ Vadim they released the demo Polish Jazz, which is a perfect example of Skalpel’s initial approach towards music. They used the cut and paste technique, once used by the biggest avant-garde bands such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and The Beatles. The two DJs from Wrocław were browsing through boxes with old records, looking for attractive (and, if possible, difficult to recognise) samples from old jazz records. Sometimes it was a single sound, a second-long fragment. At other times we can hear whole pieces taken out of someone else’s compositions. Samples from works by Urszula Dudziak, Jan Ptaszyn-Wróblewski, Zbigniew Namysłowski meet with fragments of The Cannonball Adderley Quintet. They avoided samples that were too obvious, although the critics wanted to hear, for example, Krzysztof Komeda.
The charm of the duo’s music lies in the fact that it doesn’t sound like a computer puzzle made of samples. Skalpel perfectly imitates the sound of a ‘real’ jazz band composed of ingenious virtuosos.
The famous London label has released five albums by the duo: two LPs and three EPs. Skalpel, their debut album from 2004, was discussed in all Polish media, but also drew the attention of foreign reviewers – for example, a comprehensive review was published by Pitchfork. Many journalists hailed it as the album of the year, which was later confirmed by the DJ Magazine and its Album of the Year Summary, as well as a nomination for the 2004 Gilles Peterson BBC Worldwide Music Awards (alongside works by Björk and other Western music stars).
Skalpel’s second album, Konfusion, was released in 2005 and brought the duo further awards and distinctions, including the prestigious Polityka Paszport award from Polish weekly Polityka. In 2012, Skalpel created a series of recordings inspired by the music of Penderecki, Górecki and Lutosławski. The project premiered at the Scarum Profanum Festival, with a guest appearance by the Kronos Quartet and Ninja Tune artists.
Skalpel Big Band
Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudło continue their activities. They still use dozens of samples, but they also combine them with the services of ‘live’ musicians, including Jan Emil Młynarski and Joanna Duda.
In 2019 Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudło presented a new aspect of their project. Skalpel Big Band is comprised of seventeen people performing acoustic versions of original, electronic compositions of the duo. The project was an idea from Patryk Piłasiewicz – a musician, composer, and assistant professor at the Jazz Department of the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznań, from which the other musicians participating in the project also come from. In 2019, Skalpel Big Band played numerous concerts throughout Poland.
Skalpel's music is a 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.
contemporary electronic music
Virtual Cuts Mixtape (Blend Records, 2000)
Polish Jazz EP (self-released, 2000)
Sculpture EP (Ninja Tune, 2003)
1958 EP (Ninja Tune, 2003)
Skalpel (Ninja Tune, 2004)
Break Out EP (Ninja Tune, 2005)
Konfusion (Ninja Tune, 2005)
Simple EP (PlugAudio, 2014)
Transit (Plug Audio, 2014)
Update: MG, November 2019.