Archive for the ‘Instant Classic’ Category

Instant Classic

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

As far as heavy music goes, there hasn’t been a great deal of attention earned by the music that comes out of Poland. There is Vader, whom, after a promising debut, never really set themselves apart from the rest of the death metal world. Of late, all the attention is on Behemoth and their new release The Satanist, which has gone Top 40 in the US Billboard charts (the highest position ever achieved there by a death/black metal artist, for what that’s worth). Behemoth’s international success is preceded by the band’s prime mover, Adam Darski aka Nergal, having long been a massive celebrity in his home country. This has provided such awkward and ridiculous contradictions such as the man behind this also being a judge and “coach” on Poland’s edition of that dizzyingly nauseating kind of talent show in the style of Idol or The X Factor. Hell, Nergal even coached the show’s inaugural winner, seen here getting the first buzzer of approval from his eventual “Sunday Satanist” mentor. Whilst The Satanist is actually a decent album, as far as that sort of thing goes, its glistening big budget overproduced pomp and polish is a far cry from the genuinely inventive and intriguing work that one can find in the Polish music scene after some careful excavation. A fine example of the riches beneath the soil is found in the form of indie label Instant Classic.

Based in Kraków, the label celebrates a love of music and vinyl, characterised by small batch releases with hand-made covers. There is a simple philosophy of remaining open with regards to genre. Many of the bands on the Instant Classic list have some connection to metal, punk, or noise. Above those roots, the breadth of sound the branches touch is wild, expansive, and exciting. Following the openness to genre, the approach to stringency can range from devout manifestations (such as the straight-up stoner rock of Beelzebong) to the more improvisational and kaleidoscopic (try Innercity Ensemble). The Instant Classic experience runs such a stylistic gamut that eventually one does run into a band that’s not as enjoyable as the others; but, this is easily obscured by hours of serendipity.

The label doesn’t exclusively represent Polish musicians (Seattle improv band Alchimia have a record due out through IC this year; and, Merzbow has a collaborative release in their catalogue). However, there is certainly a clear intention of bucking the apparent local trend of a lack of respect for all but the most commercial Polish artists keen to emulate industry “gods” from abroad, getting heavy and experimental music of high quality from around the country out there for us to hear via releases of a high value aesthetic.

Perhaps most representative of IC’s eclectic nature, and responsible for their most precious things, is a genre-bending specialist by the name of Kuba Zio?ek. He is extraordinarily prolific, featuring in at least six bands, including the aforementioned Innercity Ensemble. Along with Innercity Ensemble and the utterly amazing Alameda 3, Kuba has produced the most compelling release through IC to date through his solo project Stara Rzeka.

So dense and scattered is Stara Rzeka’s music that it could be very easy to pick two random tracks from the album Cie? chmury nad ukrytym polem and feel assured you are listening to two different bands. As an experience from start to finish, it is a multifaceted and remarkably cohesive masterpiece. Stara Rzeka will morph from the most raw and primitive black metal, like sound pouring uncontrollably from a gaping wound in the first two minutes of “Tej nocy…”, to expansive Krautrock inspired electronics (the principle influence on Stara Rzeka), post-rock, or colossal yet elegantly moving drones reminiscent of Sunn 0))). The passages of raw brutality and astral psychedelia are interspersed with gorgeous folkish acoustic moments. Kuba claims to write most of his work on acoustic guitar, and expresses an aim of eventually transitioning to solely working with this instrument in the future. The mystery of how the rest internally evolves from these skeletal spartan ideas that he has smacks of “visionary”.

Truly appreciating Stara Rzeka and others on Instant Classic takes some investment and patience, but with a handsome payoff. With this level and consistency of quality, the evolution from odd nods into a cult following is inevitable. It’s always a pleasure to discover a label for whom, so passionately, life is noise.