Monday 20 September 2021

'Zbliżenie' by Henryk Debich

Since its inception, Astigmatic Records has long served as a beacon for contemporary jazz from around the world.  While currently riding incredibly high off of the release of the Lahore-based collective, Jaubi, and their debut full-length 'Nafs at Peace', it has been projects by Cykada and the Levitation Orchestra from London that helped to place the label on the map, notwithstanding the continual strides made by the Polish jazz ensemble, and flagship Astigmatic recording artists, EABS.  

While certainly flag-wavers for global contemporary jazz, the label has always strived to pay its respects to its Polish roots.  New Zealand DJ, producer and musician, Surly, unveiled his six-track EP, 'Trip to Warsaw' in 2018 which was very much his own homage to Polish jazz music; the very first full-length by EABS - 'Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda)' - paid tribute to the Polish film music composer and pianist best known for his film scores for Roman Polanski.  And earlier this year, that affection inspired a new direction for Astigmatic as they officially began their search for undiscovered Polish gems kickstarted by their reissue of vocalist Renata Lewandowska's recordings from the 1970s, 'Dotyk'.

Following the huge success of that project, the label have plundered the catalogue of Henryk Debich - the founder and leader of The Lódz Orchestra of Polish Radio and Television.  Unveiling a teaser first by way of the 7" exclusive single release of 'Monika' and 'Zabawa w ciemnosci' (translating to 'Fun in the Dark') in February, anticipation was high for the nine-track release 'Zbliżenie' announced for later in the year.  Comprised of a series of tracks recorded between 1974-1977, 'Zbliżenie' sees Debich at the helm as conductor for the Orchestra that presented their distinctive, ahead-of-its-time, perspective on jazz-funk.  

Even from the album's opening number, 'Puma', the sheer scope of 'Zbliżenie' is laid bare - a psychedelic-esque funk number, the expansiveness of the sound is captivating.  'Zbliżenie' relishes in having selected tracks that present The Lódz Orchestra as creators of these close-knit, gritty street anthems but it's believed that some of these compositions can feature somewhere between forty and seventy musicians performing throughout.  It's a thrilling expectation to subvert particularly hearing how rooted the sound can be to an American 1970s aesthetic.  The menacing opening to 'Wampiry' lends itself to that of a hard-boiled film soundtrack - a lone, rogue US officer determined to clear up New York's streets releasing it from the iron-like grip of its domineering kingpin.  Gloriously emotive stuff!

Once again, an Astigmatic Records release demands your undivided attention and while they have proved themselves as connoisseurs of the contemporary scene, their deep dives in to Poland's past is proving equally inspired.

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