Karol Gwózdz: Tamte Czasy

Psychonavigation Records begins the new year on a strong note with this disarmingly lovely debut collection of stirring mood pieces by Silesian-based Karol Gwózdz. In fashioning these understated ambient settings, he recorded the hiss of cassette and incorporated it into the background of all the tracks. As a result, an almost subliminal layer of hiss can be heard whispering behind the instruments, making it sound as if the latter are embedded within the former. The treatment gives his already inviting material an added warmth that only makes it more appealing. It would be a mistake to make too much of the production detail, however, as the focus is chiefly on the tracks' instrument sounds, melodies, and arrangements as opposed to any background texture.

Slightly blurry piano patterns shimmer hauntingly throughout “Dyszczowy Poranek Na Bytkowje,” after which, sounding as if it's wrapped in gauze, the softly sparkling piano sound heard during pieces such as “Bittkow,” “Gurnoslunskje Tragedyje,” and “Tamte Czasy” can't help but invite comparisons between Gwózdz's material and Harold Budd's, though it must be said that Gwózdz liberally expands upon his piano-based sound-world with violin flourishes and ethereal micro-textures. The graceful murmurings that flow through “Spumnyna,” on the other hand, wouldn't sound out of place on one of Eno's more becalmed ambient recordings. In marked contrast to the album's numerous soothing settings, sci-fi atmospheric treatments lend “Mysli Zasutego Bergmana” and “Utopek” a subtly macabre quality, as if the darker undercurrents lurking within Gwózdz's music are being granted brief exposure. Tamte Czasy doesn't rewrite the ambient rulebook, but nor does it strive to do so. But even if its aim is more modestly pitched, it nonetheless hits said mark splendidly. Taken on its own terms, the album's sultry piano serenades and ominous vignettes make for a potent combination.

February 2012