Jacaszek: Treny

One of the key reasons why Michal Jacaszek's Treny impresses as such a hauntingly beautiful collection is that the Polish producer eschewed samples entirely in the creation of the album's material and instead exploited to the fullest degree the artistic gifts of three guests— violinist Stefan Wesolowski, cellist Ania Smiszek-Wesolowska, and singer Maja Sieminska—all of whom make pivotal contributions to Jacaszek's work. Listening to his chamber-electronic lamentations, obvious names from the electronic and classical fields spring to mind—Max Richter, Marsen Jules, Murcof, Arvo Part, Henryk Gorecki, Giya Kancheli—yet Jacaszek manages to create something that feels unique. Deploying a limited but powerful set of sonic elements is one way of accomplishing that, and, by repeatedly spotlighting the mournful cry of Wesolowski's violin and haunted wordless vocalizing of Sieminska, Jacaszek does exactly that. The tastefully implemented electronic contributions that help solidify the sonic mass into hypnotic webs are more often than not subliminally rather than overtly present and rarely draw excessive attention to themselves (the exception to the rule, “Powoli” places vaporous streams front and center alongside the funereal percussive treatments that creep unsettlingly into position). The music itself is simultaneously elegiac and ponderous but communicates with powerful emotive force when elemental themes voiced by piano, strings, and vocals loop over and over, thereby intensifying their entrancing effect.

Another reason why Treny makes such a powerful impression is the strength of its melodic dimension. Don't let the material's relentlessly gloomy ambiance fool you: a remarkable piece like “Taniec” is packed with memorable motifs and melodies—the groaning cello figure, the anguished moan of the voice that drifts through the foreboding atmosphere Jacaszek sculpts with his subtle manipulations, and the glacial lull of its stop-start tempo (note the hiccupping pause at the end of every eighth bar which is punctuated by a single piano chord). Every piece distinguishes itself in like manner as an arresting confluence of sounds and motifs: the layered counterpoint of Sieminska's voice in “Walc”; the slow, stately, and (rather uncharacteristically of the album) steady unfurl of “Martwa Cisza”; the delicate harp lattices that grace “Lament”; and, perhaps most startlingly, the skewed samba feel that imbues this special album's closing track, “Rytm To Niesmiertelnosc II,” with unexpected uplift.

September 2008