Stunningly weird chamber music from contemporary outlier Piotr Kurek, featuring his vocal incantations accompanied by organ and fine reed instruments, with results that remind us of Wojciech Rusin’s brilllliant 'The Funnel’ album fused with the wormlike mind-expansions of Rashad Becker’s Traditional Music Of Notional Species albums for PAN, and a sort of alternate reality/medieval ECM soundbath arranged by James Ferarro. Yeah, it’s our kinda shit.
For years, Warsaw-based multi-instrumentalist Kurek has used Thomas Cole's paintings as desktop wallpaper on his laptop. Cole was celebrated for his elaborate, classically-inspired landscapes, imaginging the outstretched American wilderness in the romantic tones of ancient Greece or Rome. Kurek's music on "World Speaks" seeks to make similar stylistic contortions, grabbing familiar sounds - organ, voice, reed instruments - and using digital modulations to re-contextualize our assumptions about the direction of each piece. He describes each composition as a painting, approaching his process with purpose and skill as he stitches the ancient and modern into Escher-esque illusions.
Kurek here gives voice to his machines’ memory banks of deconstructed choral tongues in lathered rearrangements of lilting ululation, each matched by weird electronics and percolated organ notes. The results are far more precise and pointillist than the smeared and languorous tones of his previous theatrical soundtrack ‘A Sacrifice Shall Be Made’ (2020), and certainly a lot calmer than his formative breakcore releases as Ślepcy for the likes of DJ Scud’s Ambush, each pointing to a composer who is quietly coming into his own thru rustic yet future-facing elisions of folk, electronic and classical paradigms.
Key to the appeal of Kurek’s music is a fine grasp of wavering distance, finding and working around the sweetspot where perceptions of harmony and dissonance smudge and create deliciously strange new sensations at the border of the sacred and profane. His seven pieces cause an air of surreality over the proceedings, oscillating the purely microtonal vocal drones of ‘Chordists’ with slightly dadaist scatting, daydream organ pipe melodies and jazz/classical woodwind in ‘A Source of All Scenery’, where the bobbling phonemes of ’Soloists’ and frolicking vignette of ‘Key & Stop’ follow.
Perhaps the most curious of the lot is its title tune’s lattice of layered harmonic juxtapositions, and likewise the cochlea tweaking final of ‘Orgue’, where the voices resonate Rashad Becker’s conception of a traditional music for notional species, hinting that the “world” of Kurek’s title isn’t necessarily one we know, but one that exists in a sort of shared, rarified imagination.