Polish DJ and poet Karol Gwóźdź debuts with Tamte Czasy (in translation, Those Times and pronounced with a heavy dose of melancholy), a collection of songs that taps heavily into well established patents of chilled out electronica. Gwóźdź himself is unashamed to clearly pronounce his influences and Tamte Czasy often sounds as a direct tribute to the likes of Brian Eno or Aphex Twin. This obvious connection between his own work and that of the ambient giants does not detract from the album’s strengths but provokes a justifiable urge for a clearer, better defined sound of Karol Gwóźdź himself.
The general appeal of Tamte Czasy as a piece of lightweight electronica is undeniable even though the edge granted to the album by author’s origins will remain hidden to most listeners. Growing up in Silesia – the region’s biggest industrial area – Gwóźdź tries to sneak a great amount of grace to an environment defined by its function. Through this direct opposition between its birthplace and style, Tamte Czasy shapes its own role as that of unobtrusive background noise that stands in stark contrast to the hum of machinery and daily commotion. Described as a “piece of furnishing” by its composer, this album is just that and not for a moment does it defy its purpose. Melancholic to its very core, “Dyszczowy Poranek na Bytkowje” relies on a sparse, deliberate use of piano to create a mood of tranquillity. It also reveals the most interesting feature of Gwóźdź’s music: an encoded into the background, barely audible white noise allegedly belonging to old tape cassettes. Constant hiss, at once conflicting and merging with classic instruments used on Tamte Czasy, is an interesting reminder of the dichotomy embedded into the ambient music, at once evoking the surrounding environment and distracting from it. Gentle and thoughtful use of similarly alien elements continues throughout the album. “Mysli Zasutego Bergmana” merges together distant bells and haunting industrial sounds. Similarly moody “Utopek” and “Echo Nocy” show a more interesting, denser, and darker side of the author. It’s at those instances when Karol Gwóźdź explores less melodic and conventional spheres of his music that Tamte Czasy is most successful. However, the entire release is undoubtedly dominated by a different type of content. “Gryfne Bajtlostwo,” “Bittkow,” and “Gurnoslunskje Tragedyje” all remain reliant on a very similar sound. While occasionally interesting and well written, like the entire second half of “Gurnoslunskje Tragedyje,” all those tracks have a strong tendency not to differentiate from each other, resulting in an album that can be left playing in the background but might not imprint itself in listener’s memory. It seems at times that the two stylistically different halves that make Tamte Czasy could benefit from braver intervention into their structure in order to elevate the material beyond a label of lounge music.
One can’t imagine that this album would be ever capable of saturating a mainstream market or in fact appealing to anyone who isn’t already deeply invested in the ambient scene. For anybody who enjoys having a comforting, mellow soundtrack to the daily routine, this makes for an interesting and soothing listen. Alas, Gwóźdź rarely leaves his comfort zone, provoking plentiful comparisons but very little real reasons for direct critique of his own style and method. Hopefully, the talent for mimicry on display on Tamte Czasy might be a good omen that hints at his understanding of what makes good ambient tick and proves his technical proficiency. Pleasant and highly competent, his debut should be a foundation for work that will borrow less and ultimately give more.
Karol Gwóźdź Website http://karolgwozdz.eu
Karol Gwóźdź MySpace http://www.myspace.com/naildj
Karol Gwóźdź Facebook https://www.facebook.com/KarolGwozdzOfficial
Karol Gwóźdź SoundCloud http://soundcloud.com/psychonavigation/07-1
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Damian Glowinkowski (DamienG)