Skaldowie: Malowany Dym (Muza, 1969)

14 Feb

Malowany Dym is the first track on Skaldowie’s 1969 LP Cała Jesteś W Skowronkach (the title is translated on the sleeve as There Are Skylarks All Over You, presumably an idiomatic phrase meaning something like ‘You’re Happy’ or ‘You’re All Smiles’). Formed in Krakow around 1965 by Andrzej and Jacek Zielinski, Skaldowie quickly became one of the better known Polish bands of the era, with a softer sound than some of their peers, often comparable to the Beach Boys, but with a tone coloured by Polish folk melodies (particularly those of the Podhale region) rather than the American doo-wop that was Brian Wilson’s primary influence. Malowane Dym (Painted Smoke), is fairly typical of main composer Andrzej Zielinski’s defining approach, blending these highly distinctive Polish folk sounds with pop arrangements and instrumentation. It’s an odd mix, more subtle in its blend of Polish and Western influences than some of the era’s more immediately appealing (to Western ears, at least) Polish groups were creating at the same time. That said, it’s also worth noting that, as with some of the more ‘Baroque Pop’ sounds being made in the UK and US between the mid sixties and early seventies (think of, say, The Four Seasons’ Genuine Imitation Life Gazette LP, or the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society) the later 1960s recordings of Skaldowie, which can be seen retrospectively as a transitional phase between the group’s earlier beat-based songs and Zielinski’s developing progressive leanings, have a layered and ornately textured quality that retains a lot of staying power. The Polish lyric of Malowany Dym can be read here, and the song itself can be listened to here.

Malowany Dym (Painted Smoke)

(after Leszek Moczulski/Andrzej Zielinski, 1969)

I paint the wheels of my car but the brush goes on,
my eyes are fixed on all the wide sky above.
No-one knows I’m painting the pavements too,
all the trees, their leaves, the grass and bark.

I’m lighting fires, painting flames and chimney-stacks,
watching smoke rise: a letter sent to the sky.
Turn around. Look up through the rain,
then come to me, whenever you want, like smoke.

Watch the heavy cloth clouds begin to disperse,
dark curtains drawn back to reveal the stars.
I’ll be there, and look, start to paint again,
colour in roof and thatch, gutter-pipes and slates,

every echo sounding on this deserted street,
till all the air and warm drifting wind alike
carry their colours from my hand to your sight.
Keep your eyes fixed on the wide sky above

because I’m painting smoke and setting it free.
This smoke drifts through the world, for me.
Look up. The sky can be any colour you like.
Come to me. Be wherever you want, like smoke.

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