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Eastern Bloc Disco Playlist (Nottingham Contemporary, 16 Jan 2016)

16 Feb

Generic Sleeve (Pronit)

Last month, to celebrate the opening weekend of Monuments Should Not Be Trusted (curated by Lina Džuverović) and expand on the display of Eastern Bloc 7” records included in Behold! The Markets Shall Erase Our History! (both exhibitions remain at Nottingham Contemporary until 04 March), an Eastern Bloc Disco was staged, featuring soul, rock, psychedelia, pop, folk and more, all released by the official state record labels of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, East Germany and the USSR between the early 1960s and mid-1980s. The session also included a live set from UrBororo, Pil & Galia Kollectiv’s new venture into “skewed filing cabinet swamp blues for corporate inflight listening” – an “objectively boring” band whose songs are made from an unlikely merger between the sounds of surf, grunge and punk, and whose lyrics are borrowed from a 1970s Management Self-Help guide.

The all-vinyl playlist for the night ended up looking something like this:

Marek Grechuta: W Pochodzie Dni I Nocy (Poland, 1974)
Raimonds Pauls/Margarita Vilcāne: Līgotāji (Latvia/USSR, 1974)
Izomorf 67: Barwy Dzwieku (Poland, 1967/8)
Raimonds Pauls/Nora Bumbiere: Divpadsmit Asaras (Latvia/USSR, 1974)
Blackout: Powiedz Swoje Imie (Poland, 1967)
Grupa 220: Negdie Postoji Netko (Yugoslavia, 1968)
Vera Spinarova: Andromeda (Czechoslovakia, 1972)
Krystyna Pronko: Po Co Ci To Chlopcze (Poland, 1973)
Czeslaw Niemen & Akwarele: Baw Się W Ciuciubabkę (Poland, 1969)
Josef Laufer & Their Majesties: Útěk z Hladomorny (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Flamengo: Kure v Hodinkach (Czechoslovakia, 1972)
C&K Vocal: Generace (Czechosolovakia, 1974)
Omega: Gyöngyhajú Lány (Hungary, 1969)
Romauld & Roman: Pytanie Czy Haslo (Poland, 1970)
Drugi Nacin: Zuti List (Yugoslavia, 1975)
Piotr Figiel: Dyplomowany Galernik (Poland, 1974)
Olympic: Ikarus Blues (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Locomotiv GT: Ringasd El Magad II (Hungary, 1973)
Hungaria: Koncert a Marson (Hungary, 1969)
Blue Effect: The Sun Is So Bright (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Olympic: Everybody (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Breakout: Gdybys Kochal Hej (Poland, 1969)
Illes: Nehez Az Ut (Hungary, 1968)
Karel Kahovec/Flamengo: Poprava Blond Holky (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
George & Beatovens: Lez Blazniveho Basnika (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Martha & Tena: Boure (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Atlantis: Don’t You Break It Again (Czechoslovakia, 1968)
Petr Spaleny & Apollobeat: Kdybych Ja Byl Kovarem (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Sarolta Zalatnay: Betonfej (Hungary, 1968)
Halina Frackowiak: Wodo, Zimna Wodo (Poland, 1974)
Stan Borys: Wyplakalem Oczy Niebieskie (Poland, 1969)
Koncz Szusza: Visz a Vonat (Hungary, 1970)
Emil Dimitrov: Scherazade (Bulgaria, 1972)
Marta Kubisova: Tak Dej Se K Nam A Projdem Svet (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Hana & Petr Ulrychovi: A Co Ma Bejt (Czechoslovakia, 1970)
Angelika Mann: Wenn Ich Mal (DDR, 1974)
Arp-Life: Baby Bump (Poland, 1976)
Walter Kubiczeck: Tentakel (DDR, 1979)
Grupul Stereo: Coloana Infinită (Romania, 1984)
Izabela Trojanowska: Jestem Twoim Grzechem (Poland, 1981)
Grupul Stereo: Plopii Impari (Romania, 1984)
Chris Doerk: Glaub Nicht (DDR, 1974)
Vaclav Neckar & Golden Kids: Goo-Goo Barabajagal (Czechoslovakia, 1969)
Czerwone Gitary: Coda (Poland, 1970)
Grupa ABC: Za Duzo Chcesz (Poland, 1970)
Marta Kubisova: Cervanky (It’s Not Unusual) (Czechoslovakia, 1968)

Generic Sleeve (Supraphon)

Through the evening, a muted playlist of videos also ran on a large screen, and everything shown at the event can be seen in the Eastern Bloc Disco playlist compiled here – between 2 – 3 hours of visuals in total, now available with their soundtracks intact.


Tadeusz Woźniak: Pewnego Dnia O Świcie (1974)

19 Dec

Like Zegarmistrz światła two years earlier, and Odcień Ciszy, the title song on the same LP that features it, Pewnego Dnia O Świcie is both a collaboration between Tadeusz Woźniak and Bogdan Chorążuk and a strangely oblique and dream-like song, set to an uptempo musical score that is arguably slightly at odds with its own somnambulant theme. The track was issued on Odcień Ciszy, a consistently strong 1974 LP, and can be heard here. The original Polish lyric (from which this version diverges in all kinds of mostly minor ways at several points, though hopefully in order to more effectively mirror its curious effect in English) can be found here.

Pewnego Dnia O Świcie (One day near dawn)

(after Bogdan Chorążuk/Tadeusz Wozniak, 1974)

One day near dawn cars fell from the sky.
Even as I slept I drove a car away.
The seat was cold. The steering wheel,
the dashboard, smelled of angels.
It happened last June, to someone else, perhaps.

I drove through the streets, passed corners, lamps,
paving stones and shop facades:
I knew their every brick and painted sign.
An illusion, reflected in living glass
where girls sleepwalk or shine like sighs.

Maybe it’s the silence, or an engine’s noise?
One silver car draws so close to us
we catch the pure metal of its machine breath turn.
Lilies of the valley overwhelm all sense
where horizons flourish with narcotic leaves.

And I am moving further, always, further on,
dawn exploding in the windscreen’s glass
at every turn and bend of the road.
Everything happens. I might even meet myself
living other lives I’ve never known.

Maybe it’s the silence, or an engine’s noise?
One silver car draws so close to me
I feel its velocity and momentum fade.
The roads seem clean as white surgeons’ screens
someone, anyway, is already taking down.


Tadeusz Woźniak: Odcień Ciszy (Muza, 1974)

19 Dec

Issued in 1974, two years after the enormous success of Zegarmistrz Swiatła, the poet Bogdan Chorążuk and musician Tadeusz Woźniak continued their collaboration on a second LP, Odcień Ciszy (Shades of Silence), a recording that often seems to straddle a kind of symphonically scaled emotional impact and some of the inventive structures and ambitions of Progressive Rock, at the height of its international popularity at the time of release. In the lyric here, as elsewhere in Chorążuk and Woźniak’s collaborations, a self-conscious obscurity merges with natural symbols, Chagall-like images of airborne, hair-strung violins and intimations of some kind of transfiguration. The text reminds me a little of Richard Crashaw’s Musick’s Duell, written in the 1640s, mainly owing to certain coincidentally baroque qualities and some apparent similarity of intent in matching text to music: the violins and their symbolic flights, as described by Woźniak’s voice, seem matched by the music’s arrangement, created by Woźniak in collaboration with Henryk Wojciechowski. This suggests the words are intended as a kind of semi abstract tonal colouring, intent on creating atmosphere rather than specific or easily understood meaning. It goes without saying, then, that this version is as much an exercise in intuition and relatively free improvisation on the song’s imagery than anything more literally faithful to the Polish text on which it is based. The full 15m version of Odcień Ciszy can be listened to here while the original Polish lyric can be read here.

Odcień Ciszy (Shades of Silence)

(after Bogdan Chorążuk/Tadeusz Woźniak/Henryk Wojciechowski, 1974)

What was it? How could it happen? Violin clouds flew very high
and their hair-strings woven into the wind
made the quietest of sighs.

A hair-string is night when the moon blooms among evening flowers.
I have been, done much, but own little now –
one small box could hold everything.

I ran, touched by light: the fingers, my eyes, a gleaming fossil field.
The lakes scattered when the sound of silver seemed to live,
when gold encircled swarms of calm.

This is certain: a violin might open its wings above a sleeping lake,
seduce flight to altitudes where nothing’s seen.
There is no time to turn, return,

as sound heads for the setting sun, getting smaller, smaller…
The strings are so many, each one the slightest of sighs
where tension gathers till it resonates.

There is no time. When the hammer strikes low notes in these ears
even the deaf man opens his hands, sees swallows
in flight as a feathered cloud.

There was no time. There is no time now, for the strings are so many,
their cries breaking, like echoes, across the lake
where I live among reeds and fear

and do not move, seem paralysed. There is no time for strings,
camped on the shoreline from daybreak till dawn,
to break their bows or blind thirsty crowds –

and because strings swell from too much height, do not count spaces
between the echo and any hollow note,
there can be no time.

We scythe wind, worms carving wood, hand-knives wet hay,
cut through silence with beaten strings
made helpless by sound.

There is no time to fill these hours. In each instant of sunlit skin
I will not rust time, for there is no time
and I was never here.

There is no time for forests to prepare, resin bursting at each seam,
neither air nor space nor anything either here or there.
There was never time.

I hung the music’s thunder on a hooked bough bleached by light,
felt so thirsty, then, so burned by my own body’s fire
I understood those Saints who loved the poor.

I knew where the days went, how fires ignite with your every move
when you choose to rise. There was never time.
Now I’m walking inside these woods –

trees lean and leaves stroke light. Music’s green and hung on boughs.
Can you hear violins brushing gold hair among leaves?
Behold: stones open when thunder comes.


Krissi Musiol’s Sugar Statues at NEAT11 Festival, Nottingham (Jun 2, 2011)

31 May

A slight deviation from the usual versions of song lyrics to note that as part of the Hatch programming within the NEAT11 festival, on Thursday June 2nd Manchester-based artist Krissi Musiol will be performing her one-woman show Sugar Statues, reflecting on recent Polish history from the perspective of her own family’s experience, at the Polish Eagle Club in Sherwood. The event is preceded by a new performance by Jenna Finch drawing on Nottingham’s Polish connections aboard a free bus to the venue that will set off from the Playhouse around 6.30pm.

To keep things in the spirit of  the Polish theme, I was asked a week or so ago to compile a couple of CDs of Polish music to be played between and after these performances and the songs below are all included: if you fancy seeing either performance, hearing the sounds, or just having a look inside the Eagle Club itself (built by expatriate Poles after WW2, and well worth a first or repeat visit) booking is via Hatch and the Playhouse.

Sugar Statues Playlist (2 June 2011)

Alibabki – Slonce W Chmurach Lazi

Dwa Plus Jeden – When Ice Floats Down The River

Marek Grechuta & Anawa – Korowod

No To Co – The Green Bridge

Urszula Sipinska – Trzymajac Sie Za Rece

Stenia Kozlowska – Przypomnij Mi

Czerwono Czarni – Beat Mass Credo

Tadeusz Wozniak – Zegarmistrz Swiatla

Maryla Rodowicz – Wolves Chasing The Sheep

Romauld & Roman – Pytanie Czy Haslo

Blackout – Powiedz Swoje Imie

Czeslaw Niemen/Akwarele – Dziwny Jest Ten Swiat

Klan – Don’t Plant Apples of Paradise

Niebiesko Czarni – Nie Pukaj Do Moich Drzwi

Filipinki – Nie Ma Go

Tadeusz Wozniak – Pewnego Dnia O Swicie

Czeslaw Niemen – Enigmatyczne Impresje

Krzysztof Komeda Quintet – Kattorna

NOVI Singers – Torpedo

Helena Majdaniec  – Juz raz bylo tak

Jerzy Polomski – Nie Pierwszy Raz

Czerwono Czarni – Moj Dom Gdzies Daleko

Polanie – Dlugo Sie Znamy

Klan – Picking Wild Strawberries with a Razor

Czerwone Gitary – Coda

Maryla Rodowicz – Hindu Couplets

Halina Frackowiak – Ide Dalej

Romauld & Roman – Czloweik

Marek Grechuta – Twoja Postac

Zespol Izomorf 67 – The Colour of Sound

Klan – Automaty

Krzysztof Komeda – Pushing the Car

Jan ‘Pstazyn’ Wroblewski – Sprzedawcy Glonow

Tadeusz Wozniak: Zegarmistrz światła (Muza, 1972)

12 May

Tadeusz Wozniak’s Zegarmistrz Swiatła isn’t a song I thought I’d manage to produce a version of, given that even in Poland it’s considered a somewhat ‘difficult’ lyric to interpret with any degree of precision, despite consisting of a mere eight lines, repeated in different ways during the course of the song. The structure has the short verses sung first by Wozniak solo to acoustic guitar, then with a full band, then by the backing vocals of Alibabki, then by Wozniak and band with the backing vocals added, before returning to Wozniak’s acoustic rendition at the conclusion. This gives the repetitions a very different texture each time, as the lines switch between single and massed voices and the tone shifts from reflective to impassioned. The Polish lyric reads as follows:

A kiedy przyjdzie także po mnie
Zegarmistrz światła purpurowy
By mi zabełtać błękit w głowie
To będę jasny i gotowy

Spłyną przeze mnie dni na przestrzał
Zgasną podłogi i powietrza
Na wszystko jeszcze raz popatrzę
I pójdę nie wiem gdzie – na zawsze.

In the version below I’ve introduced variations to the repeated stanzas to echo this shifting musical texture (at the expense of being more strictly accurate). It may or may not work: according to Bogdan Chorążuk, the author of the text, in an interview with Sławomir Zygmunt archived here, the song’s very deliberately opaque meaning was highly controversial despite its huge popularity, so I hope this no less oblique approach to its translation at least catches something of the general flavour and atmosphere, even if at many points here literal fidelity has been wilfully discarded, even more so than usual.

Zegarmistrz Swiatła (Watchmaker of Light)

(after Bogdan Chorążuk/Tadeusz Wozniak, 1972)

This I know: when they come after me, too,
in the watchmaker’s indigo light
the blue inside my head will splash,
clear and ready, will flow through me.

It may take days to cleanse this source
as ground and air extinguish alike.
I see reflections and points of light.
I’ll leave, forever, go…I don’t know where.

And, yes. When they come after me
in the watchmaker’s magenta light
the cobalt head of a match will flash and burn,
cast a shadow, clear and sharp

as the days flow from me, leave my shape
where the floors and air once were.
I’ll look at everything again, one last time,
and go, forever, with no idea of where.

And for all I know, when they come for me too
in the watchmaker’s purple light,
the turquoise in my mind will splash,
a translucent flare, and flood my days.

It may take time to quench these flames
as ground and air fade away alike,
as all I know sharpens to a point of light
and I leave forever, going…I don’t know where.

For I know, when they come for me at last
in the watchmaker’s damson light
the water inside my head will flare,
run clear as glass, then flow to fade.

It may take days to cleanse this source
as ground and air dissolve alike.
I see reflections and points of light.
I’ll leave, forever, go…I don’t know where.