I have been suffering from some listener fatigue with the amount of Modern Classical releases that have come my way. So, a way of cleaning out my ears and recharging my batteries is to listen to something different. “What Is Hidden” fits that bill. Stefan Węgłowski is a “composer, producer, live performer. His works include mostly compositions for small ensembles and solo instruments. In his works he uses minimalist and spectral techniques, combining them with broadly deŁned area of electronic music (Łeld recording, sampling, MaxMSP programming). He teaches at the Faculty of Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.”. He has released albums on the KAIROS label, while this album finds itself released by Muzeum Śląskie.

To determine how the music interacts with an exhibition is quite difficult having them separate from each other. According to the Muzeum Śląskie  website the premise was “To co ukryte is a journey into the subconscious triggered by a contact with the energy coming from a specific place on Earth – Silesia. While creating a personal mythology, the artist opens a space where you can venture into the depths of the physical world, into the layers of the earth, into corporeality. The processes of decomposition, becoming and circulation of matter will be accompanied by mythical figures processed by an individual sensitivity at the border of that what is corporeal and intuitive.” Whether or not this was referenced in, enhance by or a result of the music I am not sure, so I will simply comment on the four pieces offered here.

The four track album with tracks named A1 to A4 nicely inhabits different sound worlds with a minimalist aesthetic running through the four pieces. I have not heard Węgłowski’s music before, but from what I can ascertain it is a mixture of contemporary Modern Classical , Dark Ambient and Experimental tones. Of these three descriptions the latter two are apparent on these pieces. While not totally venturing into traditional Dark Ambient structures Węgłowski does like to bathe the listener in darker tones which is evident fairly on with “A1” with it’s long form rumbling metallic like drones that shake the foundations. Despite this dark, almost rusty metallic feel, there is enough melody that is gently nestled in them to give it both a point of attraction and offer up a contrasting sound/feel. With a glacial pace and no need for urgency, this type of piece was a nice counter to what I have been listening to so much recently. If you think that “A1” had set the tone for the rest of the album, then come “A2” you would be wrong. “A2” has a similar ten minute run time as the opener, but ditches the emphasis on the dark drones and adds in that sort of crisp, alien like glitchy electronica of the early 00’as style Raster Noton releases of Komet, etc… There is the thread of drones that links the two tracks together, with more of an emphasis of the melodic side which pairs nicely with the glitchy tones which has a wet and cold feeling about them. The track shows how well Węgłowski brings these sound worlds together.

Stefan-33-kontrast_1080
Photo by Marcin Szpak

If like with “A1” you thought “A2” was leading you in a direction, you are again wrong. “A3” remains within the similar sort of sound worlds as before, but adds a more percussive feel via the dubby synths that cascade all about and the slightly harsher and fuller drone sounds. The track also shows glimpses of Węgłowski’s composer background with little subtle nuances felt. Initially sounding like it was going to pursuit a more electronic vein like it’s predecessor, it instead balances between the electronic moments, pure ambience and slight classical touches. The final piece “A4” embodies elements of the three pieces before (minus the classical diversions) and mixes in a slight power electronics and Industrial feel to the piece. Sonicly the piece has the most elements going on in it and Węgłowski builds on some of the territories and textures he has used thus far, while adding the additional electronic Industrial feel as another way that his music is continually changing. The piece builds up and pulls apart as it grows and changes in a fairly consistent fashion until after the five minute mark where it inhabits a sound not too dissimilar from the likes of the music that comes out on the Ukraine/Austrian label Kvitnu. This type of music features noise mixed in with beats and ambience, but with a strong emphasis on crisp, dynamic sounds. The piece certainly fits in with rest of the album and shows the artist continually evolving while retain a core that runs through the four tracks.

“To Co Ukryte / What Is Hidden” is an enjoyable record that I have enjoyed purely for the difference compared to what I have listened most recently. Also the fact that it doesn’t attempt to be overly emotional or narrative driven, has added to the enjoyment of listening to it. The way that Węgłowski glides between styles with an open mind makes for an interesting listen as you are not spending too much time thinking that you are listening to just one style. The album is available on Lp and Digital.