Actually I was not about to write a review on this album, for it was released almost a year and a half ago. But then again, as you might know, I do not, ever, mind to write down my thoughts and ideas about material that has not been released recently; as long as it does deserve any additional promotion or support, you can count me in.
Well, to be honest, I have no idea anymore who brought me in contact with Poland based act Krzywdy. It does not matter, yet still I am oh so grateful. Why? Well, I hope this review will explain a lot. But first some (boring?) additional information, if you like it or not. Krzywdy means something like ‘harm’ and seems to be a one-man project from the Polish capital city of Warsaw. In Spring 2017 there was a first release, untitled, showing a glimpse of the ingenious mixture of (Nordic) Folk and Ritual Ambient Music. That album was an interesting one for sure, opening the gates to a bright future.
Well, with Czary, Krzywdy surely trespasses that portal to that ‘bright future’, entering a dimension that explores different corners of an unexplored universe. …a sonic universe that bewitches, intoxicates, captivates and mesmerizes. Czary, meaning ‘spells’, is a five-track experience, written and recorded by Mateusz ‘M’ Szymański. This guy, by the way, took care of the production, mix and mastering as well. It was released physically via Zoharum on compact disc (more precisely: a six-panel digipack with ritualistic artwork (co-worked with the talented visual artist Mister Cadaver); and of course there is a digitally downloadable opportunity as well.
Anyway, Mateusz created this album with assistance of some faithful session musicians / vocalists. Czary clocks forty-four minutes and brings five unique tracks, created by traditional (or ‘ethnic’) instruments, digitally manipulated sounds, acoustic guitars, voices and several field recordings / samples. The album opens with the lengthiest piece, Ginnunga Gap (12:43), which opens with a menacing sampled introduction: thunder and heavy rain, drenching the listener in a tempestuous experience, which immediately penetrates your Inner Eye. A physical caprice of touchable origin gets sonically redefined in a metaphysical, spiritual and mental confrontation with the darker corners of the mind. At least, sort of… But let’s focus on the aural nature of this material. After a short while, synth join the fierce of nature, and so do ethnic horns and ceremonial percussions, translating this audible adventure into a semi-shamanistic journey through soundscapes of deep-darkened Drone and Ambient. Step by step, it further evolves, when the stuff gets injected by tribal and rousing drums, followed by trancelike and hypnotic voices (whispers, chants, done by OLS) and more, and more, and permanently more layers of vocal and instrumental gauge. After about five or six minutes, the whole has evolved into a majestic approach of Nordic Folklore Ambient (isn’t that a fitting neology-oriented description?) with an esoteric, hypnotic and even meditative character. At nine minutes, things turn more obscure again, even-though the basic instrumental elements remain. And slowly, intensively integer, everything seems to fade away, as if everything returns towards the void in which our existence finds its origin. The endlessness and unending depth of Ginnungagap opens its portals to unphysical infinity once more…
With Medrca Slowa I, Krzywdy further seems to explore unknown corners of the macro-cosmic vastness and the micro-cosmos of our reality, expressed via a floating-atmospheric piece of tribal and Ambiental elegance. The track sounds like sighs from Earth’s womb, about wonder, astonishment, but impression and humility too. It’s such hypnotic song, created around intoxicating synth waves, ethereal choirs and mystic whispers, and tribal drum patterns. It withholds a fabulous equilibrium in between an ominous obscurity and a purely enthralling enlightenment. There is a certain repetitive character, yet the subtly hidden details reveal an abundant aural richness.
Wichry Skalne, then again, explores the connective relationship with the Dark / Sad / Neo Folk scene. At the one hand, we do still have that hypnotic touch of droning Dark Ambient, cf. the gloomy synth-layers, and that hint of ancient tribalism, cf. the shamanistic drums. This track also includes fine, somewhat melancholic acoustic guitars, as well as a rich vocal scala; the latter consists, in the first place, of quite raw, somewhat wretched voices, almost throaty (which shortens the link once more with the Viking-like scene, where ‘throat-singing’ isn’t a stranger), added by evocating calls, inauspicious whispers and Arctic-cold sighs. It works confusing with its continuously forward-marching and unstoppable tactics of sonic oppression. The unlimited forces of cosmic nature, unpredictable yet indestructible, are like waves throughout this song. Especially the last part, eclectic and whimsical, resumes the powers of the universe, the fickleness of the gods…
The fourth track continues the permanent evolution of this journey through space and time. Medrca Slowa II reminds me a lot of Wardruna; to be honest, if I did hear this piece without knowing who composed the thing, I would swear it was a new Wardruna hymn, at least in the beginning. Anyway, it does fit once more, for the unique combination of Nordic Folk and Drone Ambient in its darkest shape reflects on the protagonist’s relationship with creation (or, as I might define it, our limited existence (i.e. time and place) within eternity). Haunting melodies on keyboard, ritualistic percussions and multiple-layered vocal lines (hymnic chants, melodious voices and almost angelic choirs) are canalised into an oppressive, almost suffocating mist, divine at the one hand, heroic and persuasive at the other.
Czary ends with Ragnarok, representing the end of the cycle. After creation comes destruction, as you know. As from the beginning, the intensity works overwhelming. Heavy synths, powerful percussion-work and another wide range of vocal adaptations are fused into a dark hymnic poem. At half of the song, in a mostly subtle way, a certain martial attitude joins; actually, the whole anthem is militant and forceful, persuasive and combative. There is a certain structured chaotic element that penetrates the whole composition, which acts like a well-thought musical translation of the message: what about our heritage – have we forsaken truth, belief, tolerance and pride, or did we abuse truth, belief, tolerance and pride to become what we are now. Ragnarok represents the failure of mankind, the fall of idols and self-respect. Anyway, this impudent and intrepid track – valorous too, for sure – fulfils the conceptual tale which Czary stands for. It is all about the spell that covers our existence.
…but those spells gathered in musical format under the banner of Czary are just monumental. Krzywdy did create a unique five-track album which thrills and enthrals from the beginning until the end. It is a captivating sonic adventure with well-written and smoothly executed hymns, veiled in an obscure yet moony atmosphere. The sound quality is very decent, i.e. rough-edged yet well-balanced, which strengthens the in-depth experience.