The Vinyl Chord: Various – Portrety

Label: U Know Me Records

Purchased: Sounds of the Universe

Why? Read on, brother. 

U Know Me Records (founded in 2010) is an independent record label based in Warsaw, Poland. This 2019 compilation encompasses the diverse avenues taken by eight musicians with the talent to convert drum sounds into beats and beats into tracks. Incidentally, I didn’t know the label before I plucked this gorgeous looking LP from the online shelves and played Marcin Rak’s Alpaka. The first minute was enough to ensnare me. Rak’s track begins sounding like the theme to the finest 1920’s movie never made, propelled by an electronic fuzz that adds to the excitement. The eventual hook booms out and Rak’s drumming hits the chest as much as it titillates the ears. Each time the drums decide to burst into the forefront, they arrive with a new electronic ripple and invoke disparate emotions to compelling effect. This tune is serious. Unfortunately, it is one of only several memorable moments on an otherwise clanging succession of sounds on the record. 

Kabina Projekcyjna’s Qba Janicki is one of those tracks where the experimentation crystallised within matches only the listener’s desire to hear some semblance of rhythm. As I wrote in my notes, ‘didn’t get it, didn’t want to’. I also wrote that it sounds like the inside of a dishwasher in slo-mo. Not only do I stand by this on second listen, I would also add that the dishwasher sounds close to broken. As with track one—Michael Bryndal’s Kovalevo Tone Bank—the music ostensibly aims to test our patience and exhibit the limitless nature of the drum. However, where Bryndal shows something like restraint in the assemblage of his materials, Projekcyjna is far too rushed to splash his canvas with anything meaningful, leaving in his wake a vague and indeterminate sequence of noises. There are still enjoyable, probing moments to be found in the eight tracks: Hubert Zemler’s The Life and Death of Ben Bekele maintains a solid dub rhythm and thankfully chooses not to pour over into electronic indulgence.

Krzysztof Dziedzic’s Vagabonde is closer to the sounds of Dizzy Gillespie’s standards than anything else on the record. This is not a bad thing. As a collection of pieces portraying the drum’s versatility, it is only right that Dziedzic provides a nod to the jazz experimentalists of the past. Not only this, he does it so well that one is transported away from the clatters found elsewhere on the record. 

The LP itself certainly remains an exhibition, covering just about anything a person with that enviable sense of timing can do with a drum. As a whole, the eight tracks are a challenging listen, but the rewards are there if you tune in with an open mind and an acceptance for the unglamorous, gritty but endearing philosophies of today’s Polish drumming scene.

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