PAST: Warsaw post-punk meets ’80s goth
You don’t need to speak Polish to understand the attitude and aesthetics of PAST, a post-punk band from Warsaw that started playing in 2011. Sure, their lyrics are a fundamental part of their work, focusing mostly on the current state of the world with a certain disillusionment – but with an ever present glimpse of hope. But all of this information can already be grasped by carefully listening to the powerful voice of Gosia, the band’s lead singer.
There’s something in her beautiful vocals that manages to bear the band’s spirit and captures the listener. Her strong harmonies stand above the ravenous and dystopian sound of their new record, Czarno/Biela (Black/White), while fitting perfectly in it at the same time.
On their Bandcamp page, PAST assert they play music “so that they can run away from norms and mediocrity.” Mediocrity in particular, or rather refusing it and fighting it, is central to their work, and that is not something to be underrated. While clearly fond of cold post-punk, the band renovates the the dark ’80s sound and modernizes it in a sparkling way.
Cutting synths often fill the space, invigorating the album with an unusually wide range of colors, while an omnipresent bass and blossoming guitars add a precious depth to the band’s compositions, pushing the band towards a roaring punk urgency with the help of fast-paced and never monotonous drums.
All of these elements turn Czarno/Biela into an exciting and epic ride, one that creates an atmosphere that owes a lot to the German post-punk of thirty years ago. It’s post-apocalyptic, but with a sizable dose of emotions and curiosity for all the possibilities that this type of music can offer.
Batushka photo: a blasphemous album cover?
Litourgiya by Batushka – or Батюшка – combines black metal with Orthodox Church imagery in appalling ways, and it was one of 2015’s most surprising albums for three reasons: It came out just a few days before Christmas (pushing everyone to review their end-of-year lists), it’s the debut album of a mysterious band that didn’t reveal their precise location or the names of its members, and it sounds fantastic.
Batushka, who supposedly come from Poland but sing in Russian and Old Church Slavonic, surely know how to play their genre. This could be explained by the fact that they share members with well-known Polish bands, according to their label Witching Hour Production . The musical composition of Litourgiya is superb, as the band wriggles between flawless blast-beats, calm parts where a macabre sound of chains often peeps out, and overwhelming metal rides.
The hallmark of their work, however, is the wide usage of Slavonic chants that melt perfectly with the rest of the music and with admittedly typical black metal vocals. These chants are not just samples of clerical dirges but an integral part of the band’s sound, as they always follow the music and contribute to exalt the piercing morbidness of the guitar riffs.
The band’s mystery has increased their hype even more. It’s been said that the chants they recite have some words changed and some lines reversed, with the result of turning these sacred words into blasphemous messages. The cover, with the erased faces of Jesus and Virgin Mary, points to that direction as well. As a consequence, the band received several death threats from Russian religious extremists and had to cancel their performances in Russia and Belarus.
Regardless, Batushka still managed to perform several shows in the rest of Europe, recreating on stage the gloomy atmosphere of Orthodox churches. After all, like their guitar player himself suggested in an interview, “nothing is more black metal than religion.”
When I listen to Warsaw producer Bartosz Kruczyński, aka Pejzaż, I don’t know if I’m listening to either trailer music for the new James Bond movie or some new European club music that would be James Bond-approved. Either way, I love it. Kruczyński is also the man behind Earth Trax, Ptaki, and The Phantom.
From Beehype: “With their laid-back, warm atmosphere, both songs might remind you about the most adorable things we have heard from Ninja Tune. But if you happen to live in Warsaw, you’ll find it a perfect sound illustration of this year’s sleepy summer in the city.”