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Written in fRoots issue 325, 2010


Sluchaj Uchem, no number

2008ís album Mazurki by the Prusinowski trio was the most inspiring to come my way out of Poland that year, and this new one maintains the standard. No reconstructionist attempts to bring back a past era; these musicians are going for what, to past generations and now, makes these tunes and rhythms and ways of playing good.
      The music they produce, lurching, rhythm-jumping is vigorous, grainy-textured, even appearing rough on the surface, but in no way is any of the playing anything but extremely skilled; these are contemporarily aware players, with deep love and understanding of central Polish traditional music and its techniques. There are frequent reminders of the wanderings of some Polish dance-forms across Europe, particularly to Sweden; Zawierucha, for example, has that stretched three-beat Swedish polska hesitancy, as does the first part of Namolny Gosc Weselny before it moves into an almost Breton-like 4/4.
      For this album, and often live, the trio is a quartet; I assume it was previously a limiting factor that if Janusz Prusinowski was fiddling he couldnít simultaneously play the small traditional bass, and the other two were generally fully occupied. So Piotr Zgorzelski bows or plucks the bass where itís needed, with Prusinowski on ecstatic fiddle, ringing hammered dulcimer, Polish accordion and harmonium and main vocals, Michal Zak adding strident shawm, softer-toned wooden flutes and clarinet, and Piotr Piszczatowski thudding big baraban drum and tambourine, with guests on occasional trumpet and double bass.
      Except for the final song, the groupís own elegiac setting of an anonymous poem, all of the constantly interesting, rhythmically varied material on the album Ė mazureks, obereks, kujawieks, wiwaks, polkas and walking dances Ė that theyíve learned in the course of meeting and playing with surviving older village musicians, some of whom can be seen in the photos on their MySpace site. They donít mimic these players; they internalise their techniques, apply their own wider musical influences and expertise, and convey the thrill and dance-impulse in an album full of spirit and listenability.


© 2010 Andrew Cronshaw

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