Karolina Rec AKA Resina released her second album for 130701, right at the start of Summer. Her self-titled debut sought, overtly, to consort with Nature. A suite to Karolina`s rural hometown, full of animal static. Where the scratching of strings is the beating of wings. The pumping of blood. Its intensity creating a sense of senses piqued. Of alert predators, and prey. Storms, rain. The creaking and snapping of wood. Almost like a recreation of field recordings.
Her follow-up, Traces, is far more ethereal, and perhaps more accessible. Where Karolina`s cello aches with recognisable melancholy. See-sawing melody. An enchanted air. Like Classical court music caught in drift and delay. Still driven by the desire to draw unique sounds from her instrument. Buzzing backwards microtones distorting into flame. Karolina`s voice also plays a prominent role. As a multi-tracked choir. Or operatic siren. Sailing into digital stutter. Vaporised, drawn into heaven. Collaboration with percussionist, Mateusz Rychlicki, brings marches of tribal tom toms. Gongs and chimes. Trance-inducing heartbeats of a slow ceremonial bass drum.
It provided an odd soundtrack for me as I drove through a Kansai heatwave, a landscape of dusty, dry rice paddies, since it powerfully evokes images of European woodlands. Dark green forests full of magic. A pagan place.
Where are you from?
Originally I’m from Pomerania, a maritime region in the north part of Poland. I`ve lived in several cities in the region, but Gdynia is “my place”.
Where are you based?
I`ve lived in Warsaw for six years now.
What were your first impressions upon moving to the city?
Obviously joy, because of the many opportunities of the capital city, but also simultaneously horror – caused by the constant noise and the lack of nature.
Does the city have an active music and arts “scene”? Does this centre on particular venues or events?
Sure, there are both: some venues and events. Especially in the Summer, there’s a series of concerts at several venues by the river which have an absolutely stunning lineup. I think that also some Polish festivals at present are at world class level. I personally prefer those that take place in different buildings / venues like, like Unsound. Generally I think that the Polish music scene is very vibrant and there are a lot of interesting things and interactions happening between local musicians.
Where are your favourite places to go listen to music, or to go dancing?
As I mentioned in the Summer, the river area with clubs / venues such as Powidoki, Plac Zabaw, Barka. During Winter it was probably a club named Pogłos that I visited the most.
Where is your favourite place in the city?
My current favourite place is actually an hour and a half outside the city, by the river, called Liwiec.
If you could live anywhere, where would that be?
If I could literally choose anywhere probably I’d like to choose several different places on several continents.
When and why did you first become interested in music?
It was when I was eight and saw my friend playing the piano at school. I`d never seen a real piano before and immediately felt enchanted by it’s sound. So the same day I forced my mother to send me to a piano lesson.
Which instruments do you play?
Cello and piano are my basic instruments, but let’s say generally everything that has kind of a keyboard is possible for me to play – some percussion instruments, synthesisers, zither etc. I’m also coming back to using my vocal lately.
Are you classically trained?
Are there any artists in particular whose music has influenced your own?
Because of my Classical background I feel that all that history of music has somehow made a mark on me, especially: Choral, Piano, Polish, Impressionism and Contemporary. But it’s because of the producer of my album, Maciej Cieślak, his band, Ścianka, and his music that I compose and perform my own music today. Also, a few years ago, when I was seriously wondering if there was still any sense to make an album dedicated to a solo acoustic instrument I ran into Colin Stetson’s second solo album. That album left me with no doubt that it is worthwhile to try and work on finding your own unique, personal musical language.
Are there any current Post / Modern Classical artists whose music you admire?
To be honest – I don’t listen to Post / Modern classical music very much. So I’ll be probably boring and predictable speaking about my label-mates, but recently I was listening to Emilie Levianaise-Farrouch’s dark and beautiful new release, and also invariably to the three or four latest albums by Ian William Craig. But is he really a Post-Classical composer? – I’m not sure…
Are there contemporary artists from other genres whose music you enjoy?
Yes, lots of them. Generally I feel that the most inspiring things for me are these which are happening at the borders of genres, and which move them into some unexpected areas. That’s what some of Electronic / Experimental music is doing now. But also some contemporary composers. Or composers like Ben Frost who mixes Electronic / Experimental with some contemporary techniques.
How did you make the connection with 130701?
…I sent them a demo.
Your debut album bore a strong connection with nature. It sounded like a recreation of field recordings. I could visualise wild animals and birds. Forest and farm yard. Is this what you set out to do?
Yes, and probably you’re the first one who named it so clearly. I think I also wanted to capture an atmosphere of ambivalence, and feelings connected to experiencing the pure power of nature.
Your strings rarely seemed to be “conventionally” played. Instead you seemed to summon a kind of “animal static” from them. How did you achieve this?
Maybe I work with my cello in a similar way to how producers use Ableton. I try to build my own set of “instruments” based on sounds coming from cello – in many cases these are weird ones, non-obvious and not very “clear” – which at the end are processed, a bit, or looped, damaged, etc.
How does Traces differ in concept, and method, to the first LP?
Actually less than I expected, in terms of recording methods used – I still like to record live as much as possible – but a bit more in the whole concept. This time my thoughts were more concentrated around subjects related to the selectivity of human memory, history, psychology of religions. It meant that during the composing process I was intuitively searching for books, movies, exhibitions, performances, somehow connected to these themes.
Did the equipment used differ greatly between the two recordings?
When recording the first album, we used some traditional analog gear – like real plate reverb, or classic Roland tape delay. Obviously it was huge fun. But unexpectedly it was even more interesting for me to spend a lot of time with some inspirational hardware digital effects / pedals and apply them to acoustic sources, such as my vocals or some of the strange cello parts.
Your voice plays a much more prominent part in the new record – lending it an “ethereal”, “enchanted” feel. What was behind this decision, and what was the effect you set out to achieve?
I’ve learnt from my parents that I’ve been singing from very early childhood, a lot, and in a very natural way. However after two years of working in a professional chamber choir I felt very tired and stressed about using my own voice. It took me a couple of years to feel comfortable with singing again. But I’ve never stopped dreaming about writing pieces for a choir. Instead of that I’ve started using loops and different digital hardware effects, like tremolo, which are mostly used by guitar players, not vocalists. I just treat my voice as another instrument.
The new music also features a percussionist, giving some of the pieces a “tribal”, “trance-inducing” quality. Again what was behind this idea?
This idea appeared in my head many years ago, while composing the first album. When I was working on the track Resin. As you know, Resin didn’t appear on that first album. I wasn’t happy with the original arrangement nor with the recording or my own performance. I felt I just need a partner to build a less obvious, but still very strong rhythmical base, and I found a great drummer who intuitively read my intentions. Mateusz Rychlicki, who plays in several great Polish bands. On our first rehearsal together, during the first ever attempt at this piece, he played his part in the shape we decided to record on the album. I’ve always been fascinated by the endless possibilities of dynamics and colours of live percussion.
Do you have any concerts arranged to coincide with the release of Traces?
On the day of the album release (July 6th) I played show at the biggest Polish festival, so it was a nice celebration of the release. I’m very happy that I’ll be playing several live shows in UK very soon, and also opening the Unsound festival this year. And more dates are still to be announced.
September 27 / Church Of The Annunciation, Brighton, UK (w/Emilie LF, Shida Shahabi)
September 28 / Rough Trade Bristol, Bristol, UK (w/Emilie LF, Shida Shahabi)
September 29 / Union Chapel, London, UK – (w/Emilie LF, Shida Shahabi)
September 30 / The Hot Tin, Faversham, UK (w/Emilie LF, Shida Shahabi)
Below is a link to Karolina`s mixtape, which seamlessly segues between current listening, and a few of her influences cited above.
Tiny bells. Madrigals. Whispers, drones and subliminal rhythms. Digital symphonies. Sinister, slithering alien voodoo. Dancing. Fizzing at its edges. Imagine a fairy-tale scored by Lubos Fiser, if he were to record for PAN.