Zoharum is a Polish label founded in 2007, specializing in experimental music. Originally founded with the aim of releasing the music of Bisclaveret, the label soon expanded and evolved towards different directions. Today, the Zoharum catalog contains nearly 70 titles of ambient, industrial, experimental, electroacoustic and IDM among other genres. Most of the albums are released in CD format, although there are also first edition vinyls, special editions with bonuses, cassette tapes and other limited availability items. The choice of new titles for the label’s catalog is guided only by their taste, above genre limitations. Their contribution to the promotion of post-industrial music in Poland specifically, and the European audience more generally, is significant; they work with many artists from Poland and other countries, release new acts as well as renowned artists, but also refresh and present to new listeners classic albums in the history of experimental music. The visual and aesthetic aspect of Zoharum albums is always paid much attention to, and plays an important part to understanding the concept behind each release. Apart from their label activities, the owners collaborate with another well-known Polish label, Beast of Prey, for the publishing of “Hard Art” magazine and the organization of concerts, festivals and cultural events. With these two reviews we are taking a closer look into this very original label, in an attempt to provide our readers with more insight as to the artistic spirit that lies behind it and its acts.
Zenial – Chimera
[reviewed by / autor recenzji : stark || ENG/PL]
[ENG]: “Chimera” is another proposal by Łukasz Szałankiewicz aka Zenial, his second album released by Zoharum. In contrast to “Connection Reset By Peer”, this time it’s pressed on vinyl. The first three songs, the ones on side A, the musician composed for specific art installations presented in several European cities; these fragments make a soundtrack for cutting-edge audiovisual presentations. Two numbers from the B side are devoted to Franz Bardon. Łukasz explains the “Rosora” concept in our interview, which you can read here.
The sound experiments prepared by Zenial, although at first listen seem cold, calculated and callous, ultimately turn out to be quite accessible, and from those three adjectives only the second one still has its “raison d’etre”. Structurally and compositionally it’s a very organized thing, I don’t think that Łukasz even for a moment used some kind of stream of consciousness. “Chimera” is a spatial geometry of sound.
According to Kurzweil there’s not much time that separates us from the moment when the machine will pass the Turing test, and we’ll have to think about what to do next. Unless our PCs won’t allow us to do so. And yet in Zenial’s machine there’s a certain spirit already, immaterial though intelligent, perhaps a creative entity that flows through cables, raises impulses; analog equipment, the old hardware comes to life, gains awareness and begins to communicate with its electronic fellows. That’s what I hear on “Chimera”. Talking, singing computers and modems, creating structures and systems designed to serve their own benefit. Surely you’ve seen “Hardware” by Richard Stanley – if I have to imagine the sound recording of the processes that have occurred inside MARK 13, it would probably sound like “Chimera”.
The interrelations of technology and the paranormal have always been present in Zenial’s works. Anyway, as someone once said, the borderline between these two aspects seems to be gradually fading. “Chimera” is a very smart album; artistic talent is one thing, but I suspect that Łukasz was also good in science classes at school. But with all its technical approach “Chimera” evokes some sort of mystery, something out of time (I refer here to this famous writer from Providence). In the sounds straight from 8bit videogames, in delicate references to the Berlin school (or John Carpenter’s horror soundtracks) or in atmospheric textures where ambient and power electronics meet each other(“Unclean / clean”) … At least I formed such an impression. Try to penetrate the music and see what feelings it evokes in you. Is there a ghost or not?
As I mentioned at the beginning, for the standards of experimental music, “Chimera” is not particularly difficult. Its thought–out and organized form is surely helpful in absorbing the music. Of course, it isn’t easy listening either; “Chimera” still requires a certain amount of intellectual effort and patience. But it doesn’t belong to the edges of the experimental scene, to the regions where only the bravest venture. An interesting, original album. Worth a listen.
[PL]: “Chimera” to kolejna propozycja Łukasza Szałankiewicza aka Zenial, druga wydana nakładem oficyny Zoharum, w przeciwieństwie jednak do “Connection Reset By Peer”, tym razem wtłoczona w winylowe rowki. Trzy pierwsze, składające się na stronę A utwory muzyk stworzył z myślą o konkretnych instalacjach prezentowanych w kilku europejskich miastach; fragmenty te stanowić mają ścieżkę dźwiękową do tychże awangardowych prezentacji audiowizualnych. Dwa numery ze strony B poświęcono Franzowi Bardonowi. O “Rosorze” Łukasz wspomina zresztą w naszym wywiadzie, który możecie przeczytać tutaj.
Eksperymenty dźwiękowe przygotowane przez Zenial, choć na pierwszy rzut ucha zimne, wykalkulowane i bezduszne, w ostatecznym rozrachunku okazują się dosyć przystępne, a z trzech wspomnianych przymiotników jedynie ten drugi wciąż ma rację bytu. Strukturalnie i kompozycyjnie jest to bardzo uporządkowana rzecz, nie wydaje mi się żeby Łukasz choćby przez moment szedł tu na tak zwany “żywioł”. “Chimera” to geometria przestrzenna dźwięku.
Według Kurzweila niewiele czasu dzieli nas od momentu, kiedy maszyna przejdzie test Turinga i trzeba będzie zastanowić się co dalej. O ile nasze pecety nam na to pozwolą. A jednak w maszynie Zenial już teraz istnieje jakiś duch, niematerialny choć inteligentny, być może twórczy byt, który płynie kablami, wzbudza impulsy; analogowe maszyny, stary hardware ożywa, zyskuje świadomość i zaczyna się porozumiewać z elektronicznymi pobratymcami. To właśnie słyszę na “Chimerze”. Rozmawiające, śpiewające komputery i modemy, tworzące struktury i systemy mające służyć ich własnej korzyści. Na pewno oglądaliście “Hardware” Richarda Stanley’a – gdybym miał sobie wyobrazić dźwiękowy zapis procesów zachodzących wewnątrz M.A.R.K. 13, to zapewne brzmiałby on mniej więcej tak, jak to, co dochodzi moich uszu podczas słuchania “Chimery”.
Wzajemne powiązania technologii i zjawisk paranormalnych zawsze gdzieś się przewijały w twórczości Zenial. Zresztą jak ktoś kiedyś powiedział granica pomiędzy oboma tymi aspektami zdaje się stopniowo zacierać. “Chimera” to bardzo inteligentna rzecz, talent artystyczny to jedno, podejrzewam jednak, że i z przedmiotami ścisłymi Łukasz nieźle sobie dawał radę w szkole. Ale przy całym tym technicznym podejściu wyziera z “Chimery” pewna tajemnica, coś spoza czasu, że nawiąże tu do znanego pisarza z Providence. Czy to w odgłosach rodem z gier ośmiobitowych, czy delikatnych nawiązaniach do szkoły berlińskiej (a może soundtracków z horrorów Johna Carpentera) albo atmosferycznych teksturach z pogranicza ambient i power electronics (“Unclean/clean”)… Ja przynajmniej mam takie wrażenie. Spróbujcie wniknąć w tę muzykę i sprawdzić jakie odczucia w was ona wywołuje. Jest tu ten duch, czy go nie ma?
Jak wspomniałem na początku, jak na muzykę eksperymentalną i poszukującą, “Chimera” nie jest jakoś szczególnie ciężka w słuchaniu. Przemyślana i uporządkowana forma pomaga w przyswojeniu sobie muzyki. Oczywiście żadne to easy listening, “Chimera” wciąż wymaga pewnej dozy wysiłku intelektualnego oraz cierpliwości. Ale nie jest to nic z obrzeży sceny eksperymentalnej, z rejonów, gdzie zapuszczają się tylko najodważniejsi. Ciekawa, niebanalna płyta. Warto się zapoznać.
Hati – Zero Coma Zero + Recycled Magick Emissions
[Reviewed by Vitriol]
Seven years after the release of “Zero Coma Zero” on a limited edition CDr by the Polish label Nefryt, Zoharum is re-releasing it in digipak along with “Recycled Magick Emissions”, released in a limited mini-CDr edition by the Nefryt sublabel Malachit in 2006. On the occasion of Hati recently having celebrated their ten years of live performances, Zoharum is also releasing an extremely limited wooden box-set edition of this album, offering many extra goodies such as limited cassette tapes and CDrs covering the project’s activity from 2003-2006, a pin, sticker, postcards and authenticity certificate signed by the artists. There are only 45 copies of this available so if you want to get your hands on one, you know the drill.
Listening to the album again after all these years, one cannot help but confirm the previous assessment, that the appreciation and recognition awarded to the artists after its release was fully justified. With “Zero Coma Zero” Dariusz Wojtaś and Rafał Iwański have introduced an innovative approach to acoustic minimalism by the use of various ritual instruments (Tibetan and Indian bells, cymbals, horns and pipes) combined with discarded utility objects recovered from the junkyard (scrap metal, plastic tubes, screws and bolts etc). At the same time experimental, pioneering and shamanic, this bizarre hybrid of modernity and traditionalism assumes a life of its own as soon as the first note is struck; the spirit of the material plane inspecting its domain. The sound is completely acoustic, and no background whatsoever – electronic or otherwise – is deemed necessary for its enhancement. The emptiness behind the principal sound sequences serves to create magickal space, a vacuum in which the ritual of the cycle of life will take place.
The recording contains nine tracks, as many as the Sephiroth in the Tree of Life. To my understanding it presents the journey of the soul from the moment of its incarnation in the physical plane, to its ascension towards the Creative Force. As to where the path begins and where it ends, that depends on one’s approach of the topic. “Zero” is a meditative introduction to the physical realm, devoid of elements of humanity. Bells, chimes and pipes create the impression of nature and birds singing, as if slowly opening your eyes after a deep slumber, finding yourself in the midst of a dense forest. The light slowly begins to give form to this new, strange realm. “Animal” is one of the most remarkable tracks of the album, mainly for its use of wailing and whispering voices resembling the cries of small children – only these voices possess an animalistic quality, making it difficult to tell whether they are human or not. The inarticulate sounds they utter imply some sort of primitive communicational structure, and a monotonous, repetitive drumming in the background makes this a very solemn and somewhat frightening track. The infusion of life in matter is always escorted by a fair dose of aggressiveness.
“Homines” denotes the transition from animal to human in a short interval of escalating, metallic drones and dark tribal atmospheres, whereas “Templum” is comprised entirely of the sounds of breaking glass and clanging metals – in the adytum of the temple the elements conflict until a perfect balance is achieved. “Aqua” is not dominated by the sounds of running water as one might imagine based on the title, but is inherent with a subtle, spiritual type of fluidity and versatility. Composed of rhythmic gongs and soft, low-key ritual chants, it escalates by the constantly increasing volume of the gongs, whereas the rhythm and pattern never changes. And with that the five points are completed; the rending of the first veil is achieved.
“V” amazes with its ceremonial solemnity – its deep, hollow drones created by horns and the delicately melodic chimes contrasting them induce a state of deep meditation. The horns announce the passage into the next stage. “Y” could be perceived as the three points of the supernal trinity, its shape and upward direction resembling a human figure with arms raised towards the heavens. An embellished invocation towards the Higher Self including many different elements such as gongs, rhythmic sequences, chimes and bells. “Anima” is the closest to dark ambient that this recording gets, with its muffled, industrial-sounding noises and bells. It gives the impression of walking in an underground cave, where the bells echo in the emptiness and obscurity. After a perilous journey in this claustrophobic, murky domain one would expect the ascension to be narrated by a series of uplifting sounds. Instead of this lightness however, “Coma” is yet another track made entirely of the sharp clanging of various metallic and glass items. And thus the journey ends, among the feverish creative activity of the higher intelligences.
“Recycled Magick Emissions” contains three tracks, the first one being a reworking of “Aqua” from “Zero Coma Zero”, where the sound is more layered and industrialized, even noisy in some parts. The other two tracks, “Recycled Magick Emission I” and “II” follow the same minimalistic principles as “Zero Coma Zero” only in this case the sound is more diverse in terms of layering and ambience. “Emission I” is a wonderful play with cut-up segments of cymbals interacting with the gongs and barrels, where the percussions are buried beneath layers of processed sound. As if a ritual is being performed somewhere far away, and the sound reaches our ears through mist and wind. “Emission II” is a continuation of “I”, a 14-minute long tonal vibration created by further processing of these ‘recycled’ instruments – an exemplary extraction of subtle harmonies from noise. Apparently these tracks are named “Magickal Emissions” for a good reason. Emanating from and to a higher state of consciousness, they are designed to access specific brainwave frequencies that can potentially induce a state of trance.
This re-issue is a great opportunity to enjoy an innovative, groundbreaking album that made history in the post-industrial scene. But it is also a challenge in terms of the concentration and study it requires in order to grasp the concept behind it. As primal, unpredictable and multifaceted as life itself, it is a praiseworthy attempt to merge the physical and the spiritual and to conjoin two forms of art, namely ritual performance and studio music, to one uniform expression. An admirable transference of the essence of the ‘old crafts’ into the new age.
Hati – Zero Coma Zero + Recycled Magick Emissions
Zoharum, ZOHAR 050-2
CD, Compilation, Re-master, Limited, 2013