[Reviewed by: Iaha Crax]
Where this fascination for clouds comes from is less important, as every one of us has glimpses of themselves starring up at s shape-shifting cloud. Interesting enough here is the artist’s idea to convert these experiences into musical phantasms created upon scrutiny of these watery formations. Maciek Szymczuk has released “Clouds” through Zoharum and you can find here several musical tableaux, each one depicting a certain cloud.
There are many types of clouds classified in relation to height, shape or density. Cirrus clouds (curling, thin lines), cirrocumulus (water droplets), cirrostratus (continuous sheet-like), altocumulus (dense patches), altostratus (intense opaque haze), stratocumulus (lumpy unstable forms), stratus (horizontal layers), cumulus (shreds), nimbostratus (grey, thick, menacing), cumulonimbus (towering vertical) – and I am not even an amateur meteorologist, just wanting to let you know what an incredible array of nuances and sound frequencies this album has.
The story of “Cumulus Congestus” (a vertically developed cloud) is related by a feminine voice resuming the sempiternal nature of this phenomenon: “I change but I cannot die” (verses from Shelley’s poem ‘Clouds’) . While Cumulus arose steadily upwards, “Cirrus Uncinus” brazes the sky silently, its hook-like forms inspiring a jazz-driven ambient that should bring back memories from our latest meetings with The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble.
“Altocumulus Floccus” has the appearance of an accumulation of vaporous globules resulted from a fragmentation. Thus the fading regular beeps disappearing in a shadowy haze. The music bears a poetic minimalism, only suggesting movements of sound and shape in a trompe d’oeil style similar to Vidna Obmana. Maciek seems to be perfectly competent to transmute the diverse ambient music frequencies, surprisingly delivering a dreamy industrial-voyage on the next “Altostratus” and then darkening the specter to a thick, unfriendly atmosphere with “Nimbostratus”. Slabs of steel percussion herald a change in mood and nature, as the nimbostratus cloud announces imminent precipitations (by Maciej Mehring’s voice, Bisclaveret member and Zoharum label co-owner).
Joanna Kustwan-Szymczuk surprises again with her changing vocals, replacing the narrative enigmatic recitation with a melodious lullaby on “Cirrocumulus Undulatus”. The Latin for ‘diversified as with waves’ finely reproduce the ebbing flow of the musical piece, and the sparse but dense array of frequencies recapture certain Debussy scales. This eschewing of tonality and intense effect of visualization that was characteristic to impressionism in classical music, has nowadays become a trademark for minimalist ambient composers. And few are those that, like Maciek Szymczuk, come to possess such powerful means of expression, so evident on the depiction of “Stratocumulus Duplicatus” (the multiform accumulations of dense clouds) drawn by guitar, bass and fathomable ambient structures. A third vocalist appears in the person of Mariusz Orzechowski, chanting a call for “Cumulus Mediocris” to gather further larger masses of clouds like the “Cumulonimbus Capillatus”, tower-like vertical clouds that produce thunderstorms and lighting. The melody swifts in a severe register (forecasted years ago by Haus Arafna) connecting the instability of the atmosphere with “the clouds in my heart, the clouds in my mind”.
By the musical blending of poetry and abstractness, Maciek Szymczuk resembles sometimes to a medieval geometer that treats numbers like portals to allegoric realities. This creates a sense of distracted and indifferent beauty pervading the album’s melodies, like “Cumulus Lacunosus” (clouds with circular holes), and also an enigmatic opening to interpretation of musical phraseologies (Stratus Undulatus) punctuated by allusive vocals (Maciej Mehring).
When geometrical scales are abandoned for more earthly nuances like on “Cirrostratus Fibratus”, Maciek becomes a painter working with scarce fiber-dense brushes, a refined opium dreamer on a fair weather forecasted by the “Cumulus Humilis”; or the vehicle of our transparent distant thoughts articulated by the soft, somnambular movements of “Cirrus Vertebratus”.
This more than laudable ambition of documenting clouds and their reflection into the imagination stands out as a remarkable and most notable ambient record. Maciek Szymczuk creates music as the clouds recreate themselves, through a multitude of shapes and tones. When the listening is over, you will certainly begin to observe differently the clouds on the remote and indifferent sky above, or those inside your own mind and “silently laugh at your own cenotaph”.