[The Secret Garden] Audiovisual space of experiencing the imagination – Radoslaw Kaminski (Ab Intra)

ab_intra1

Radek Kamiński is the mastermind of Ab Intra, the project which is active since 2004. His first full length album was called “Aura Imaginalis” and it contained a decent but not quite original dose of dark ambient strongly influenced by classic CMI acts. The major change of sound came with “Supremus” released by Zoharum in 2012. Those aforementioned influences were gone and massive yet emotional walls of sound appeared instead. This style is continued on the split with 1000Schoen – hopefully this is another step in gaining attention also outside Poland. This artist definitely deserves it. Meanwhile we ask Radek a couple of questions about his work. Have a nice reading.

For many of us there’s one particular point in our lives, usually in our childhood or early teens, when we can be allowed to say our true connection with music began. Do you remember what your first encounter with music was, that ultimately inspired you to become a musician?

In fact, from the very beginning, from my early childhood, I felt an inexplicable attraction to synth sounds. I was listening to them in various songs, which eventually led to a passion for purely instrumental music. I didn’t have a good musical background in my environment, so for some it may seem funny, but my first conscious choice of music was Jean Michel Jarre’s work. I was about six years old, and I think it affected my young mind quite strongly; it somehow awakened my imagination. I also passionately listened to the sound of this toy, a Bulgarian robot. It was battery-operated, walking on its own. So when I put it on the kitchen counter and then put my ear to it, the robot was moving towards my direction and I was listening to the most powerful and spatial, mechanical industrial in my life. I was repeating these sessions over and over again; I will never forget it. That was the time when I started to wish I could make sounds using synthesizers. Of course I had no idea what I wanted to do, but the desire was aroused. It accompanied me intensely more or less in all my life. Since I can remember, I’ve always aspired to create any possibility of making music. Sometimes I managed to borrow a keyboard and then I was completely absorbed by generating the first squeaks.

How did you come up with the name for the project, and what does it mean to you?

As we know, Ab Intra literally means “from within”. I don’t remember the exact circumstances when I came across this phrase for the first time, but at that moment I knew that this is it. I liked the sound of the words and their meaning, which in a simple and essential way conveys the idea of the project, and everything that lies behind it. The name itself actually uncovers the very essence of it, and therefore an emanation of some inner experiences, visions, processes to the outside. A terrible cliché, as this is the idea of almost every creative work. I don’t know if I can talk about what it really means for me. It’s kind a of self-knowledge I guess, a certain “soundgnosis”.

Tell us a little bit about the history of your project – releases, live gigs, collaborations, any particular incidents or works that hold a place in your heart, and anything else you might feel is important.

The beginning of the whole story is to some extent included in the answer to your first question. Later some fresh musical inspirations came. I discovered things which made me realize that there is actually music that I’d really like to work on. So a certain kind of feedback appeared. Slowly and gradually an idea of how this should be done began to crystallize. It still does actually. The first sounds were built around 2002. In 2004 a first CD-r demo was out, “Demiurgia”, released by ProDistri, a War Office Propaganda sublabel. It was a terribly naive material, in many aspects, with the horrible cover. Three tracks from that demo were later put on the split with Bisclaveret and Sect.

Then I gained some distance and quietly and consistently continued my sound explorations. “Aura Imaginalis” was released by Zoharum, in what really turned out to be the key moment for Ab Intra. There was promotion, many reviews. I finally received feedback for my music, that turned out to be relatively good and highly surprising, given the fact that for various reasons the material had been “in the drawer” for about a year and to put it mildly, the music wasn’t very innovative. Oh, and (the horror!) Maciek Mehring persuaded me to start performing live. My first performance took place in November 2009 in the Centralny Dom Qltury in Warsaw. I must here point out that Maciek and Michal Porwet do incredible work, including the promotion. Probably without their support my whole musical adventure would have looked totally different. It’s a pleasure to work with them.

Thus, to a large extent due to the fact of my presence under the Zoharum flag, my project gathered a momentum. During that time “Supremus” was constantly growing, and it saw the light of day in early 2012. Looking back, I think that this album was ultimately the closest to what Ab Intra should be in its essence, in terms of sound. Let’s hope that this will reasonably evolve. In the meantime, there have been some important live events for me as a performer. One of them was surely Defibrylator Fest vol. 2 in Antonin. Brilliant scenery, quite unique atmosphere. For obvious reasons the performance alongside Desiderii Marginis in CSW Laznia in Gdansk was very important as well. I have warm memories of the first edition of the Kalisz Ambient Festival, while the gig in Bremen had a motivating impact on the creation of “Entelecheia”, the material prepared for the split with 1000schoen, Helge S. Moune’s project. So far, it’s the most recent Ab Intra material. The last months were characterized by an increased concert activity. The gig in CSW Torun with Bisclaveret and Aquavoice is definitely worth mentioning. In general I like gallery spaces, it’s probably a good place for ambient drifting. I remember well the Temple of Silence event in Ostrow Wlkp; and obviously, very important for me – for various reasons – the 16th Ambient Festival in Gorlice and the 13th Wroclaw Industrial Festival.

We often see a lot of reviews and commentary referring to the same release, yet describing completely different things, to the point where the reader might become a little confused. If it was up to you to describe your music in the way that you see fit – and not necessarily restricted by genre classifications or labels – what words would you use?

While making the Ab Intra page on a social networking site I tried to deal with this problem and it was really difficult. So I stuck with the phrase “audiovisual space of experiencing the imagination”. Because actually this is what it’s all about. I suppose that this term is reasonably safe because it doesn’t burden the music very much, nor what flows from it through my ego, so there is room for interpretation; and hopefully, space for the imagination of potential listeners.

What is the process you usually go through to complete a recording, from beginning to end? I’m referring here not only to the technical aspects of recording, but also your state of mind, something related that could trigger the writing process and so on.

I’ve observed that a purely technical process manifests itself in two ways. The first one, when I compose the main theme and then I create the arrangement around it. The second one is reversed: I create a background which determines further action. The first is more direct, it’s a kind of moment of contact with the source of music. Difficult to talk about it, this is the short while when it’s just that. Actually, I disappear completely then, I’m just a transmitter. It’s also hard to explain all the factors that cause the rising of such and no other state. Sometimes I don’t touch the keyboard for months until for various reasons, of which often I’m not even aware, the time comes. What’s important, such a creation must cause an impression during subsequent listens similar to the one where the music was aroused from. This is the basic criterion for deciding whether it works or not. In general, listening to the music demands most of the work and time in my case. Checking the music in a variety of circumstances and states of mind. Hence, I cooperate with Time, which ruthlessly verifies the value of everything.

As we all know being an underground musician is not a lucrative employment. What’s your everyday life like – job, family, other activities – and where does making music fit in it? Is it a crucial part of your life or do you view it more like a hobby?

I am a graphic designer not only by profession, therefore I try to live from my activities related to graphic design and DTP. Somehow, it just happens that everything I most like to do becomes a hobby. Music, painting, illustration. In fact, life in general has also taken a hobbyist form. Also, I entertain cats. Two to be more specific. I caress one’s belly, and throw a paper ball to the other, she returns it making strange sounds. I caress her too. And this is how things go so far.

The role that social media play in the promotion and even the survival of an underground artist today is indisputable. Based on your own experience, do you feel that this type of exposure may stand in opposition to the general idea of underground music? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the friendly, everyday communications of artist and audience have somehow detracted from your work by depriving it of its mystery and sense of nobility?

If the purpose of underground music is to be completely unknown, social media are indeed not the best idea for this operation. But I think that the use of social media doesn’t necessarily imply that the person ceases to be “underground”. What does that even mean these days? Is it about the scope or impact of the message, or a music genre? I feel that some things are reached by those who are really interested in the subject. Only the circumstances are virtual. It’s just another form of being. Social media can realise the role of a new form of existence for underground music and artists, but on the other hand, they provide easy access to various, sometimes random people, which can probably be a source of many different and strange situations. The fact of making something very widespread can be frustrating, because it causes a flood of not necessarily good music. But such mechanisms have always existed. Various underground movements were passing through it without the participation of these media. What really is avant-garde in its form, is usually unintelligible enough for mainstream consciousness that no portals will change it. Ab Intra being present in such media is but another form of communication and interaction. I have never experienced any “desacralisation” effect because of it.

Post-industrial is a constantly evolving organism that keeps generating new genres and cross-classifications. On the other hand many newer artists carry significant influences from the pioneers of each genre, and the sheer number of projects and albums makes it more challenging for the casual listener to assess the quality of a release. What is your personal assessment of the current condition of the dark ambient scene? Do you feel it has changed since you first started making music?

The answer to this question probably depends on how we define dark ambient ourselves. If we assume that this music is handling low-frequency drones, generating a certain kind of atmosphere, you may get the impression that dark ambient has become a quite defined and thus self-repeating formula in recent years. I don’t want to say that it’s bad and nothing interesting is happening. It’s rather the natural state of things for each well-established genre, and it all depends on who uses the genre’s achievements and how. Of course there are characteristic projects that have contributed a lot to this style, as well as those moving in certain frames; if you do it right it’s okay. So on one hand we can say that there is a certain stagnation of form, and on the other there are cases of projects that are still able to develop in a very decent way, like Desiderii Marginis, Troum or Inade. But are they doing dark ambient in a strict sense of this term? So I have very ambiguous feelings towards the scene. Lately I don’t consider music from strictly a genre point of view. I think probably not much has changed since I started doing my own work, but I could be wrong; I may not have the necessary discernment. In recent years, Zoät-Aon have moved dark ambient in a very interesting formal areas, but it’s still been a while. I think one of the most interesting projects nowadays is Aun…

Name some of your favourite artists, musicians or not, that constitute an influence and inspiration for your own work.

I do not think it will be a surprising list. Maybe I’m just mentioning things that have greatly influenced and still influence me, not necessarily Ab Intra as a project, although those are certainly here too. Some of them have had a strong impact in the early stages of my musical adventure. Now I look at them from a different perspective. So,the aforementioned Jean-Michel Jarre (mostly “Oxygene”) Mortiis (Cold Meat Industry era), Arcana, Raison d’être, Necrophorus (actually Peter Andersson’s music is still working on me intensely), Ordo Equilibrio (early, the first three albums), Aghast, Mz.412, Desiderii Marginis (obviously), Blood Axis, Atomine Elektrine (“Nebulous” is one of my favourite albums ever), Swartalf, Endura, Lustmord, Lull (“Moments”). Bad Sector has had a significant impact on me, Predominance, Inade, Fjernlys, Northaunt. Speaking of other things: Monumentum, Profanum, Burzum. In a later phase, I was moved by the works of Robert Rich, Steve Roach, Klaus Schulze (“Timewind” but not only this one), Dead Can Dance, Coil. These days, I listen mostly to Tim Hecker, Troum, Thomas Köner, Mathias Grassow, Aun… That’s it I guess. I like when the music through its action suspends us in time.

And finally, do you have a message for our readers?

Thank you to everyone who wants to listen to Ab Intra and come to the concerts. This gives an additional meaning to what I do, and is extremely motivating. I also thank you for the opportunity to present myself in Santa Sangre.

1000Schoen/Ab Intra – split

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[reviewed by: stark]

The four elements are struggling on two CDs which are the result of a joint venture between 1000Schoen, one third of the legendary Maeror Tri, and Ab Intra, a project by Radek Kaminski, one of the most talented representatives of not just the Polish ambient scene. But since conceptually air, earth, fire and water all receive their time here, you can simply describe this split as a duel between the latter two forces of Nature.

Helge Moune presents three compositions on the first disc. Balancing between light and darkness, as if suspended between another transient from one form of existence to another. The German, in addition to standard ambient generating equipment uses natural, material sound sources. The first composition, “Cerbo Universe,” is good, but with time becomes a little tedious, the next two however are indeed top league – “Dead Shadow”, filled with a rhythmic sequence, with an amazing guitar part, stoking with emotions ready to explode at any moment. This is the specific type of ambient music, which instead of soothing or lulling to sleep makes that something pulses inside the listener, forces them to walk around restlessly from one corner to another and start to wonder how they can safely relieve the successively growing tension. “When The Shadow Falls” is probably based on the processed sound of strings or guitar. This composition bears a specifically cynical taste; it’s a bit like a curse drawled through clenched teeth. Or watching with wild satisfaction as someone whose achievements you’ve always been jealous of, lose their dignity. Such strange and somewhat absurd feelings are raised when I listen to 1000Schoen’s segment of the split. A quite restrained segment after all, not punching you in the face straightforward. The calm before the storm.

And you don’t have to wait long for it. After the first few seconds of “Entelecheia I” the listener is blown away by an aural maelstrom in such a way that they lose contact with any external factors. In contrast to the subdued, “watery” 1000Schoen, Ab Intra is a fire tempest. Where Helge whispers into the ear, Radek Kaminski yells in such a way that he rips the skin from the body. Dark ambient, very atmospheric, served in almost noise aesthetics. This doesn’t happen very often. In a review of “Supremus” I referred to Tim Hecker and I still maintain this comparison – I sense some spiritual understanding between the already recognized musician from Canada and our guy who has all the ambient world at his feet. “Entelecheia II” is the strongest part of this release, and perhaps the most powerful thing ever signed with the name of Ab Intra. It’s like an endless vortex that sucks in all human feeling, leaving the surface of the Earth filled with empty shells of bones and bodies roaming aimlessly and endlessly. All the love, hate, fear and euphoria are drawn, chewed and spat in the face of the listener, with all the power of a responsible entity . It reminds me of a quote from Dan Simmons’ “The Hollow Man”: “Jeremy Bremen did not see the sun rise in front of him. His hearing dimmed to nothing. The messages of fear and fatigue from his body failed to register; the increasing pressure on the trigger became a distant, forgotten thing. He concentrated with enough force to move objects, to pulverize bricks, to halt birds in their flight. For that briefest of milliseconds he had the choice of wavefront or particle, the choice of which existence he would embrace. The world screamed at him in five billion pain-filled voices demanding to be heard, five billion lost children waiting to be held, and he opened himself wide enough to hold all of them.” I feel it while dealing with “Entelecheia II”. It’s interesting that Radek uses synthetic sound only, as opposed to 1000Schoen, without resorting to instruments from the “outside” or to field recordings. Two different approaches to ambient, both very good. “III” is a bit calmer, while “Entelecheia IV” strikes again suddenly and without anaesthesia. The track is so powerful that one time my CD player simply refused to play it and shut itself down.

I have a small problem with the second disc where both artists placed one more composition each. No matter from which angle I look at the tracks, they seem to me the least interesting of all. I wouldn’t call them rejects as they’re still good, but at the same time I think that the release could go without them while losing nothing on its quality. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a duel of very high quality and … one that ends in a draw, with a small indication towards the side of Ab Intra. Few releases have been able to bedevil me so much recently.

1000schøen / Ab Intrasplit
Zoharum Records, ZOHAR 070-2
CD/Digital 2014

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