[Reviewed by Damiano Lanzi]
Alameda 5 is the continuation and evolution of the Alameda 3 project, centered around the prolific guitarist Kuba Ziołek (Stara Rzeka). As in the trio version, bassist Mikołaj Zieliński is part of the lineup, while percussionist Tomasz Popowski has left his place at the drums to the inspired jazz player Jacek Buhl. The nucleus of the band is completed by multi-instrumentalist Łukasz Jędrzejczak and Rafał Iwański (aka X-NAVI:ET) that has already cooperated with Ziołek among other things in the Kapital project, and that this time leaves the electronics aside and concentrates on ethnic and African percussions. Some guests help to bring even more versatility to the lineup, adding brass instruments and voices now and then. This impressive “supergroup” formation, that includes many masters of the Polish electronica, avant-garde and ambient scene, guarantees a degree of complexity that makes this double album a demanding and compelling object. The definition of “object” is not out of place in my opinion, because of the concreteness of the music (with all its layers that often transcend the merely aural sensations) and of the heaviness of the double digipak, decorated with a beautiful Escherian print by Bartosz Zaskórski. You really have the impression of having something important in your hands, something that deserves all of your attention and care, like a precious object indeed.
As we already said “Duch Tornada” is divided in two parts, “Kora” and “Anteny”. Each of the two parts is introduced by a poem that can be found on the back of the beautiful poster-booklet, along with a quote from William S. Burroughs’ “Western Lands”. This helps to build a concept behind the music, even because aside from that there is only one track with lyrics on each disc: the enchanting dreampop tune “Duch” (sung by Hanna Trubicka) on the first one and the delirious “Sierść Płomienia” on the second. While the poem associated to “Kora” and written by bass player Mikołaj Zieliński suggests an “homeostasis” between nature, body parts and artificial elements, the second, associated to “Anteny” and written by Wojciech Trubicki, describes the stressing effect of urbanization and the sense of being the “living roots of antennas”.
In fact the most surprising thing in “Duch Tornada” is the juxtaposition of very “human” and lively sounds (the ethnic percussions and drums play a central role in that) along with synthesizers and sequencers. These two different worlds cohabit perfectly, tied by the jazz rock influences that are the album’s backbone, giving a new lecture of the style that characterized space rock giants such as Can, Soft Machine and Tangerine Dream. These are the influences that come most often into my mind (just listen to the electro-funky “Spectra”, the sci-fi tribal tour de force “Zapach Mózgu”), along with King Crimson in the ‘70s for what concerns the use of the brass section and the free-jazz improvisations (“Tzimtzum IV”) and even in their more recent and heavy phase (the intro of “Kora”).
Despite that, the final output is something absolutely original, that shows how Alameda 5 have also found a perfect alchemy in their playing, aside from being talented and skilled musicians. This eclectic vein runs all through the album, so “Duch Tornada” needs many listens before getting into it. It’s not that in the beginning you don’t like what you’re listening; on the contrary, you immediately understand that this is great music, but you also have the impression of not being able to catch all the details. So you start to devour these two discs voraciously, paying attention to all the nuances of this ever-changing music, in the end obtaining moments of intense pleasure like “Farmakopea”, that in seven minutes switches from liquid ambient-folk to shamanic rhythms, passing through apocalyptic atmospheres in such a natural way that leaves you spellbound. I have no problem saying that this is probably the best album that I’ve listened to in this 2015, and since more than one half of the year has already passed, it will probably be difficult to find a better one in the next months!