Not sure if anybody still remembers Skalpel of Ninja Tune fame, but while they were active I was a big fan of their mutant brand of dusty polish jazz spliced with tasteful touches of electronics. Now after a period of relative quiet Igor Boxx (aka Igor Pudlo, one half of the band) is about to release a solo album built around a promising high concept mixture of jazz, krautrock and psychedelia. The first taste of this project is presented above in video form, with Boxx’s music serving as a tense soundtrack for scenes of debauched Nazis and their mistresses cavorting drunkenly with no foreboding of the disaster that’s only seconds away. Both the song and the video are very impressive, I’m really hoping the album itself lives up to the bar being set here.
The concept behind the album is interesting, it draws closely on the artist’s own experiences of growing up as the aftershocks of WW2 still reverberated through his native Poland 20 years after Germany’s final surrender. It’s all explained in the Press Release materials that you can read below.
Press Release :
Igor Boxx known also as Igor Pudlo (from Ninja Tune’s Polish act Skalpel) is opening a new decade with his first solo album, Breslau.
Skalpel has released two acclaimed albums on Ninja Tune – Skalpel (2004) and Konfusion (2005) have become one of the most important Polish music exports, well received both in Poland and internationally.
In Igor’s solo debut album, the inspiration comes like before from his home country and his home town. Breslau tells a tale of 1945 siege of Festung Breslau undertaken by the Red Army. The historical background might mean nothing to an average listener not familiar with the multinational and multicultural history of Breslau (now known as Wroclaw) but this journey is musically so emotional and powerful that it allows anyone to follow the story. Sounds are used to depict the massive force and fury of bolsheviks’ attack and the determination of the terrorized civil population of the city to hold on. Krautrock grinding illustrates the monotony of the endless battle, psychodelic ornaments underline the absurd of wartime madness, jazz rhythms sound off the chaos on both sides of the conflict whilst ambient timelessness paints the overwhelming desperation of city defenders’ efforts.
The live version is more dynamic than the studio version describing the atmosphere of the last group of terrified citizens of Breslau whose dramatic faith is drummed out by Stalin’s organs. The Dance macabre in the ruins of burning, doomed city will be explosive.
I’m old enough to remember the birth of punk rock, witness the glorious days of golden era of hip-hop, to evolve from communism to capitalism with my homeland Poland and from analogue to digital with my music. However I feel young enough to naively believe that the history of music has not yet been completed.
From 1991 I help the entropy by being a dj and mixing (without stylistic limitations) music and other noise that people, animals and machines make. I cut and paste all that jazz.
Together with Marcin Cichy we formed Skalpel and at the beginning of XXI century I became a member of the Ninja squad. On London based Ninja Tune label we cut two successful albums, a remix compilation and a few 12″‘s .
As Skalpel I was a contributor of famous Solid Steel Radio and did Ninja Tune ZEN TV tours from Manchester to Tokyo on the same bill as Coldcut, Hextatic, KId Koala, Spank Rock. We played a lot if gigs in clubs and festivals all over Europe.
Currently I’m working on a side project (not forgetting Skalpel fans who are waiting for the next LP) and under the stage name Igor Boxx I do live gigs (feat. Mazzoll – unpredictable master of clarinet) and DJ sets with visuals by VJ Skrin.
Breslau – Concept written by Igor Boxx :
Wroclaw, the city of peace
I was born in Wroclaw, which back then, in the 60s, was the Polish hub of psychedelic music. The psychedelia of my childhood stemmed from the fact, that even though 20 years had passed since the end of World War II, its weight and results were still felt in my city. Iâ€™ve spent my early years in a decrepit tenement building, which my mother was banished to from her home city of Lvov. The structure survived because it was adjacent to a massive bunker. The rest of the street was mostly demolished, but stumps of buildings from past era remained, giving me and my friends something to climb on. Every now and then, one of us recovered a piece of metal from wet cellars. In our imagination, it became a fragment of a German soldierâ€™s helmet. These fantasies were fueled by propaganda, making it seem as if the war was still going and more work would be needed to finally attain victory. On that repulsive street, called Ladna (Pretty), we were playing war games. Meanwhile, the government christened Wroclaw â€œthe city of peaceâ€.
Living in this city created a disturbing feeling of being in an alternate universe, like in a Philip K. Dick novel. Everything was post-German but people. At the Olympic Stadium, once named after Herman Goering, I witnessed the finish of the Race of Peace bicycle stage and saw cup matches of Slask Wroclaw soccer team. I went to my first concerts and American disaster movies at Peopleâ€™s Hall; according to an urban legend, the base of its large dome was a swastika covered by white-red and yellow-red flags. Indeed, Hitler once spoke in there, but it was built, under the name of Centennial Hall, twenty years before he rose to power. It was hard to believe that Germans werenâ€™t always Nazis, especially in Breslau, which was the second main supporter of the Nazi Party in the 1932 elections. On the other hand, attempts to force the Polish heritage on both the city and its inhabitants were also irritating. As a way to combat the black and white propaganda, I called my first imaginary band Breslau SS (inspired by name of English punk group London SS). Ten years later, as an aspiring rapper, Iâ€™ve put the rhyme â€œWroclaw is chained, Breslau it remainedâ€ into the lyrics of my first song (mostly as a reaction the spread of Nazi skinheads in the city). I chose to end my rapping adventure before it ever had a chance to develop into something substantial, but I like that line to this day. However, I now give it a different meaning and have changed it to â€œWroclaw has reigned but some Breslau remainedâ€. Instead of an MC, I became a DJ. My professional career started at Kolor club set up in a shelter underneath Nowy Targ square, which offered a wide range of entertainment services also during the war. In this city, one canâ€™t live solely in the present.
The Breslau album isnâ€™t another â€œhistorical projectâ€ to be performed at schools and tribute ceremonies. Itâ€™s a personal expression, an attempt at sorting out my relationship with the city I live in.
If thereâ€™s any historical commentary behind the album, itâ€™s that in the game of times weâ€™re not always players. Every so often weâ€™re just pawns moved around the board by other parties. Polish history is not the same thing as history of the world. In Breslau circa 1945, it happened without our involvement. We got the city by default, from empires dividing the spoils of war. The history of Poland and the country itself are not most important, although they can be significant in their own way. People and their lives are most important, regardless of their nationality.