Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Various Artists - Polish Road, Vol. 1 & 2 - Alternative Polish Scene -1989- (2x Tape, Organic), Poland/France
Here we have one of the pivotal compilations covering the Polish underground from behind the iron curtain during the 80's. It came out right before the change of the political system in Eastern Europe in 1989 on a French label. Obviously many of these bands only released their music marginally in their own circuits. They had to operate in the underground because of their subversive nature and artistic expression directly or indirectly opposing the socialist regime. Poland had a longer history of underground bands and artists fitting that realm already in the early 70's, with examples like the mythical psychedelic band 74 Grupa Biednych and improvisers like Grupa W Składzie. The Polish music underground has always been heavily inspired by Jazz and improvisation. Also more known bands from Poland that were accepted by the regime during the 70's like Niemen or SBB were quite experimental in their approach. Polish jazz played a hugely influential role behind the iron curtain during the 60's and 70's and became a trademark of adventurous quality jazz.
During the 80's a broader underground had emerged in different Polish cities. The improvisational groups were now accompanied by new wave bands, punks, industrial noise makers and everything in-between. Quite a strong grey and bleak accent was being put in the music, reflecting the last bleak decade of communist totalitarian repression. More and more Polish music was slowly finding its way to the west by cassettes that were swapped as well through Polish dissidents that made their way to the west of Europe. One of the greatest post-punk bands that had a Polish singer (Andrej Dziubek Nebb) was Holy Toy from Norway. Their first album Warszawa (Warsaw) still stands as one of the strongest experimental new-wave albums from the 80's and incorporates a strong Polish component.
Now that I think about it, even Joy Division was called Warsaw at first ofcourse. In the imagination of wave bands and punks from the west during the 80's Poland was definitely the epitome of bleakness and a symbol of the east-west schism that was casting its darkening shadow over Europe including the threat of nuclear warfare. This was pushing the no-future mentality even further in the heads of many youngsters. Subsequently theme's like the Warsaw-Pact were often used by western wave bands from the 80's. But let's get back to this release:
Polish Road was one of those important compilations for Polish bands to be heard in the west spreading their underground sounds. It's a very nice, although heavily fragile, recording of different bands ranging from punk, wave, industrial and improvisation groups. It was released as a double cassette in a VHS case. The first volume consists of more experimental and punk groups, while the second volume has more improvised and electro-acoustic bands on it of which Reportaz might be the most known. The music was all recorded between 1985 and 1988, often containing live recordings. I won't go into every band separately because it's too much work, although from some bands I will upload more tapes in the future of the blog.
Polish Road can be seen as a critical undermining of the socialist regime and a time document of what was going on at that time in the Polish underground, while Solidarność was already making big leaps and the change of political system was very near. Please note that I'm putting this music in a political narrative, but a lot of this music was just artistic expression and didn't have any political agenda in itself.
After the communist period a hopeful time arrived to Eastern Europe during the 90's (apart from Yugoslavia), but nowadays we know how much political difficulties we are facing yet again. It slowly fosters the realization that this music and its urgent character, pushing through all possible limits, whether having no audience, no listeners or the lack of technical production or musical skills, yet giving expression to the inner spirit and the need for change in society, could still be perfectly inspiring today.
Many more obscure Polish cassettes will be uploaded to the blog with time.
Get it HERE