When you can’t easily identify peers or comparisons with another performer, you know you’re into something interesting.
Polish psychedelic post punks Trupa Trupa have long been grabbing attention here in the West, especially after their last LP, Of the Sun, was snatched up by iconic indie label Sub Pop for distribution. Led by poet and musician Grzegorz Kwiatkowski, the Gdańsk group have become popular on the international festival circuit thanks to their strange sound from homemade instruments. They combine central European folk, art rock, and angular melodies with a sense of menace. Lyrically they explore the legacy of a country that was so actively involved in the Holocaust, and the revolting return of nationalism, violence, and the historical relativism employed by the Far Right, both on a street level and in government.
Now, they return with B FLAT A, a plain title for a record that is anything but ordinary. It kicks off with ominous opener “Moving” before proceeding into the tense “Kwietnik” (which means flowerbed). I love it when bands put their drums through a flanger, and it’s during the second song that the ever-encroaching threatening feeling really kicks in and continues to linger over much of the record, right until the unsettling soundscape of the final title track.
Lead single “Twitch” spasms with the nervous energy and hyper-vigilance of a trauma victim, and the obtuse track “Lines” takes on a disconcerting, sinister edge. Elsewhere, the album descends into total despondence, as heard on the almost ironically titled “Lit” and the skin crawling penultimate track, “Sick.”
But this is not an absolutely desolate album. Single “Uniforms,” with its bright refrains and anthemic quality, envisions a world of freedom of identity and is as close as they’re going to get to anything pop. And as pained as their latest offering is, Trupa Trupa still find space to be playfully experimental throughout B FLAT A, with “All and All” sounding like the bastard child of The Beatles and Syd Barrett and the bassline on “Uselessness” is truly brilliant.
Trupa Trupa continue to be a truly engaging listen, though admittedly you must be in the mood as they are inhabiting such a twisted and paranoid sound, inspired in no small part by the dangerous shift towards fascism by the racist and homophobic Law and Justice party currently ruling Poland. Politics aside, their steadfast commitment to setting their own course and remaining firmly out of step with any other scenes or genres makes them a vital band all around the world, especially as its so rare to find a record of this calibre that isn’t easily compared to another.
Jimi Arundell, www.undertheradarmag.com