Review: Bolek i Lolek – Na Dzikim Zachodzie ​/ ​Skutki Uboczne (Live) (Antenna Non Grata, Feb 18)

Compared to their last release—the LDQ Ysimaro / Mente-Atada split tape, reviewed here in January—Antenna Non Grata’s most recent offerings are a radical stylistic departure, but in actuality that’s just the name of the game for the venerable label, which has been incisively documenting the wide range of Polish experimental electronic music since 2010. Still, the new round of CDs are also radical in themselves no matter how you approach them, particularly Na Dzikim Zachodzie ​/ ​Skutki Uboczne (Live), the second official recording from duo Bolek i Lolek (following 2020’s W Krainie 1001 Nocy on Plus Timbre). Regardless of whether it’s named for the 1936 comedy or the iconic Polish cartoon brothers, Jacek Chmiel and Jakub Miarczyński’s collaborative project is a playful one, a fundamental characteristic that makes every minute of their colorful interplay worthy of both rapt attention and casual amusement. In the material comprising this “double album,” much of which originates from an improvisation workshop the two musicians participated in at the Musik-Akademie of Basel, Chmiel contributes electronics, zither, singing bowls, and objects, while Miarczyński counters and converses with percussion and toys, an eclectic spread that demonstrates its full potential right away; the opening moments of “Bolek i Lolek na Dzikim Zachodzie,” which see crystalline sine tones, static, and bowl laments wrinkled by a lush garden of tactility, squeaks and scrapes and shuffles—spectacular stuff. Chmiel also occasionally rides the FM knob throughout the disc, bringing in everything from pointedly meta self-reference to “Blank Space,” and the resulting uptick in obtuseness is always complementary. What austerity the music does have manifests in the form of a deep reverence for the sanctity of texture, and that is a kind of seriousness I can get behind.

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