There is little new about crafting re-edits, remixes and original productions out of a vast number of samples. However, Warsaw-based duo Ptaki have an obsession with solely mining Eastern European music – and principally Polish releases – for inspiration that has given their material a freshness that’s often lacking in similar cut-and-paste exercises. To date, their releases have been frustratingly sporadic, but rarely anything less than impressive. They famously made a splash with two high-grade edits on the first Very Polish Cut-Outs 12” – the lolloping jazz-funk goes disco-house chug of “Krystyna” and the lilting loop jam “Marek” – before emphasizing their Balearic credentials further with the sublime Jak Ptaki 7”, which doffed a cap to hip-hop, jazz and easy listening on one side, before moving towards deep house and reggae on the other. Last year’s Kalina 12” for L.A. label Young Adults was arguably Ptaki’s strongest to date, flitting between sun-kissed downtempo jams and lilting dancefloor shufflers.
While talking to Test Pressing last year, the duo – known only as Funkoff and The Phantom – described their approach as “a combination of escapism and realness, kitsch and avant-garde, pop attitudes with psychedelic adventures, exotic fantasies mixed with urban grit”. While most will fail to spot the latter in their usually beautiful, often dusty productions, the rest is pretty apt. In the same feature they explained that many of their tracks often include upwards of 30 different samples, with influences ranging from Martin Denny, Ennio Morricone and Wendy Carlos, to King Tubby, DJ Premier and the Avalanches.
Certainly, many of these influences – both sonically, and in terms of their production style – can be heard on Przelot, their debut album for the Transatlantyk label launched by Very Polish Cut-Outs boss Zambon. Beginning with a blast of starry Balearica built around hazy jazz guitar solos, plucked classical guitars and drowsy chords, the duo darts between sample-centric concoctions that put hazy, sun-ripened beauty at the very heart of the action. Those samples – a Polish easy listening singer here, a string swell there, cut-outs from forgotten Eastern European pop and AOR records throughout – are undoubtedly obscure, and the nature of their hip-hop-influenced production style successfully muddies the waters between the world of sampling, beat creation and original production. These may be traditional sample collages with a twist, but the tracks themselves are undoubtedly new, original and, by and large, deliciously intoxicating. Furthermore, their uniformly blazed approach guarantees that the album holds together impressively, despite frequent stylistic shifts.
Of course, this dexterity is impressive. Contrast, for example, the digital dub heaviness of “Nie Zabijaj”, the slow acid rhythms and twinkling pianos of “Ostani Kurs”, and the hypnotic dustiness of “Deszczem”, where pitched-down strings float seductively over relentless slow-motion house beats and the unmistakeable crackle of vintage vinyl. Or, for that matter, the glistening guitars, snaking clarinet and head-nodding house shuffle of “Warsaw”, arguably the album’s most life-affirming moment. In these four tracks alone, listeners may find comparisons with such unlikely bedfellows as Timothy J Fairplay, Al Dobson Jnr, Nicholas Jaar, DJ Sotofett and Pépé Bradock (admittedly at his most picturesque, rather than in full-on child-scaring mode). Then again, they may not. After all, Przelot is very distinctively a Ptaki album, and that should be celebrated.
1. Czuła Jest Noc
2. Nie Zabijaj
4. Ostatni Kurs
5. Skit 1
6. Stacja Zagłuszania
7. Za Daleki Sen
8. Skit 2
9. Słoneczny Pył
11. Już Tyle
12. Gdy Nadchodzi Księżycowa Pora