Sound that slowly sets over a shimmering village church

Free improvisation in European music appeared in the second half of the 20th century. Contrary to the earlier forms of improvisation, it is devoid of formal limitations. It relies on creating and composing a piece of music directly at the concert (composing is simultaneous and tantamount to performing the piece), without prior preparation of any elements of the composition. Its most interesting form is free improvisation collective.

In Poland, the most famous group currently devoted to such spontaneous creation of free improvisation music on a large scale is Warsaw Improvise Orchestra.
The project was created to enable musicians to play in a large, improvising ensemble, but interestingly, the project can also the opportunity to work in smaller forms: duets, trios, quartets, quintets.
Casting Lots is one of such, let’s say “side project” created on the basis of this great group of talented people gathered in this Orchestra, which combines different musical identities in a common, intuitive, ethereal improvisation.

I would say that this is the most surprising side project of this orchestra. My first association, when I got a sample of their recordings, is that it is something so peculiar, unnamed and hard to classify that I felt as vulnerable to this music as a 14-year-old when I was following the Rozgłośnia Harcerska ( a kind of BBC6 in dark ages of communist time) for the first time. “strange” sounds in programs dedicated to alternative, unnamed and unpredictable music, which left in my head strings of restless thoughts and that strange pain in the chest that accompanied me then on the occasion of esoteric radio shows by Sławomir Gołaszewski about outsiders such as Plastic People of The Universe or Pociąg Towarowy, there.

Frankly, I have no idea how many performances Casting Lots had without actual published output, yet on this album the interaction is great. Already opening track in which saxophonist Ray Dickaty goes along with Gosia Zagajewska’s voice with the short little bursts of sounds is amazing and it s a strong opening.

We follow the voice. It is sort of a natural starting point for this album, but gradually it blends into and blends in with the other instruments. At first, they are an accompaniment for the voice and after a few moments, sighs, take over the territory. There is no all these artistic duels as you can hear so often on free improv albums, which are often called “conversations”, but in fact it s often an occasion for solo performances, as much effective as empty gestures.

These eight miniatures are eight worlds. Each developed into a longer form would bring several successful albums. However, I do not have the impression of compressing it to 8 tracks, it is rather understatement. Less means more.

My absolute favorite after many, many months of listening this music is ‘Fill’ with an opening saxophone that sounds like John Butcher but it is all more complex. It is a story, it is a fairy tale, it is folk music.

Sometimes I end up listening to this material by looping a  ‘So’ track that sounds like a calm fiery red sphere that slowly sets over a shimmering a village church that I look at every day.

Now jump to “Mold” and yep  that association with ‘Tryglodyte’s Delight’ of Pauline Oliveros and her Deep Listening Band again!  Focus on long static sounds, which, thanks to John Cornell’s cello and Piotr Dąbrowski’s barely accenting percussion instruments. “Mold” is like a sound shower with a fantastic ending played on the same sounds by Dickaty’s birches and sung by Zagajewska.

This allusion comes up again (to my ears) in track ‘Blank’, which is constructed around cello’s col legno which sounds like a sequencer in electronic music or drops of water. Natural, without any enhancements, overlays and in real time. It is an accompaniment to the subtle single sounds of the saxophone and vocal purring.

I program my CD player not because this album is “badly arranged” but because I want to randomly hear what something sounds on the same CD and how fantastic it works. Just like in a child’s kaleidoscope which, when shaken, gives a different image each time.

Photos: Michał Małota


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