In recent years Polish post-rock scene has experienced an enormous and exponential growth of number of bands. I would attribute this not only to the increasing worldwide popularity of post-rock, but also to the international success of Tides From Nebula, Poland’s most renowned post-rock band. Also because of that, some Polish bands sound like TFN wannabes, which makes it quite difficult to actually find an original post-rock band from Poland.
As I was asked by SPIRAL, a band from Rzeszów, to review their latest album “Cloud Kingdoms”, I was full of doubts before the first listen. Will they be just another band, or will they bring something new? After first hearing I was like: Meh… After second and third one I was still like: Meh… But after fifth, I was gradually starting to be like: WOW!!! With every another hearing of this album I discovered something new about it, which only made me more keen on listening to it more and more.
From dense and unfriendly city depicted on their first album “Urban Fable”, Spiral moved upwards (and this is not only about quite obvious names of both albums!), straight to the sky with their second record “Cloud Kingdoms”. The album is filled with happiness and summer sun.
RELEASE DATE: 01 April 2014 LABEL: Sound Brilliance Records
The opener of the record, “Golden Afternoon” -which is by the way one of the best songs I’ve listened to so far this year-, makes you want to dance and jump. It might seem odd to jump out of joy to a post-rock song, but this was my exact reaction after listening to it! The rest of the songs try to keep up the energetic pace. This is not the album to listen to as a consolation or a cure for sadness, when you, paradoxically, need depressing music. This is a shot of energy. When it finishes on the fading notes of “Maybe We Could Become Giants” the best you can do is to press “play” once again. Although it has its calm moments, like coldly melancholic “Moscow” or delicate “Chasing Tails” (another top song from this album for me), the overall impression of mine was similar to drinking a cup of coffee in the morning.
Spiral are not newbies on Polish alternative stage, although it might seem so looking at their discography, consisting of two albums. In fact, they were set up in 2004, and are an active band since 2006. Huge experience of playing together as a somehow single-bodied structure can be heard on “Cloud Kingdoms”. The songs are really complex, musicians often use irregular measures. Because of that, songs like “Eris” or “Malleus Maleficarum” seemed to be quite chaotic to me at the first hearing, and the album on the whole appeared to be dull. However after some time, I started to appreciate excellent musicianship and architectural construction of songs which allowed every single member to present their skills in the best way. A special attention is surely deserved for incredible cooperation of the rhythmic section which make sometimes sound Spiral like a nu-metal band with too many emotions – “Black Dwarf” and “Malleus Maleficarum” are the best examples of that.
First thing that really convinced me to keep on listening to “Cloud Kingdoms” was Urszula Wójcik’s sweet and sometimes a bit popish (which is actually a good thing!) voice. This is the only part of the album that does not need to grow on a listener, you just simply fall for it immediately. Her vocals are perfectly fitted into weird rhythms and ambient structures of the songs, and most importantly – they sound amazing and the melodies are conducted in interesting ways! What is important to note, vocals, however great and characteristic, don’t make the instrumentalists sound like a background, even though Urszula Wójcik has a capacity to do this. In this way, Spiral sounds like a group of five individuals, not like “Urszula Wójcik And The Spiral”. Second thing that got my attention was aforesaid connection of drums and bass which sets the base for development of soft guitar melodies. Well, by saying “soft melodies” I may get you to a wrong conclusion that melodic delayed plunking is all guitarists do on “Cloud Kingdoms”! They often get their sound metal heavy, but in a subtle way, so the contrasts between loud and silent parts are not disturbing, and the whole album flows like a river (or rather like a mountain torrent!). Although guitar sometimes sounds kind of “clangy” (in “Moscow” for example), it does not diminish the great work Mateusz Mazur and Grzegorz Hyc did on “Cloud Kingdoms”. Everything is beautifully enveloped into keyboard sounds that create the ambient background for the songs.
“Cloud Kingdoms” is the album which cannot be defined as a strict “post-rock” or even as “rock/post-rock/progressive rock” as the band states on their facebook page. Spiral is not a band that sticks to a single genre, they are keen on experimenting. In these eleven songs you can hear eclecticism and rich musical inspirations spreading from ambient to post-hardcore, or from dream pop to math rock. It is quite surprising how coherent this album is, looking at how many ideas did Spiral members put into each of the songs. For me, this coherency is the most important feature of this album, especially when one could expect that each song would be a separate tree in a separate forest. In fact each song is a strong branch that contributes to making the tree called “Cloud Kingdoms” magnificent.
“Cloud Kingdoms” is quite a unique album and so Spiral is surely a unique band. You can rarely hear a group of people mixing sounds, genres and measures in such an unusual yet fascinating way, and turning the outcome of it into something great. “Cloud Kingdoms” surely is this kind of a record. With this album, Spiral set high standards for both Polish bands and their future selves. I highly anticipate their next album (I hope it won’t take them another five years to record it!). Despite the date of release, Spiral are not making a huge joke, they rather create strong foundations for being another internationally renowned Polish alternative band.