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Malfinia Ensemblo

This record arrived some months back, as Malfinia Ensemblo presented their first album Varsovia in late September 2014. Yet, it is such an arresting and interesting listen, I chose to have this almost too late review of it, as we have stepped into 2015. Varsovia was recorded in Warsaw in November 2012. As Kvitnu and Malfinia Ensemblo say, it was: '...recorded in the shadow of the Pałac Kultury i Nauki...'. Pałac Kultury i Nauki (The Palace of Culture and Science), a.k.a. PKiN, is the tallest building in Poland (which means this recording could have taken place many a place in Warsaw). It was done in quite a spontaneous way, as this duo making the ensemble shared a tour of Europe with their own, sole projects. Yes, Malfinia Ensemblo is a duo of Andi Stecher and Norman Conquest. Stecher is an Austrian born drummer, composer and performer, who is based in Berlin. Norman Conquest/The Norman Conquest, or, in short: TNC] is an American (born in Tulsa, Oklahoma) composer, performer and improviser. Together, or through common ideas they take on the task/mission of 'creating dark, abstract, and beat-driven pieces'.

Varsovia is the sound of art in motion. Like they describe the album and the sound of it themselves: 'The outcome is multi-layered drums mingling with deep and dark synth lines destined to send the listener into the stratosphere and beyond.' The sound of the music on Varsovia is by Malfinia Ensemblo. The album holds six tracks, of which the five first are somewhat 'normal' song oriented, while the epic, monumental closing track, the near 19 minutes long "La Universo Estas Atomo". 'Varsovia' is in fact Warsaw (in Breton, Latin, Romanian and Spanish). The rest of the musical world of Malfinia Ensemblo is chosen to happen in Esperanto, as the two-some heads for infinity. In Esperanto, 'malfinia' equals 'infinite'. The second last track, "Malfinia Ondo" means 'Infinite Wave'. Further, "La Universo Estas Atomo" means 'The Universe is an Atom' in Esperanto. Like the work of the gentlemen have been described: 'Influenced by the look and feel of the city of Warsaw in late November, TNC and Stecher spent a few intense days in the studio sculpting this multi-dimensional album...'.

The California based improv-singer Agnes Szelag (who's been working several times with TNC) collaborates, as a special guest vocalist on two of the tracks: "Lumo" ('Light') and "Fulmo" ('Lightning'). Stecher is credited on drums, percussion and composition, while TNC contribute analog synthesizers, electric bass, electric cello, charango, composition, recording, sound manipulation, mixing and mastering. Varsovia is the emotional sound of a short stay in a classic city. Yet, it is the soundtrack of traveling through time, both in a rapid and slow motion way. "Mensa Lavango" ('Mental Avalanche') kicks off the journey, who goes through light and lightning, via "Ehô" (Echo), the infinite and infinity. We go through waves, on vibrant waves of sound, before realising that the Universe is nothing but a small atom. It is for sure a colourful and intense trip through time and space guided by this Infinite Ensemble. Like the ensemble is described to come from: '...born from a desire to work, assimilate, and revitalize the western club and beat culture with a more experimental and open language. [...] combines and touches upon genres such as Krautrock/Darkwave/Hip-Hop/Shoegaze/Post-Rock/Pop; but they always remain faithful to their noise, improvisation, and experimental backgrounds.'. True words. Take the Varsovia trip, to see how Stecher is solving and exploring 'ways to find a natural and fluid way and approach of combining drum set playing with analogue and digital electronics, and to see how TNC improvises with 'music influenced by the art of sound recording, with feedback being a constant source of musical, psychological, and philosophical inspiration'. Yes. Check in, drop in, get yourself dragged in for a ride.

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