- Alongside contemporaries such as Max Richter and Nico Muhly, Michał Jacaszek is part of a generation of modern classical composers whose music is big on grand gestures and emotional melodies. If that music can sometimes seem too saccharine, Jacaszek's best albums, Treny and Glimmer, cut through the syrup with field recordings and electroacoustic effects. He's an artist with one foot in electronic music and the other in the classical world, and few can balance the two realms so well. Though each of his releases is different from the last, Kwiaty is a sharper left turn than usual.
The idea behind Kwiaty, the Polish word for flowers, came to Jacaszek while he was reading an anthology of English Renaissance poetry. The sing-song verse of Robert Herrick, much of it about the beauty of life and love, struck a chord with Jacaszek. He rifled through his older, unused recordings to set the poems to music and enlisted a trio of singers, led by Hania Malarowska, whose haughty tones attempt to emulate the gorgeous cadence of Herrick's stanzas. The result is an album that's touching at some points and distant at others, much in the same way that reading poetry from another era can feel.
Kwiaty's opening section is captivating. The songs are immense yet delicate, like fortresses built from dust and cobwebs. The sound of fingers on fretboards and nylon strings rings out into the abyss on the opener, "Flowers." The plucked strings on "To Perenna" glow against dark murmurs and worn-out sounds.
The album's ornate decoration and monochrome feel can get numbing over time, and Malarowska's stiff vocals don't help. While the melodies on tracks like "Eternity" and "Soft Music" are gorgeous, on other songs Malarowska's self-serious style obscures the poetry's meaning and feeling. It's sometimes difficult to tell whether she's reciting love poetry or a eulogy.
Herrick is known for celebratory poems, whose central message implores people to live life to the fullest. That sentiment gets lost in translation on Kwiaty, which sounds more goth than gleeful. It's telling that the scrape of a fretboard is a more powerful device on the album than the vocals at the centre of it. Jacaszek's music suggests deep meditation and introspection, but this album's vocals have all the subtlety of a Broadway musical. The result is one of Jacaszek's richest and most complex works, but also his most flawed. His rainy-day compositions are as beautiful as ever on Kwiaty, though it's hard to say they carry the spirit of what inspired them.
02. To Perenna
04. To Violets
06. Soft Music
07. To Meadows
08. White Island
10. To Blossoms