Review: Jacaszek and Kwartludium at Cafe Oto, London

Matthew Gilley heads to Dalston to experience Polish avant-garde music collaboration Jacaszek and Kwartludium perform live

Jacaszek and Kwartludium play with the kind of chemistry that can only come with hours spent working on a shared vision. At times they seem to pass around rhythms and melodies between musicians, with Polish composer Jacaszek mimicking and manipulating four-piece ensemble Kwartludium’s orchestral sounds with his laptop and array of samplers.

For this show at Cafe Oto in Dalston, they perform the whole of their 2014 avant-garde collaborative album, Catalogue des Arbres. The album sees Jacaszek’s recordings of nature, low bass drones and subdued electronics in dialogue with Kwartludium’s minimal orchestration of piano, violin, clarinet and assortment of percussion.

The performance mainly operates at a whisper, or low rumble, allowing rich, textural elements to come to the foreground. Field recordings of trees, for instance, or drawn out wispy ambiences from the glockenspiel.

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This is not to say that there aren’t moments of greater activity. These culminate in the cacophonous finale, with the violinist hacking away at her strings until the bow hairs brake, and Jacaszek’s subtle drones and manipulations finally collapse into a crackling wall of noise.

Since 2008’s Treny, Jacaszek’s solo work has incorporated acoustic sounds such as organs and choirs, but they have always very much been a starting point for his experiments, in the same vein as Touch labelmates BJ Nilsen and Philip Jeck. But here, the addition of Kwartludium gives the more organic sounds greater space to breathe, making for deeply compelling listening.