I’ve long been a fan of Sheffield’s 65daysofstatic (since day one – well, their very first ‘proper’ release, the Stumble.Stop.Repeat EP), so when I was asked to write some bio/PR words for the band’s Paul Wolinski’s debut solo album – released under the name Polinski (see what he’s done there?), I was thrilled. (Though I did also write similar words for the last 65days album, the mighty fine We Were Exploding Anyway.) As it turns out, though, the words I sent over to Monotreme HQ aren’t to be used in the campaign for Labyrinths – cover art, above. So they’re here, instead! Such a good album – ready your ears now for its October 31 release.
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Electronic music moves almost as fast as the sound that frees itself from speaker cones in sweaty bunkers and heaving arenas the world over. Accessibility of technology has enabled a multitude of effectively bedroom-based musicians to rise to public prominence; and behind their banks of MIDIs and MPCs, Technics and Denons, they remain anonymous to many. The mutations that play out, they do so with such minute shifts in pitch and pace that, on any given dancefloor, a multitude of micro-genres will play out over the course of a single hour.
But Polinski is different. He looks backwards to stride forwards, actively engaging with nostalgia to summon forth music from an era in dance development that many a contemporary producer wasn’t any kind of age to appreciate at the time. And he’s far from faceless, too, having spent the past ten years as a member of one of the UK’s most phenomenal live bands, 65daysofstatic.
Mask lifted – well, never worn – Paul Wolinski’s debut solo album arrives following four critically acclaimed long-players and a raft of EPs from his with-colleagues calling. And fans of said outfit will click instantly of some of what’s on offer across Labyrinths: the sweeping circuit-boards-ablaze cries of ‘Kressyda’, the piano-pitched-into-pandemonium of ‘Tangents’. But while there is an echo of familiarity to (some of) these tracks, an inevitability born of shared personnel, it dares to venture into territories that Wolinski has never explored as part of an ensemble.
“This is the album I daydreamed of writing when I was 15,” says its maker. “I was wrapped up in sci-fi, in the soundtracks to games on the Spectrum and the Amiga, and bands like Orbital, Underworld and The Prodigy.” Truly, Wolinki’s – Polinski’s – dreams have been fantastically realised. The title of this set’s opener, ‘1985-Quest’, establishes a tone before a note has been heard; and, quite brilliantly, the on-paper promise of flashes of 16-bit symphonies accompanying digitised superheroes across a 14” screen in a teenage bedroom is wonderfully delivered. This is John Carpenter as heard in the heads of The Chemical Brothers; Psygnosis sleeves brought to life with synesthesic brilliance. It’s music for a jilted generation that grew up, got jobs and forgot how to lose themselves in a moment, only to rediscover the joy to be had in such release courtesy of a collection that simply doesn’t compromise.
But although Labyrinths might well leave one breathless, it doesn’t run blindly into the past without acknowledging the dramatic evolution that’s occurred since dance music exited planet club and began orbiting wider audiences courtesy of a considerable crossover in the 1990s (‘Firestarter’, anyone?). Wolinski isn’t indulging himself at the expense of the listener, so catchy motifs bearing comparable similarities to chart-bothering producers can be discovered amongst the well-nuanced noise. Naming no names, but the silken synth hook of ‘Still Looking’ might just stir thoughts of one Dizzee-collaborating Scotsman. But at the other end of the electronic spectrum, traces of IDM’s glory years can be heard in the enveloping glitch of closer ‘Awaltzoflight’.
But it’s the man himself who can sum up this remarkable solo adventure better than anyone else. “I’ve become confident, after a decade with 65days, that even if I am expressing ideas that others have previously expressed, I’m doing so through my mouth. Which isn’t quite the shape of any other mouth.” So, the assimilated assumes a fresh identity, reconceived as a whole that is both evocative of the past and singularly striking in its own right in 2011. 65days might have conquered the world, thrilling festivals from continent to continent, but now it’s personal. Man to man, eye to eye, human heart to robotic pulse. Polinski hasn’t reinvented the rulebook, but he’s found a whole new way to interpret it.
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Sometimes I’m just too bloody wordy. #idiotme
A video preview/mix for Labyrinths can be seen below; find Polinski online here.