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Ambient Festival 2011

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In the cloudy, but quite nice afternoon I came, together with my friends to Gorlice, a small town not so far from Tarnów. Our aim was to find Community Centre where during two days (15-16 July) Ambient Festival 2011 was to take place. It was thirteenth edition of the festival which may be surprising for those who are not familiar with it. Well, how is it possible they may ask, the town is not so big, not many people have heard about it, and the music presented is not the most popular one but still they have managed to organise it thirteen times already. Surely, it is mostly thanks to cultural director Tadeusz Łuczejko who is a great fan of electronic music (he himself performed during the second day of the festival with his project Aquavoice) and to Jerzy Kordowicz, the editor from one of the most popular Polish radio stations, who has promoted ambitious music for quite a long time and appears in Gorlice regularly. Quite a specific one among all of the organizers is a new mayor of a town who promised to support the festival in the future since he is also a fan of ambient and generally electronic music. So, as you can see, it is possible. Well, I have to admit that I haven’t heard much about the artists taking part in the festival (except for Robin Guthri, but it’s only because of Cocteau Twins), so my expectations were even higher.

But, let’s make it more to the point. The first day began at 6 pm. During about half-hour long introduction we got to know something about the history of the festival, about the most important people responsible for it (mentioned above) and about the artists. When about 6.30 pm the lights were off there were about 50 people present, organizers and technical staff (and their friends) constituted a part of them. The question who bought the ticket then arises. Let’s leave it and concentrate on music.
The artist who began the festival (with half an hour delay according to the schedule) was Krzysztof Horn who offered a mix of ambient with experimental electronics close to IDM. The mixture, well, nice and the performance could have been considered as quite successful if not the visualisations which complemented the concert. Let’s leave the fact that sometimes they did not match the music at all but repeating the same scenes a dozen or so times was an exaggeration. After one-and-a-half-hour long set I felt physically tired (similarly to my photographer) and as it came out a little bit later it was only the calm before the storm (the storm literally with hail and God knows what else came over Gorlice already before the concert).

When we got to know that Dariusz Makaruk is going to present two-hour long soundtrack of silent movie "The Faces of Children" from 1923 we realized two things. The first one was obviously another delay which we didn’t like much because every moment we got more and more tired (at this place I’d like to say that energy drinks, against advertising campaign are not boosting energy at all). The second thing was connected with the idea of the concert itself. Creating the musical background for a silent movie is like leading tourists through marshland – some of them would admire views but the rest would focus on lost shoes and constantly attacking mosquitoes. An that’s what happened during Mr. Makaruk’s set. The beginning presented quite interesting experimental ambient with a little bit of dark elements, but the other parts together with not really interesting film resulted in soporific effect. Literally. Toward the end, when it was really hard to keep the eyes open, some of the listeners gave up and had a nap. Of course it’s possible to say that it’s because of too much of this kind of music, taking into consideration the previous concert, which means that in some other circumstances it would be much more interesting. Well, unfortunately in this case it was the weakest part of the festival.

After reviving technical break, about 10.30pm the star of the evening appeared on the stage, namely Wolfram Der Spyra together with Polish-Ukrainian singer Roksana Vikaluk. Supposedly, the artists, despite the fact that they have cooperated in the past, never had a chance to give a concert together which means that their performance during Ambient Festival was their debut. And what did they present? The mixture of Wolfram’s quite experimental electronics and Vikaluk’s folk singing resulted in a great effect which unfortunately I wasn’t able to fully appreciate because of being exhausted. That’s a pity because I think it was the best concert during the first day, which could be much better if not the changes in the schedule and too long technical breaks.

The next day began with the sun, which apart from too much light brought also temperature which usually I try to avoid and for sure I complain about and this made us look for a shelter in which we could peacefully drink beer and wait for the beginning of the next day of festival. Fortunately, there’s quite a lot of pubs in Gorlice so the problem was solved almost immediately.
The first concert of the second day was supposed to start at 5 pm and that’s how it was. After short presentation of the artist, Aquavoice, that is already mentioned Tadeusz Łuczejko, appeared on the stage. Clearly, the difference between Aquavoice’s set and the one presented by Krzysztof Horn a day before was easily noticeable. His pure ambient with a little bit of experiments, mostly inspired by Biosphere (who by the way performed during last year edition of the festival) was everything the audience seemed to wait for. The suggested visualizations matched the music perfectly, there’s nothing to criticise. We can do nothing but to hope that in spite of what Tadeusz Łuczejko is saying, the end of his career is still in distant future and we would have the chance to listen to him at concerts or on new albums.

After a short break Maciej Szymczuk appeared on the stage and performed as a part of his project called ‘Maciej Szymczuk’. Well, a name is only a name, but his idea for the music can’t be denied. The artist resigned from visualizations and thanks to this we could focus on music only. And it was a combination of experiments with dark which gave great result, especially thanks to the atmosphere created by red spotlights and a lot of fog. The whole performance of Maciej Szymczuk made it one of the best, ironically, parts of the festival.

And finally the time for the last concert came, namely the performance of Robin Guthrie. As I have already mentioned, I knew nothing about the artists presenting their music during this festival (the fact that I knew what Cocteau Twins is does not matter), so it made me even more excited about Mr. Guthrie. Before the concert we were warned that any trial to take photos using flash (without it we could take photos for the first ten minutes which me and my friend – photographer considered as an enormous act of grace) or to record Robin’s performance in any way may result in not continuing the concert by above mentioned. That’s what the contract says and that’s what we had to obey. Focusing on the concert itself it must be admitted that technically it was at the really high level. Unfortunately and ironically, if not the great visualizations the concert would be just boring. The music was basically based on three chords played on the guitar (which Mr. Guthrie bought on the same day in the music store in Gorlice and which was later put for auction) and became repetitive after a while. Minimal usage of electronics to create ambient- and dreampop-like background wasn’t successful. For me the concert was finished after the first song. However, for my surprise the audience (which was twice as numerous as the previous day) wanted more which makes Mr. Guthrie to catch the guitar again and... play the same song once again.

In such a way we reached the end of the festival the first day of which I will remember as a fight for survival and the second one as 2/3 of good ambient and 1/3 of slightly overrated, minimalistic set of the guy who once played in Cocteau Twins. The additional attraction was, already traditional, bonfire, for which all the participants of the festival were invited included the artists. I didn’t take part in it but surely it would be the chance to express the opinion about particular performances or just to check, while drinking beer, what Mr. Guthrie has up in his sleeve and what he decided not to present during the festival.
Translator: morrigan
Add date: 2011-09-21 / Live reports

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