Tomasz Bednarczyk | Illustrations For Those Who
His third album on the Room40 label, Tomasz Bednarczyk’s new release is absolutely essential listening for fans of deep, moving ambience. It’s been a decade since he last issued something under his own name, the 2000s seeing him release a handful of acclaimed albums on the likes of 12k and Room40. His work stood out then as heartfelt and emotional, with subtle implied melodies buried deep under the shifting sands of his drones.
This latest album sees the Polish producer investigate new methods of working, focusing on single sources of audio and extrapolating as much from them as possible. This reduced set up offers gains in output, as the tracks on Illustrations For Those Who all share a unified feel, as if zooming a lens into the sources and discovering smaller and more nuanced textures to play with.
“Theme I” opens the album and sets the scene perfectly, introducing his sound world with simple drones and looping. “Botanical Garden” continues with this theme and adds more colour and melody, the synths gathering emotional punch to create something quite majestic. There might be found sounds from a botanical garden on this track, hence the title, but if there are, they are heavily processed.
Bednarczyk has always employed field recordings on his previous work to add extra depth and shade, but it’s not until the fourth track, “Rainy Day”, that they become overtly apparent. The sound of rain falling on wood gives way to a gorgeous looped melody that recalls Fennesz’s finest moments, and it is this melodic quality that makes Bednarczyk’s work so noticeable among the ambient crowd. These are the sort of blurred, dreamy melodies that will pop back into your head long after you’ve stopped listening to the album.
Mid-album track “Sunny Ambient” is exactly what its title suggests, washes of static and white noise drifting around the listener as staggered, glowing synths interweave each other like sun beams piercing through windows. “Theme II” reasserts the album’s core ideas again: looped field recordings lay a bed of gritty texture on top of which swaying pads and drones crisscross the stereo field for the duration of the piece, maybe the most minimal and repetitive here. Penultimate track, “Sunday”, is a short exercise in billowing atmosphere, before laving the stage clear for final track “Six Sounds”.
The title of this last piece, I wonder if it implies that there are literally six sound sources here, that it might be the most multilayered. If it is, then it’s misleading as this is nearly seven minutes of minimal, shifting ambience made of looped static and sustained drones. It’s a beautiful way to close this collection and when the silence of the room replaces the music, it’ll be no time at all until those subliminal melodies surface in your mind’s ear.