Stealpot – Indian Salon

Indian Salon

Poland has been on my mind a lot lately. As a student, a teacher, and a music fan, I’m experiencing Polish prominence in my recent daily life. Consider three avenues: an excellent graduate course I’m taking on Eastern European Jewish civilization through 1880; parts of a documentary filmed and edited by one of my top former students, which I recently shared with current pupils as we discussed 69 years since Kristallnacht; and an unexpected flow of contemporary Polish indie recordings into my CD collection. I won’t go into my Polish family history, but suffice to say that after exploring Jewish roots and routes on a 24-day journey through the U.S., Poland, and Israel with an amazing group of American and Israeli teenagers and colleagues in the summer of 2005, I became ever more interested in the history and current affairs of Poland.

Thus, my exposure in recent weeks to innovative Polish indie jazz, R&B, and electronic beats is just one more element in my Polish discovery. Undoubtedly, Szymon Folwarczny (aka Stealpot) has left the strongest musical impression on me this far. His second album, Indian Salon, is an intoxicating mix of vibrant sounds and luxurious singing with a multinational flair. Inducing moods and sensuality, Stealpot avoids lounge pretentiousness. Equally important, Indian Salon is a beautifully sequenced mix that takes aural risks without overwhelming the listener with instrumental bravado. The record opens with the modern, sensuous “On Time,” recalling Coldcut’s awe-inspiring rework of “Autumn Leaves.” Indian Salon’s two predominant elements, Stealpot’s trumpet and Anna Ruttar’s voice, make a glorious introduction with “On Time,” while Piotr Czyja’s drum fills also play a critical role.

Stealpot’s blend of brass, various organs and pianos, and sound samples increases in sophistication with a prominent string quartet arranged by him. The results immediately interest, avoiding any potential dissonance between attitudinal aims and aural structure. Thus, guided by Stealpot’s trumpet, the Polish-sung “Na Poludnie/Viaje al Sur” journeys from a baby crying, through subterranean beats and echoes, to almost torch song territory. Such hypnotic concoctions come up frequently throughout the album, two prime examples being the jazzy “Bassen,” evoking dusky urban drives, and “Step into Another Reality,” arguably the sexiest track here. Kasandra Adebowale’s British-accented suggestive lyrics and performance in the latter, which could have easily sounded cheesy if left in the hands of another producer, reach maximum impact, increasing listeners’ grins and throbs.

Fusing its meditative title track with the quivering beauty of “Finding Perfect Love,” Indian Salon takes a curious trip through the austere Croatian poem, “Tiho I Lako,” and the kooky “Anticlockwise,” with flute and percussion at the fore. With so many riches, it’s difficult to choose the album’s best tracks but perhaps not a surprise that the two most resonant recordings here sound nothing alike. “Jazzcore in the Rock Opera” takes 90 seconds to build up its mystery – scratches, bass, trumpet, and organic percussion all playing essential parts – and then bursts into massive James Bond climax music. Monty Norman, John Barry, David Arnold, now it’s Szymon Folwarczny’s turn. The only tie between “Jazzcore in the Rock Opera” and “Kimi No Oto” may be Stealpot’s trumpet. Junko Nashimura’s Japanese lyrics and captivating voice give “Kimi No Oto” a delicate sexual intensity that transcends linguistic barriers.

Indian Salon consistently succeeds in spurring emotions, dictating mood, and leaving indelible musical memories with its listeners. Stealpot’s stimulating experiments with instruments, samples, the human voice, and global vibes form a lounge atmosphere in which everyone is welcome. An ethnotronic masterpiece, Indian Salon exudes class and passion without end.