Two years ago we were introduced to Warsaw cellist Resina (Karolina Rec) through her hair ~ stark black on the album cover, bright red in the press photo. The pair of images spoke directly to her music, a combination of light and dark in which neither side seemed to reign. While the battle is ongoing, the darkness has now pulled ahead.
Once again, the difference is apparent in the photos. Rec is now facing forward with eyes closed, as if saddened or unable to bear what lies before her. She is dressed in black, as if mourning, and the background is black as well. The album cover displays a disturbing image that references both bondage and chemical warfare. How dark will this album be?
Let’s rewind a year to the space between albums. Rec is contributing wordless vocals to Zamilska’s claustrophobic, aggressive single Closer, which again showcases the backs of heads, but also a pent-up frustration with the way things are. As an ally of GY!BE, she’s filling the opening spot at shows that are overtly political, bordering on anarchy. The recording studio is located in a dank section of Wola, home to the Jewish ghetto and Warsaw uprising. Is it any wonder such themes seep into the pores of the compositions? As old threats resurface, the entire world is wondering if history will repeat.
To this uncertainty, Resina adds Traces, explaining that the title may refer to mutilated memories or survivors of savagery. From traces, hope may grow or bitterness may calcify. The initial notes of the opening track are like an elegy: a tone one might expect to hear from a classical cellist. But then the loops gather dark energy and the album explodes with indignation. Two minutes into “Procession,” Mateusz Rychlicki’s percussion punctuates with images of broken idols and deserted temples.
By “Resin,” the drums have become insistent, propulsive, as if racing to some bombastic end. But we underestimate Rec. She steps back from the precipice, pausing for reflection and perhaps prayer. Her wordless vocals inhabit the center of Traces in a manner reminiscent of Dead Can Dance. Might this approach be applied to global relations, community relations, family relations? Must we all hurtle like comets toward inevitable destruction? As her voice begins to break apart like that of Ian William Craig (with whom she has also performed), light tones filter through the mix like Buddhist chimes.
When the pace increases once more, it sounds like resolve, not impulsive, but measured; not reckless, but determined. Resina has learned from the traces she has encountered, reacting first with horror yet finally with purpose. History need not repeat. But in order for the world to move forward, it must first face its atrocities, and where necessary, own them. Late in “Trigger,” the album’s first golden gleams shine through. Even “Lethe” is more warning than surrender. Darkness can turn to death, but it can also turn to dawn. (Richard Allen)