Skalpel tackle the difficult second album with a distinct change of tack.

By Ed Chamberlin

Well, welcome back to the land of the prolific ‘K’, with Skalpel’s second album, Konfusion. Some may know Skalpel from their well received, self-titled album from a couple of years ago. For the initiated among you, they are duo from Poland (gods, even, in their homeland), Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudlo, who produce funky, Jaga Jazzist, St Germain related music based almost entirely on samples from Poland’s rich jazz history. Polish jazzing seems to fall halfway between the two extremes of mainstream, or well-known, jazz from Western Europe and the US, namely free-jazz and ‘cool’ jazz. Polish jazz rarely veers off into the wild abstraction of Ornette Coleman or modern outfits such as Supersilent or the Scorch Trio, but mercifully avoids the pathetically smoother-than-silk crap of Jamie Cullum or any such modern pretenders. Polish jazz is rough, yet sensual, somewhere between a whore and an angel. It should be listened to more and Skalpel is a great way to get acquainted with this different perspective.

Cichy and Pudlo obviously revere their homegrown music and don’t fuck with it the way many sampladelic producers do now, preferring to maintain a sense of pure live performance throughout. A side-effect of this is that they don't seem to be able to offer up anything approaching a strong hook, which wouldn’t matter so much if the music kept its freeness of the source material, but, samples being what they are, the duo cannot reproduce the spontaneity that real live jazz embraces.

Some elements ring through loud and clear – and smooth as hell – such as the rollicking bassline from Long Distance Call and the female vocal hook on Hyperbole, which is cooler and more detached than an endless line of igloos. There is also a heavier concentration on capturing the funky roil of jazz drum solos and a focus on the dark and brooding side than on the previous record, resulting in an ultimately more satisfying whole.

In marked contrast to their debut, which was riddled with poppy, compact little numbers, Konfusion is much more transient – the songs rarely coalesce into anything you could actually call bite-sized. instead, Konfusion is like a 40-minute coolie, the greatest hits of Polish jazz liquefied in a blender, giving you on a plate everything that you miss out on by not being a 70-year-old Pole. Good luck finding one track to introduce a friend to them with.
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