Thursday, August 11, 2011

Concrete Cut: Warsaw's Elegant Industry

Concrete Cut are a label that first came to my attention with their fourth release, from Sentel, a chiptuney chunk of UK-funky indebted strangeness that sounded like Ikonika on Mars.  It was a good enough release to warrant keeping eyes on the label, and since then they’ve released the gorgeous ambient/dub/garage experiments of ptr1, the post-rock drama of Shoju, the hollow drums of Tom Encore, and the Shackleton-indebted dread tones of Rhythm Baboon.  With releases (notably their debut) from Liquid Molly, they’ve even dipped their toes into the straight-up dubstep stakes (indeed, you can download a Concrete Cut allstars remix package of the first Liquid Molly remix for free).
So yeah, they’re a good label. So good, I’m willing to overlook the fact that they’re a digital-only label (give it time). But what is it that makes them stand out?  Well, they’re based in Warsaw, Poland.  All of those artists mentioned above are Polish. While it’s not as if Poland is some barren, unknown frontier, it’s not the first place any of us look for experimental and groundbreaking dance music -- and if you do, then kudos.  But there’s really no reason for such discrimination, and thankfully the internet is doing its job in knocking down geographical barriers.  Home to the well-respected Unsound Festival and an increasing number of prominent UK and German DJs, the Polish club seem appears as vibrant as ever, at least as much as someone who lives in Vancouver can see and understand.
Taking a survey of the label’s output so far, one begins to realize there’s a vibrant spectrum of music coming out of Berlin’s oft-ignored Eastern neighbour, a localized hub of talent that seems unfairly ignored despite the constant upwelling of talent in a manner that reminds me a lot of my hometown of Vancouver.  While there are some obvious moments of debt to UK originators, each producer puts their own idiosyncratic spin on these sounds -- personally I can’t recommend the work of Sentel or ptr1 more, and their releases on Concrete Cut are 2010 highlights. The overall impression of the label’s output is of a scene that’s arguably more experimental in sectors now ignored by those other, more visible local scenes: just check the way Sentel incorporate UK funky ideas into their music when UK funky arguably lies at its least influential back in its homeland.  It’s that mixture of incorporating trends and discarding the actual trendiness that makes Concrete Cut so inspiring: these artists just sound like they’re doing whatever they want, and they do it consummately well.  Concrete Cut might be a digital-only label relatively green behind the ears, but it suffers from none of (what I call) the SoundCloud syndrome of shitty drums, cheesy pads and bad vocal samples. 
Because I was intrigued by the label’s obviously hefty store of talent, and wanted to learn more about this burgeoning Polish scene (there admittedly isn’t a lot of (English) writing about it on the internet that isn’t by yours truly), I got in touch with label head Dana Dramowicz for an in-depth interview discussing the label and the scene in Warsaw and larger Poland.  If that wasn’t enough, Dramowicz has provided Futureproofing with an exclusive all-Polish mix spanning music both signed to Concrete Cut and other labels, and it’s one hell of a ride showcasing not only the unpredictable grab-bag that is the Polish beat scene but the uniformly high production values and execution.  It doesn’t sound like the work of a bunch of relative unknowns, and with any luck, the lot of them won’t be relative unknowns for much longer.