So many Astigmatic projects are born of a chief inspiration. Notably the music of Polish septet EABS is famed for celebrating the music and/or teachings of luminaries including Sun Ra, film composer Krzysztof Komeda or just Poland’s rich heritage and culture in general while their Bloto counterparts have delved deeper into a more sparse and atmospheric sound often citing 90s hip-hop as their chief inspiration.
For band members Marcin “Cancer G” Rak and Marek “Latarnik” Pedziwiatr – who serve as drummer and pianist for both EABS and Bloto collectives – their exciting new project again draws from a primary source of inspiration and this time builds on the concept of American Ninja’s Michael Dudikoff being stranded in freezing Poland in 1987. It’s as valid a concept for a film – or an album – that I’ve ever heard and while we may not have the chance to see the movie, at least we have the glory of its in-depth and visceral soundtrack courtesy of the duo under the collective name of Zima Stulecia.
This is the kind of charm and personality we’ve now come to expect from EABS (and affiliate) projects. Both Rak and Pedziwiatr’s ability, under the various musical umbrellas, to create compositions that provide such extensive and far-reaching perceptions of contemporary jazz continue to deliver inspired results. Even Latarnik’s work with Astigmatic label mates, the Lahore-based quartet Jaubi, further display the exceptional scope of the talent on display here. ‘Minus 30°C’ looks set to evolve the duo’s sound perhaps fully veering over into the realms of brooding electronica with gentle nods towards their signature off-kilter jazz aesthetic.
And for our protagonist, the sensational and vibrant sonic backdrop paints a scintillating portrait of the hero’s over-arching journey. For the uninitiated, Michael Dudikoff remains one of the pre-eminent names of 80s and 90s action films thanks in large part to his role as Joe Armstrong within the American Ninja franchise.
While it’s wholly plausible that Armstrong’s quest to fully dispose of the Black Star Order of Ninjas could take him to Poland – Katana blade in hand – ‘Minus 30°C’ is very much a loving homage to this genre of action films. We can experience the mysterious energy of ‘Odsniezanie’, the determination of our hero in ‘Lawina’, Joe’s struggle during the album’s ‘Minus 30°C’ title track as the villains gain their stronghold and the high-tension climax of Joe’s ultimate victory in ‘Zamrozenie’.
Rak and Pedziwiatr seem to be in the joyous and enviable situation of creating music that celebrates not just their heroes but also those moments within their own stories that shaped them as individuals and musicians. It’s exciting to see unfold throughout their releases and equally interesting to see where their respective fandoms and curiosities will take them next.