Honey is the debut album of Polish musician Michał Kędziora aka Noiko. It encapsulates four years of his creative power and lets the Etalabel, on which the album is released, wake up and rise from a year-long hibernation. The point of return couldn’t have been better chosen, for Honey offers an eclectic collage of various real instruments – among them a clarinet, glockenspiel and piano – that are merged with synthesizer goodness. Indeed, this has been done by other artists before, but Kędziora knows how to marry the interplay of these devices to the exact point, meeting the taste of a vast audience, be it Ambient, Avantgarde or Jazz lovers who prefer a strong analogue warmth with the resulting microscopic fizzles and quaverings in the music they’re listening to. Recorded at home in the vicinity of his newborn daughter, Kędziora comes up with ten glinting vignettes whose longstanding ripeness you can hear in every note. Although comparisons are oftentimes insulting or misguided despite their good intentions, I couldn’t help myself but think about two of Jan Jelinek’s albums that are occasionally similar in their buildup, the classic Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records of 2001 and its follow-up La Nouvelle Pauvreté of 2003 which is so strikingly similar in its bubbling bursts of vestigial instrument layers followed by short breaks, pauses and spaces that I couldn’t believe it at first, and was at second thought all the more happy to find another album that accedes the oxymoronic humpy-silky style. Honey isn’t free of any conflicts which are exemplified in its stylistic range, as one half of the album is definitely benignant and amicable, while the other half is more rustic and harsher with a pinch of mystique.


Surprisingly enough, the album’s gateway, Les Particules Élémentaires, starts with a dark majestic drone that resembles a ship horn, fittingly pointing back to the front artwork in the very first second already. The long sustains of a warm bass make this song feel slightly cozier, but it is due to the various pulses, whistles, static noise fragments and fuzzy radio frequency artifacts that this glimpse of warmth is embedded in a frostier, more dynamic capsule. The song really becomes jazzy shortly before the start of the second minute with the four-note loop of a mellow vibraphone, an accompanying guitar played in positively kitschy Middle Eastern keys and a surprisingly paradisiacal flute that finds its place in a narrow alcove in-between the other swirling elements. The various cymbals not only create a feeling of movement and gentle tension, but evoke the setting of a deliberate jam session. The melodies remain rudimentary, it’s all about the interplay of the multiple layers and instrumental peculiarities rather than a catchy riff that carries the whole track. A strong intro that is definitely not for everyone, as its sophisticated mélange – while laid back – is quite demanding and at the same time the longest track with just a few seconds short of the five-minute mark. I happen to like this track, but it could have been differently. The second track is the title-lending Honey, and it is based on a more melodious guitar loop that is so blurry that it resembles a piano – or is it vice versa? Mellow bonfire crackles function as bridges between the incessant silent moments that occur between the repetition of the loop. Backing bass drones further increase the coziness of the track which is completed with the addition of a silky clarinet melody and gorgeous curlicues like muffled metallic echoes or colder iridescent reverbs of spectral figments in tunnels. Say what you will, but this is actually a song, and a sanguine one, too.


Homeless (For The Homeless Band) moves into Glitch territory via backwards played glacial pulses, howling landspouts, echoey clangs, digital artifacts and fizzling buzzes. All these devices are then intertwined with the terrifically baneful monotonous sustain of the clarinet, venturing for a short moment into the realms that clarinetist Tony Scott dared to cross on his space exploration double-album Voyage Into A Black Hole. This is a highly experimental track with several crystalline fissures caused by the sudden bursts of galactic particles. It’s unbelievable that this track is on the same album as the previous (and following) tunes, but it is a clear hint at the production value and the amount of times Kędziora revisited each track. Another winner for me, and the coldest track on the whole album. The following Deu is a crackling wonderland and moves into the Clicks & Cuts territory that was so popular at the turn of the millennium. Digital clicks and occasional beats underline the distant piano chords and a gleaming organic four-note melody that could actually be a woman singing. It is never too clear how Noiko achieves certain sounds. Suddenly, though, all crackles disappear, making room for beautiful analogue synth washes whose majesty and tiny remnants of eschatological magnitudes let the mercurial aurora of Deu outshine all of its other ingredients. Nothing beats an aptly set synthesizer. Nohant continues the jazzy side of the album with the heartwarming euphony of a slow, spellbinding piano loop with various tidbits like cascading glockenspiels, filtered frizzles, zippered sounds and the advanced velvet of a gently played clarinet. An acoustic guitar plucks while a higher, echoey version of the piano loop is introduced, a loop that nurtures this track due to its majesty. No Man’s Land is another hybrid with two distinctive parts. It starts with one of these synthetic bells that appear before a public announcement or that make a stewardess come to your seat, happily waiting to receive your complaints. This bell is pushed quicker and gets slightly filtered, while a soft pink noise in the background fizzles along. The bell sound is then heavily reworked and becomes part of a glitzy melody complete with backing beats, bass lines, Far Eastern guitar sprinkles and a likeminded synth line. I like the second part better due to the soothing Japanese stereotypes which are advected into the mix.


The final phase of Honey is as varied as before, but pushes the synthesizers  into the limelight. While the shortest track of two minutes called Crumb relies on a bouncy metallic pulse as its base frame which itself is complemented by hibernal scintillae and warmer snippets of radio frequency spinning wheels and other hyperactive fragments, To Have And Have Not brings back the eeriness with spectrally quavering synth superstructures, stomping beats like thunderclaps and a portentous clarinet melody. While the song is sometimes sneaky due to a certain coolness of the clarinet, the adjacent beats are so fulminant and the ghostly synths so haunting that I would call this the most pernicious tune by Noiko. It’s definitely daunting or even downright frightening. The clarinet is an extraordinary instrument, combining warmth and calamity in every tone, especially so when Michał Kędziora is playing it. My hopes for a more swinging, effervescent track are literally crushed with the penultimate Gale Antonio which is again keen on a permanent mysterious haze in form of a slowly meandering drone in the background that is plied with ongoing fragments of melodies, clangs, clicks and ratchets. Still, the track has a certain funkiness due to the supposed nylon-string guitar whose punchy reverb dies away splendidly in the short pauses. And it is the short 16 bit-like synthesizer bubbles that remind me again of the recently revived video game culture that is now transcoded for various new gaming platforms. They pour glimpses of comfort into an otherwise purposefully harsh song. The final I Love Our Microcosmos ends on a warmer propitiatory note with a golden shimmering two-note loop, exhilarative clicks, an implied rhythm in 3/4 time without the use of beats, crystal clear bells and similarly high-pitched piano remnants and presumably very important frisky messages from little baby Kędziora.


Honey is a substantial debut that is torn between two different moods and shedloads of rudimentary fragments. You can either expect warm, brightly-lit songs with carefully set static noises and similar particles that enhance the presented loops by covering the silence that ensues during the loop, or you’ll get unexpectedly gloomy tracks that could be counted to the Dark Ambient genre if there weren’t so many convoluted disaccords of light and complacence. Whatever the mood is, the stylistic particularities of these fragments and various analogue and digital sounds – while not new – are top notch regardless. I would have wished for a few more elaborated and wrought melodies that are easier on the ears and a bit catchier, as I am always looking forward to these coruscating sparkles of synthetic goodness. So let me rephrase my opinion about the various saccharine synthesizer droplets that float throughout Honey as a golden (!) thread. It’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of Glitch Ambient. Although Noiko’s album really doesn’t have anything in common with that particular genre apart from the tune Homeless (For The Homeless Band), I caught myself waiting for a reappearance of certain shimmering synth droplets. It’s the moment of waiting which is at least as good as the ensuing treatment in form of a euphonious burst. In this very regard, Honey delivers big time by merging sophisticated real instruments with synthetic iridescences, combining the best of both the jazzy Avantgarde world of curlicues with the scintillating cosmos of emblazoning artificiality. If you are a fan of this Lo-Fi approach which isn’t as Lo-Fi as you might think despite a few deliberate whirrs and buzzes, give this album a chance. Otherwise cherry-pick the songs that suit your needs, i.e. the warmer analogue songs or the arcane coldness of the glitchier offerings.



Further reading and listening:

You can listen to the full album on the Etalabel section of the Bandcamp website.




Ambient Review 072: Noiko – Honey (2012). Originally published on May 16, 2012 at