Piotr Cisak






Essentia is the tape debut of Gdansk, Poland-based guitarist and sequencer tweaker Piotr Cisak, released in April 2014 on Matthew Barlow’s Twin Springs Tapes label in an edition of 25 tapes and unlimited digital download editions. It is available to fetch at Bandcamp as usual. Situated in the mountainous city of Asheville, North Carolina, Barlow knows a thing or two about the beauty of spring and its various effects on the different zones, showing his knowledge time and again by means of the tape-centered promo photos that present releases of his label. Now he invited Piotr Cisak to deliver his take on the power of spring. This would be very nice and all, but unfortunately, it is not true. Essentia might showcase a verdured artwork and concept, but the intrinsic climes are much more clandestine and danger-evoking, albeit not downright threatening. The tape houses two long-form pieces, with a third track – a collaboration – being available on the digital version that is included with the purchase of every tape. Without spilling the beans in advance, Cisak’s primary instrument is the guitar whose electrifying oomph is poured into various vistas of uncanny proportions, remote copses and fog-covered ponds. I shy away from calling the whole tape a Dark Ambient work though, as there are moments of light scattered among the tape. The title Essentia furthermore hints at – drum roll, please – the essence of being, and it so happens that the Latin track titles are philosophical and already carry a certain weight right from the get-go. Oscillating between multiple stacks of guitar-based layers and contrastive segues of cauterized desiccation, Essentia is no bubblegum pop for those youthful spring rites, but this I didn’t expect from a Twin Springs Tapes release anyway.


Nature's exterior does not necessarily match the soundscapes. Photo by Matthew Barlow. 


The artwork may be vernal, the title of the tape is vibrant, and yet does Piotr Cisak shy away from a formulaic loftiness that wafts through a treetop’s aureoles. In lieu of absorbing the outer surroundings, it is the innermost endemics, a complete withdrawal, a fight of countermovements and antagonistic patterns which take place in the mind itself. De Memoria Et Reminiscentia (On Memory) worships the petrified state of remembrance. While this is no mere reminiscence or short-tempered scheme of senescence, the screeching Dark Ambient nucleus of Cisak’s 12 minutes long opener is nonetheless illumined; cautiously so, as if not to disturb the staggering gravitas of the prolonged moment. The springscape comprises of processed guitar scythes whose elasticized abrasiveness leaves an eldritch glare amid the wind gusts and heating circulation pumps that blow and waft through the mephitic air. More nightmarish than oneiric, it is the bass flumes, the upsurge and downfall as well as the enigmatic afterglow of the metallic granularity that make the acatalepsy of De Memoria Et Reminiscentia an asphyxiated one. Despite the wideness and floating formations that should leave enough room to breathe and exhale, this is a dense affair. Twilight is held in captivity, waiting for the moment to fittingly unchain the catenae.


De Ente Et Essentia (On Being & Essence) is that very moment where Cisak revs up the plasticity and leaves purgatory for sanctuary. This piece is by no means an elating affair from the outset, but the opposite movements and elemental forces are held together by a transcendental undercurrent, a superfluid charged with positive convulsions and horticultural vestiges. This golden thread is a fluxion of shimmering synth-oid drone adjuvants which are surrounded by excitingly intense Middle Eastern arcana as spawned by lanthanum-colored tone sequences. A simmering heat is unveiled. Blotchy and vertiginous, there seem to be many elements stacked onto each other, but it is probably the same guitar, superimposed and augmented, thankfully multiplexing the increasing luminescence that hits its apex during the eighth minute when more euphonious, almost sumptuous sinews of positivism enter the riotous reticulation. From this point onwards, De Ente Et Essentia changes its undertone: its full-scale tartness emits caustic complexions, the injected lead drones are verdured and cause a certain happiness that fits right into the alluvial antrum. What was once scuppered and extirpated is now experiencing sylvan beguilements, an organic effulgence which leaves the intimidating Hauntology helix of the first track behind and sows the seeds for spring. It is only the periphery that is noticeable, but still, this is the most convivial capsule Cisak offers.


De Caelo Et Mundo is the digital-only bonus track that did not make it onto the tape. It is a largely experimental polyhedric critter featring the talent of Krakow-based violinist Teoniko Rożynek. It tumbles, as its title promises, between heaven and earth, although the actual arrangement reminds more of a severely warped swamp scenery, a foggy-mucoid asbestus pool supercharged with surreptitiously bouncing cylon bombs and threnodic strings. A certain histrionic approach and aural cinematography cannot be denied, especially not if the reverberation and hefty amount of echoes is taken into consideration which curiously enough add both depth and vast emptiness to the scenery, for it is the latter that becomes all the more notable the more aggressive the echo bubbles through the crestfallen grayness. Rożynek’s violin is dizzy, dazzled and drizzled and presents the other meaning of the term drone, as it drones wonkily along like a harmed reel and even becomes the center of attention. The artificial blebs, ground loop vesicles and spermatocystic staccato splinters reign freely, unperturbed and in adjacency to the apocalyptic sundown/endpoint string synergy of the violin. It feels as if both the violin and the industrial Glitch layers are not really reacting to or interacting with each other, for they are neither friend nor enemy. This indifferent attitude is what makes De Caelo Et Mundo deeply bewildering.


Essentia is a circular Drone artifact pressed into a rectangular shape. It inherits, addresses and emanates many a characteristic trait that finds a prominent home on Twin Springs Tapes. The processed guitar core is one of these ingredients that appears frequently, but has not lost anything of its pressure, let alone its enchantment. The tonality of the two primary tracks is equally spread out over the label’s back catalog: the first track De Memoria Et Reminiscentia is a sinister brute with a rufescent complexion and stern physiognomy, comprising of dark guitars and jagged bass protrusions. It is, if you will, a more mystified version of Derek M Poteat‘s Guilt (2013) that was solely created with the help of a bass guitar and abysmal amplifiers. De Ente Et Essentia meanwhile reminds me of Riot Meadows’ synth whirlpool Natural Circuitry (2013). This comparison is probably too far-fetched in regard to the timbre, but it is all the more fitting in terms of the density and the amount of layers. Piotr Cisak’s second track is also based on electric guitars, among other things which I am too flummoxed to pinpoint, but here they do not evoke any imminent danger rather than a wondrously soothing turmoil. Once a diaphanous melody enters in the latter half, it is a great spring-like finale to the Polish artist’s tape… were it not for the digital-only vision De Caelo Et Mundo and its atomic impulses: the sour flecks and frizzling pulses meet the dun-colored freeform fallacy of Teoniko Rożynek’s violin. This particular piece withdraws meaning, evidence, maybe even existence. A confusing finale to an unexpectedly dark, but appropriately iridescent tape.


Further listening and reading:

  • You can stream the first two tracks and buy the tape at Bandcamp
  • Follow Twin Springs Tapes on Twitter: @TwinSpringsTps


Ambient Review 332: Piotr Cisak – Essentia (2014). Originally published on Apr. 9, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.