Switched On – Stefan Węgłowski: Smooth Inertia (Glacial Movements)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

With this new album from Polish composer Stefan Węgłowski, the Italian label Glacial Movements reach a half century of releases, in which time they have cemented a status as one of the go-to labels for deep musical ambience.

In Stefan’s own words, “Smooth inertia is an album that was created in solitude, after the end of a certain period in which I stagnated. I could call it a blank sheet that I had to fill in. For years I had been trying to create an ambient album that I would be happy with, which would transcend me somehow beyond my full understanding.”

To do this, he uses field recordings, manipulated spoken word (Anna Figurska) and an out of tune piano (Adam Kośmieja). Węgłowski also plays the guitar on two tracks, a return to the instrument after a nine-year break.

What’s the music like?

Haunting. Deep Light sets a dark, mysterious tone, effectively a scene setter before Ray Of Night stretches out before the listener. Here the out of tune piano provides an effective counter to the thick sonic clouds behind, while the field recordings – birdsong high in the mix – bring a softer, lighter complexion to the music.

Time Brings Relief is as long as these two pieces combined, with Figurska’s voice set against another musical cloud, this one with consonant harmony that gives it a bright edge. Yet it is Frozen Edge that leaves a lasting impression, its initial ambience compromised by the glint of metallic tones that come to the sonic foreground. These cast a powerful spell, the harmony alternating slowly between two roots in the background. Towards the end a piano chord tolls meaningfully.

As a bonus, Frozen Edge appears in a remix from Michał Wolski, who delves into its mystery and adds a chilling sonic wind blowing across the picture.

Does it all work?

Yes – and though the durations of the tracks suggest the album might be lopsided, it proves to be well structured.

Is it recommended?

It is. There are dark moments here for sure, suggesting strife and loss, but the deeper impression is that of an overriding calm.



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