Resina is Karolina Rec’s solo project. The Polish cellist and composer is known by her fellow Poles through her collaborations with an eclectic list of artists, from Maciej Cieślak through Hubert Zemler to Zamilska, but since 2016, she’s been carving a solo path with her own project. Her second album, Traces, sees her expanding the sound palette, employing not only otherworldly soundscapes created from heavily looped and processed cello, but also wordless vocals and rhythms. These take inspiration from an obsession with damaged sacral objects, memory, survivors of violence and the ravages of time.
“I’ve tried to build my own musical identity on a premonition how music from this piece of the world could sound – but not by using folk music literally.” is something you stated once in an interview. Can you talk about your musical identity and its development?
It’s constantly evolving – in parallel with what I generally learn about, and I try to learn constantly things which are not necessarily connected to music. But I won’t deny that my musical identity comes from the place where I live and the culture which shaped me (the destroyed tradition of folk music or pieces written by modern Polish composers). My skills are obviously things that I received from this specific environment, teachers, nature and history (subjects present in my albums) and I recognize them as the elements which built my musical character – especially at the beginning. Now – using this background – it’s interesting for me to work on themes/obsessions which come from non-musical sources.
You recorded music both in “rural” (Gdynia, the Baltic coast), and urban locations (Warsaw, with its complex history). Can you perhaps talk about how environments have influenced your music and some projects in particular?
Yes, that was the idea – to allow myself to be inspired by both these environments. At that time, I didn’t want to produce something detached from my everyday reality. It also makes sense when you think about the obsessive motifs of these albums: the first, written in Gdynia – concerns ambivalent perception and emotions, unpredictable nature, and the second, written in Warsaw – more concerns the repetitiveness of history and human illusions about it. I can’t say how it worked in detail – it was rather a long and intuitive process.
There’s a dichotomy between darkness and light in your music, anticipation and release, fragility and buoyancy – similar to many folktales, mythology and life in general – can you maybe talk about it with regard to your work?
One thing is that I believe in intuition – nowadays we know now that it is built mostly from experience and data collected, not necessarily in a conscious way. So that could mean two things: that I was highly influenced by all the things you list (mythology, folktales etc.) and secondly: I like this type of music, so I’m interested in making this type of music. I was always interested in music which doesn’t give you respite or consolation, but plays with dramaturgy and tension to reveal some other layers.
You mentioned the importance of the live element of your music, using loopers, for instance – how can music be born of the unexpected and somehow primordial, the uncontrolled.
I like to push myself into some unexpected territories on stage – it’s something that I believe many artists do. I simply want to make things work better for the audience, checking what makes my pieces more and more complex and essential. I want to keep the feeling of the creative process each time I play the piece (my debut album and most of the following one were recorded live). I believe that it’s an element which helps to build an almost physical relation with the audience. It’s a huge reward and (I hope) a great experience on both sides. I treat my instrument in a very physical way – I’m just this ‘manual’ type of person who tries to mix skills with some abstract ideas about sound.
Your new release recontextualizes your Traces album with a diverse array of musicians, including Abul Mogard, Ben Frost, Ian William Craig and Lotic. Why did you decide on these artists in particular and were there any surprising elements in their reworkings that perhaps inspired you further?
Obviously, I asked these artists because I love their work – I actually could write a long essay explaining “why”. I’m a huge fan of Ian’s way of devastating sound, which reveals hidden emotions and makes me unexpectedly fragile. I love the uniqueness of sound of Abul, which is something I want to work on more. I’m an absolute fan of what Lotic do with some overused electronic music patterns and how it makes them more powerful and deep. And of course, I’m an admirer of how Ben mixes his very own electronic instruments with acoustic sounds to create such a strong sound world. What really amazed me is that all these artists prepared pieces which I believe could appear on their own LPs as stand alone tracks – but at the same time, it’s very exciting to hear some of my parts/motifs/thoughts used in them in ways I could never have imagined and put into a sound environment I absolutely admire. I’m generally interested in the idea of mixing very primal, acoustic sounds with electronics so from this point of view, every one of these remixes could be a clear inspiration.
You are apparently going to work on a special show at a detention centre for women. Can you talk about it?
It was an invitation from the promoters of the JazzArt Festival in Katowice. Every year they choose an artist to play a show there. Actually, I felt extremely honoured that they offered it to me – otherwise it would never happen. I must admit that I’m used to and love playing shows where people don’t know what to expect, or they expect “cello-lounge” music and they are a bit surprised about what happens on stage. Another thing is that I’m not a fan of treating music (other than pop) in an elite/exclusive way – it’s a good opportunity to implement this idea again.
Interview by Lucia Udvardyova