Cookie Monsters

Ciastko
Ciastko
POLAND GUSSTAFF RECORDS GRAM1902 CD (2019)
POLAND DON’T SIT ON MY VINYL! SIT 465 LP (2019)

Now for some Polish noise-rock from the 1990s, a genre which everyone should know about and be investigating with all the powers at their disposal. The band Ciastko come to us from the Gusstaff Records label, who brought us that memorable record of spirited art-rock by The Kurws in 2016. Ciastko however aren’t so concerned with tricky time-signatures or complicated solos, and are much more of a bludgeoning noise act, with two guitars plus bass and drums, and the kind of uglified grunt-singing that will be familiar to all listeners who are partial to certain similar noise-rock genres, like doom, Black Metal, and US hardcore.

I suppose one major difference is that singer Klaudiusz Kwapiszewski also injects a lot of emotional howls and shrieks into his anguished singing, so that (from a vocal point of view at least) it’s not all an aggressive assault on the senses. The rest of the band however throw themselves into their work with the surge of a piledriver, and are mostly pretty remorseless as they grind away with the classic rock set-up to produce intense, hammering dirges of negative energy. It’s impressive how they manage to sound agitated and defeated at the same time, as though they’d reached the ends of their tethers and playing this angry music were the only option they had left in the world. The music doesn’t seem to set them free, something which I’d always assumed was the aim of every disaffected hardcore punk band from Washington DC to Seattle in 1984; instead the music of Ciastko seems to confirm their own alienation, their own enslavement to a miserable life.

Even so, they emit a bracing listen at their best moments. The only wearying aspect is the overuse of a certain pedal effect on the guitars (it might be flange, or fuzz), meaning that almost every track has the sort of astringent taste I tend to associated with the nasty trebley guitars of Siouxsie and The Banshees, or perhaps Killing Joke. Press notes however assure me that these grouchy Poles drew their inspiration from American noise bands Amphetamine Reptile and Trance Syndicate (whose output I am not familiar with). The album also turns out to be a one-time fluke. Recorded in Szczecin and released on cassette in 1992, it met with favourable coverage in the media but this wasn’t enough to stop the band splitting up next year. No new music was made by this five-piece again. This makes the reissue more than welcome, as it rescues another obscure gem from the treadmill of music consumerism and serves it up piping hot to a new audience who are finally ready to appreciate the delights of these airless, agonised howls, shrieks, blankets of discordant guitar riffs that curdle the atmosphere, and hammering percussive effects that numb the brain.

Also of note: they didn’t just sing in Polish, but also in German, English, French and Latin! I’ll bet Amphetamine Reptile never sang a song in Latin! This CD edition is from Gusstaff, but I think there’s a vinyl version (with a free CD included) on the Polish label Don’t Sit on My Vinyl (already sold out at source). P.S. – there are no bonus tracks such as out-takes or unreleased material here, but who knows – if there’s enough interest in this item, perhaps another lost tape can be found one day. From 22nd January 2019.

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