BAND OF THE WEEK: echoes of yul
New album 'the blessing bell' is like walking inside a rain cloud.
See this pic up here, the latest in a short line of echoes of yul vague, mysterious and usually deliberately out of focus promo shots throughout the years? That’s Michał Śliwa, first of all, the band’s sole fixed member and these days the creator of all the music this elusive project from Poland emits every now and then. But the feeling that picture transmits, the sole man sort of lost in thought in the middle of a vast and rather empty, if pretty, landscape, is precisely the kind of vibe you can find in his records these days as well, in particular the gorgeously minimalist ‘the blessing bell’. Earlier works, in particular the self-titled 2009 debut, made some waves in the post-metal scene at the time, with its still riff-fuelled density and bleakness, despite some of the electronic and ambient characteristics still being there. It was a sort of distant Neurosis/The Young Gods collaboration, heard through someone else’s car stereo on a ride through the desert at night. A brilliant record, yes, but also with an air of irrepeatability to it, which was true.
Throughout his career with echoes of yul, Michał has been a restless artist, despite his apparent tranquillity as a person and even the relaxed way he talks about this music (don’t forget to read the great chat we had with him right below). With 2013’s ‘Cold Ground’ and 2015’s ‘The Healing’, not to mention 2014’s fantastic ‘Tether’ EP (featuring remixes by people like Steve Austin or James Plotkin) and appearances in split releases (with the wonderful Thaw and Nowa Ziemia, as well as a great 3-way with Guantanamo Party Program and Sun For Miles), echoes of yul’s music has progressively mutated, shedding a lot of “fat”, becoming, as Michał describes his own vision of music these days, much “wider” in scope and feel. After a few years of silence, we now finally arrive at ‘the blessing bell’, which is, if anything, a dreamy, esoteric, ambient trip-hop album, ethereal voices floating in and out of the textures as ghosts, as if you’re passing through a ghost town in broad daylight just listening to distant, faintly unidentifiable noises that are more soothing than actually scary or foreboding. Or like walking inside a rain cloud.
As always, Michał was very nice and available and had a great chat with us about echoes of yul, the new album, and, well, life. Give it a peek, and then go get lost in this fantastic record that seems to grow on you, quietly but surely, at each listen, until you start to hear it in your sleep.
What I like the most about the new album: it reminds me more of a pile of polaroids than a concept album.
- Michał Śliwa
Hey Michał, thank you for the chat! So, it has been a few years since ‘The Healing’ and we haven’t heard much from Echoes Of Yul since, in terms of recordings. With this new album, you appear alone in the recording line-up, so things seem to have changed a little bit in this meantime. Can you tell us what have you been up to these past few years?
Michał: Hello José! The previous album was also created in a similar way already. I record alone and occasionally invite friends to participate, but the place where I have lived for last ten years has separated me from people so ‘the blessing bell’ appears to be my most “isolated” record. But I agree that the last few years have actually seen a little less EOY activity. After ‘The Healing’, I only released one split and did some occasional remixes for other bands, but mostly I recorded without the plan to share my music with anybody.
What are the origins of ‘The Blessing Bell’, what was the creative spark for you to start working on this album, since you didn’t have that urge to share the music? Was there anything specific that you wanted to achieve with it?
Michał: Nothing special happened. I just kept recording tracks after ‘The Healing’. It's hard to say if I wanted to achieve anything at all. Making music in my case is more of a constant, almost everyday activity. The important “spark” was the decision to finish and compile the album. In seven years I have recorded a colossal amount of music, and it already was a real pain to cut a few hours of music out of ‘the blessing bell’! [laughs]
How do you see the evolution of the project since the beginning, and in particular this last leap with this record? If you allow me my two cents, at this early stage of listening to this album seems like a culmination of your metamorphosis into a more ambient/trip-hop kind of thing, less dark and ominous than it was in the beginning, perhaps more abstract… but at the same time I can also sense a possible new beginning, full of potential for what you can do next. Am I way off?
Michał: I’m really happy to hear that you see the metamorphosis of my music. You're right, change is something natural, I can't imagine being stuck in one place for several years. I change as a musician and it seems to me that I see/hear sounds and music in a little more in a wider way. I'm not sure about a new beginning, but I definitely want to look out for, and try, new ways to expand my palette. The first album was monolithic and driven by guitars, in the following years I always wanted to introduce more space and different instruments, more shifts in dynamics and melody with each album. I still value the repetitive nature of music the most and I think that's still the base of my music.
Have your influences shifted in any way in these almost fifteen years (man, time goes fast!), have your listening habits changed considerably as time has gone by, and do you think that might have had an effect, even if subconsciously, in the process of that metamorphosis?
Michał: Time flies so god-damn fast! Did my influences shift? Yes and no. [smiles] I think the foundations are still the same, but fifteen years is a long time. During this time I have absorbed thousands of records, films, books, etc. My life has also turned upside down several times. This is certainly reflected in the fact that I perceive music a little differently than I did a decade ago. I definitely respect the time I devote to music more. And as a listener, I think I've become less critical, but my habits are still the same.
With very few vocals, and even less “lyrics” to speak of, everything about the album’s eventual concept feels very enigmatic. Would you like to lift a little bit of the veil and talk about the title of the album, some of the songs, and any kind of conceptual theme that might be running through it?
Michał: The title is simply taken from one of the songs, there is no big idea behind this record, I chose the songs that I liked the most. Of course, each of them is set at some point in my life or is correlated with some important (or unimportant) events, but I would prefer to leave it as an abstract conception, open to interpretation by the listener. I think that's what I like the most about the new album: it reminds me more of a pile of polaroids than a concept album.
I feel that some day I will reach the point where making music becomes a little less important to me. But we're at least one record away from that.
- Michał Śliwa
I don’t think you ever had many shows with EOY, but you do have a live line-up now – are you more available to play live these days?
Michał: EOY was always available to play live. It is a little hard on logistics side of things because every member of the live line-up lives in a different city, but if i find an interesting offer we will agree to perform. I love the rehearsals before the gigs - Mateusz and Patryk who usually help me with performances are such great guys. After ‘The Healing’ we played three totally different venues – one festival, one club concert and very special gig, limited to 50 attendants, in the National Museum. Man, it was surreal… As many museum guards as listeners. Medieval works of art and us making noise in the middle.
As far as I know, apart from some of your production and sound work on a couple of other projects, Echoes Of Yul is your sole musical output, right? Have you ever felt the need to diversity, to do something different, or does this already kind of feel like your sandbox where you’re free to try anything you’d like?
Michał: EOY is definitely my main sandbox, but I record a lot of music just for fun and self-use, a lot of ambient/drone stuff, minimal stuff, IDM, noise.
With that in mind, can we expect EOY to exist as long as you exist, and may that be for a long time still?
Michał: I hope I will outlive EOY. [smiles] Making music is a great thing, but I feel that some day I will reach the point where making music becomes a little less important to me. But we're at least one record away from that.
Find Echoes Of Yul on Bandcamp, Facebook and Spotify.
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