“Never say never,” goes the old phrase, but Marcin Czubala might see it differently. For Marcin, never is a state of mind—not the site of the unthinkable but a space for alternate possibilities, imaginative leaps and unfamiliar physics.
Chronicles of Never is a report back from Marcin’s personal otherworlds, a collection of postcards from a fleeting place.
There are those that say that house and techno are “singles genres,” that they don’t lend themselves to the album format. To the long list of albums that prove those critics wrong, add Chronicles of Never.
Marcin’s first album for mobilee—and in fact his first full-length since 2001, despite dozens of singles over the years—is not just a collection of dance tracks. While remaining faithful to an undeniable physical impulse, Marcin has granted himself uncommonly free rein to explore every corner of his psyche, with results running from the unburdened to the manic, from the sensual to the spaced-out. They all flow together like the colors of the spectrum, emotional states bleeding into others in tracks that twist and turn as imperceptibly as the moments of a long night out.
The album’s cohesive sense of freedom stems in large part to the way it was recorded, over a span of seven or eight months in which Marcin liberated himself from pressures and deadlines. Certain sounds and motifs occur and reoccur—muted hand drums, faraway voices, gleaming keyboards and dusty syncopations. But despite a certain consistency of mood—there’s something hushed about Marcin’s music, even at its most intense—every track invents its own world and operates according to its own logic. Not the logic of the club, or much less the logic of “minimal,” but a unique atmosphere for each, a unique ecology of sounds adapted specifically to their environment.
“Daybreak” makes for an obvious album opener, incorporating silken, luminous tones and a teasing set of chords; it unfolds as slowly and inexorably as its title would suggest. “Berolina,” the album’s first single, is all stoned seduction and weightlessness, full of contorted arpeggios, bubbly percussion and a devastatingly sexy female voice whispering sweet nothings in the listener’s ear. Of the title, Marcin
reveals that Berolina was the train connecting his city with Berlin, and thus “my first contact with the city, people, clubs and music.” You can hear that youthful sense of expectation and uncertainty in every sultry, slightly creepy phrase.
“Los Compañeros,” inspired by Marcin’s first tour of Mexico, is one of the album’s stand-out club tracks,
propelled by economical percussion and insistent looped vocals; halfway through, queasy keyboards fill
the soundfield, making this one of the eeriest club hits of the year. “Pravda” is more upbeat, full of bright,
glassy percussion with just the right degree of swing. But even here there’s a smidgen of dread, a
subconscious sense of unease that comes to the fore when a voice intones, “You can’t trust anyone.”
What on earth is an “Alibi Room”? Judging by the course of this 11-minute track, the album’s centerpiece, it’s a place where fantastic narratives are spun, where reality is turned inside out.
Accordingly, the song feels like a live set in miniature, a kind of short story that moves from chapter to
chapter—from a dryly percussive intro to a curious breakdown in which an acoustic bass roams freely in
a kind of reverie, and finally closing out with four minutes of nostalgic harpsichord. It’s hard to say what
exactly took place in the alibi room, but there’s no doubt that you emerge different than you were before
“Dazed & Confused” offers the listener a chance to work all the doubt out of his or her system: it’s a
savvy exercise in focused, minimalist funk, with lots of tiny acoustic drum samples scattering like drops
of water on a hot skillet. “Spectacles for Humans” takes a similar rhythmic idea and drapes it in jewel-like
synthesizer tones. Echoes of Detroit resound in the warm strings that swell in the background. This is
another daybreak track, but it hangs in the balance between the promise of a new day and the last contemplation of time past. “30 May 2007” expresses a similar sort of ambivalence, a hallmark of Marcin’s very personal approach to music. Named in honor of the birth of his son, it is on the surface a
celebratory track—but odd detunings and frantic arpeggios suggest the unease that invariably comes
with fatherhood. It’s a leap into dark water.
The album closes out with two of Marcin’s deepest tracks to date. “At the Beach in San Foca”—named in
homage to the place where he first debuted the track, and which subsequently went mad—is a slow,
controlled burn that periodically flares up in the form of muted horns and panned, echoing voices.
Sweeping filters and syncopated piano chords push the track ever forward, while a deep sub-bass
grounds it firmly in the now. Finally, “Be Water” slows down and practices what it preaches, sending
sampled percussion and xylophone tones into a winding current that’s tugged at by eddying chords; it’s a
liberating finale to an album that’s all about finding one’s freedom.
“The advantage of electronic music is its freedom from interpretation,” says Marcin. “I’m not giving you a painting, just the brush and the paints. Chronicles of Never is the chronicle of an imaginary place. Your place.”
CHRONICLES OF NEVER
29th Of September