Atman
(Copyright © 1999-2024 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Personal Forest , 7/10
Ovoo, 6/10
Tradition, 7/10
Projekt Karpaty: Ethnocore , 6.5/10
Projekt Karpaty: Ksiega Utopii/ The Book Of Utopia , 6/10
Projekt Karpaty: Denega , 6/10
Projekt Karpaty: Ethnocore II , 6.5/10
Projekt Karpaty: Ethnocore III , 6.5/10
Projekt Karpaty: Euscorpius Carpathicus (2003), 6.5/10
Links:

Summary.
Perhaps the most creative world-music ensemble in the world was the Polish ensemble Atman, whose Personal Forest (1993) and Tradition (1999) were collages of surreal blends of Eastern and Western music, in the vein of the Third Ear Band and the Incredible String Band. Atman's multi-instrumentalist Marek Styczynski and vocalist Anna Nacher started a new project, Projekt Karpaty Magiczne, or Magic Carpathians Project, devoted to an ambient, cosmic, jazz version of Atman's pan-ethnic music on Ethnocore II (2001).
If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.
Scroll down for recent reviews in English.
Atman e` un gruppo polacco costruito attorno alle personalita` di Marek Styczynski, Marek Leszczynski e Piotr Kolecki. In passato hanno collaborato con diversi altri musicisti polacchi, in particolare la cantante Anna Nacher, a cui e` accreditato Tradycja (Freak Living Yourself). Atman e` fondamentalmente un gruppo di musica etnica strumentale, ma l'approccio e` alquanto diverso da quello della world-music. Il tono pacato e austero con cui dozzine di strumenti esotici (e alcuni costruiti dai musicisti stessi) vengono amalgamati ricorda semmai le partiture ambientali o le suite di Steve Roach (senza l'elettronica, ovviamente).

Le musiche di Personal Forest (Lollipop Shop, 1993) (Drunken Fish, 1997), sul quale la formazione e` limitata al trio originale, si ispirano soltanto vagamente al folk del mondo. I pezzi sono assemblaggi di citazioni eterogenee, quasi sempre di natura timbrica piu` che armonica o ritmica. Le musiche sono, insomma, assolutamente originali. I pezzi sono anche alquanto complessi. Lungi dal limitarsi a svolgere un tema, una melodia, un ritmo, si sviluppano lungo l'arco di diversi spunti, spesso in maniera improvvisata. L'obiettivo di Forest Of Karma (con i flauti che strillano sul fitto brusio degli strumenti a corda) e` di costruire atmosfere magiche e fiabesche Wild Way cerca la trance con il suo strimpellio meccanico, le sue nuvole di flauti, le sue piogge di campanelli, i suoi barriti di trombe. Free Tibet celebra la tradizione tibetana in modo del tutto arbitrario, con un concerto astratto di timbri striduli e di figure melodiche incompiute. Alla world-music convenzionale si avvicinano soltanto il frenetico saltarello di Green Wild Blood e i brani dal vivo (soltanto sulla ristampa).

Altre registrazioni dal vivo compaiono sul singolo The End Of Philosophy (Drunken Fish, 1997). Ovoo (Naturtonmusik, 1997) comprende il precedente Soundstreams (Obuh).

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Atman's basic trio is augmented with Anna Nacher for Tradition (Drunken Fish, 1999), an even more eclectic assembly of sonic cells performed with an even broader set of instruments. Each track is a carefully crafted collage of tones, and the layering of instruments is often so thick that recognizing which instrument does what is like trying to find borders in a rainbow's hues.
There seem to be no rules for composing a piece. 39 I Ching begins as a vocal hybrid of Indian psalm and avantgarde lied but soon turns into a driving dance led by the percussive patterns of zither, guitar and dulcimer. Free is also a spirited dance, although stained with dissonant counterpoint and girlish shrieks.
At the other (meditational) end of the spectrum, tracks like The Theatre Of Mist are inspired by the trance-based liturgy of Tibetan drones and bells. They flow slowly and gracefully, with a touch of flute melody and a soft strumming of the dulcimer's strings. A thick forest of ethnic percussions substitutes for the drones in this song's reprise, The Clives Theatre Of Mist, but the aim remains the same, albeit with more of a free-jazz feeling. It is no surprise that some of the instrumental pieces (e.g., Natural Landscapes) sound like new age music (the celtic branch of it, in particular), as Atman's spirit is quiet, serene, pastoral.
The album's tour de force is The Talking Meadow (15 minutes), a shamanic act which develops in a breeze of tibetan drones and native american rattles. Through ghostly echoes of didjeridu and buzzing of insect-like trumpets, an eerie melody on the dulcimer takes shape.
Tensegretty, with its bored, "new wavish", vocals and its heavy metal riffing, may represent a more rock-oriented direction (albeit still light-years away from your average alt-rock band).
In this whirlwind of ideas, Jimi Hendrix' Third Stone From The Sun gets a raga treatment which reveals a completely new perspective of his music. And their short requiem to Kosovo deserves a mention, a three-minute expressionist bacchanal of paralyzing noises.
Atman is proposing the most intellectual world-music of all times. While grounded in the rhythms and melodies of the world, Atman's folk music is as austere, as complex, as sophisticated, and, ultimately, as ambitious as avantgarde music.

In 1998 multi-instrumentalist Marek Styczynski and singer Anna Nacher started a new project, named Projekt Karpaty Magiczne. The group released the debut album Ethnocore (Fly Music, 1999), the soundtrack to a play, Ksiega Utopii/ The Book Of Utopia (Obuh, 1999) and Denega (Obuh, 2000), a recording based on samples of Baltic seals and other marine sounds. The Magic Carpathians Project, as it was renamed for western audiences, plays an ambient, cosmic, jazz version of Atman's pan-ethnic music.

While maintaining the same ambient/orchestral approach towards ethnic sources, Ethnocore II: Nytu (Drunken Fish, 2001) leans towards the Indian raga (India Mal, India Mata) and Buddhist chanting (Nytu, Denega). The album is dedicated to "nytu", an ancient vocal technique of the Carpathians which is Nacher's main tool. But Tibetan and Indian harmonies permeate the entire work and in the end the album sounds much more Asiatic than European.
Compositions are often immersed in a forest of woodwinds, while samples of Tibetan voices augment the eerie atmosphere. An arsenal of didjeridu, dulcimer, synthesizer, violin, clarinet, sitar and percussions attacks the woodwinds and the voices from all directions and turns each track into the musical equivalent of boiling magma. Compared with Atman, the new project is more "artificial", ponderous, brainy. Where Atman was a spontaneous joy of world sounds, PKM is an intellectual's view of popular music, a scientist's vivisection of alien organisms. Something is lost in the process, just like so much of modern ethnic/ambient/dance music loses not only the spirit but also the artistic value of the originals.
The duo triumphs when the sheer number of sonic events overwhelms the listener, as in Lluru, or when the improvisation and the concept border on free-jazz, as in Transcarpathians.
Western music has trodden down this path before, when German musicians like Stephen Micus and Georg Deuter explored and assimilated Indian culture. It is not a coincidence that the experimental mini-sonatas Radical Acoustic and Atropa Belladonna Cries recall Micus and Deuter's experiments of the 1970's and 1980's.

Ethnocore 3 - Vak (Tamizdat, 2002) is even more chaotic and unstructured, with Anna Nacher's wild shrieks towering over the extreme jamming that borrows from free-jazz, acid-rock and Indian music.

With Euscorpius Carpathicus (Obuh, 2003) Anna Nacher and Marek Stycynski turn Magic Carpathians Project into more than a fusion of psychedelic, ethnic and trance elements: the project becomes a cosmic mantra, and each song is merely a resonance of the overall vibration. Fishyfish, Lavender Satin And Gingerbread, Pawpaw Girl and especially the 12-minute Fat Moon evoke visions of a diluted and deformed version of Gong's Radio Gnome Invisible. The dissonant improvised music of Amp.ass and the spiritual hymn Water On the Hill define the two ends of the spectrum between which the universal mantra expresses itself.

The mini-album The Life and Times (North East Indie, 2004) is a collaboration between Magic Carpathians and Cerberus Shoal. The two groups, that had already collaborated on Response from Ethnocore 3 - Vak, swap and rearrange compositions. So this is basically a remix album. Respoonced turns into a 14-minute avantgarde dissonant chamber piece with loads of percussive sounds.

Anna Nacher and Marek Styczynski also released Barycz (2003), Baltyckie Szepty (2016), recorded in 2000, and Throbbing Plants (2017).

They resumed the Magic Carpathians Project with Biotop (2015) and Khemia (2019).

Anna Nacher was also part of the collective Noise Aquarium and launched the project Breath Library in collaboration with with scientist Victoria Vesna.

What is unique about this music database