photo by Helena Majewska
“Waclaw Zimpel has gone from being an outlier among his generation of Polish jazz musicians to one of the most creative and original electronic artists to have emerged from his homeland” – THE QUIETUS
“The Polish polymath brought an unorthodox array of clarinets, synths and a khaen — a Thai mouth organ made of bamboo — to craft gorgeous, looping soundscapes that ranged from ambient electronic to free jazz, occasionally colliding the two for good measure.” – HEADPHONE COMMUTE
Wacław Zimpel has risen to prominence as one of Poland’s most adventurous multi-instrumentalists, composers and producers following a love affair with jazz yet equally inspired by electronics, minimalism and global roots – a prolific collaborator, Zimpel blurs extreme boundaries as far as to eradicate them altogether in tirelessly seeking new musical languages. The New York Times called him a ‘musical chameleon’.
Based in Warsaw, born and raised in Poznań, his earliest musical memories are of his father playing the piano, taking up the violin at the age of six and classical clarinet training in high school, graduating Academy of Music in Poznań in classical clarinet performance. Riffing on his beloved rare alto clarinet, casting aside the frustrations of formal music lessons for a salvation in jazz & the burning desire to improvise led to a world-class mastery of other woodwinds including khaen (proto-harmonica from Laos). Expert manipulation of urban-ritual electronics and loops anchored to a human perspective and folk-trance tradition, Zimpel prioritises of depth and understanding whichever his chosen context.
Most recent solo highlight has to be ‘Train Spotter’ an album released on 31 March 2023 his first release for London-based label The state51 Conspiracy. ‘Train Spotter’ was created to a specific brief from The City of Warsaw: to capture the Sound of the City of Warsaw. But, as Wacław Zimpel soon found out, the sounds of a city don’t exist in isolation; they’re part of a wider environment that is itself undergoing upheaval against a background of internal and external forces.Recording a variety of mechanised and repetitive sounds including tramlines, baggage carousels and bouncing basketballs in municipal parks among many other found sources, Wacław Zimpel then fed the results through a host electronic equipment including synthesisers, keyboards, beat machines and plug-ins to create something wholly new and original.Building on the notion of Musique Concrète where recorded sounds are used as raw compositional material, ‘Train Spotter’ is a record that rises in intensity, both within the individual tracks and the sequencing of the album. The resulting six tracks are both a reflection of the city that birthed it and the wider world that surrounds it.
His previous solo album is ‘Massive Oscillations’, the result of a nine-day residency at the Willem Twee studio in Den Bosch, mixed with the help of collaborator James Holden, and released via Amsterdam’s Ongehoord records. In keeping with his restless improvisational spirit, Zimpel jettisoned previous ideas and setabout using the studio’s array of oscillators, generators, sequencers, tape recorders and filters (alongside his beloved clarinet) to capitalize on opportunities the facility offered him. Having tuned the oscillators by ear for ‘Sine Tapes’ and title track ‘Massive Oscillations‘, whilst attempting to work out melodies on his clarinet,Zimpel found he’d inadvertently arrived at a lower frequency than intended. By a happy accident, he realised he’d subconsciously been tuning in to the bells of St Jan’s Cathedral, which is located close to the studio. “It was this kind of magical coincidence that really helped shape the recording“, he recalls.
Released the same year as ‘Massive Oscillations’ ‘Ebbing in the tide’ , released on Picture label, was recorded in one take in Margate UK, exploring advanced processing techniques – developed specially for him by Holden – transforming a single clarinet line into an other-worldly choir of Krautrock and woodwinds.
2016’s critically acclaimed ‘Lines’ described by The Quietus as “a spectacular statement”, and additional collaborations venture deeper into contemporary electronic performance including projects and albums with James Holden and with Shackleton.
Zimpel’s back catalogue has made an indelible mark with dozens of albums as band leader. His ongoing Saagara project has seen him successfully bring together the disparate disciplines of western jazz and Carnatic ragas across an eponymous debut and its follow-up, ‘2′ with a third album in the works.
Add to this his collaborations with contemporary/free jazz players Ken Vandermark, Hamid Drake, Joe PcPhee, famed composer & Grammy award winner Evan Ziporyn, electronic music producers Forest Swords (by arrangement w/BBC Radio 3) and Rabih Beaini, drum legend Trilok Gurtu and the master of gnawa music Maallem Mokhtar Gania and a growing resume of theatre, film and choreography works.