Błoto ‘Erozje’ LP/CD (Astigmatic) 4/5

Polish quartet, Błoto, are the hot muddy heart of the larger format EABS (Electro-Acoustic Beat Sessions); that sampling, loop-making, “reconstruction from deconstruction” jazz improv family from Wrocław. Marek Pędziwiatr (keys & synths), Olaf Węgier (tenor sax), Paweł Stachowiak (bass) and Marcin Rak (drums) are the plucky, handsome quadruplets who stepped out on their own for a single night session, back in 2018, that resulted in “Erozje”.

As I understand it, Błoto translates as ‘the mire’ and Erozje as “erosion”, so I wasn’t really expecting fun time, party time, all of the time, here. The opener, “Kałuże”, didn’t counter that expectation; it moves in a silent way – a sublimely empty, somewhat fretful space that segues into the Davis-fusion, beats-busy “Mady”; its fiery click energises Pędziwiatr’s rousing, space-jazz meanderings before resting on a solid hip-hop riff that Rock, Shadow, Dilla, Younge etc. would be chuffed with.

“Czarnoziemy” takes that energy and nails it to the floor. Rak’s hard-hitting; punctuating and fizzing but always smack dab solid. Pędziwiatr’s simple motif-of-four shifts into Węgier’s clamant spits and circles. More segue follows – sprinkling keys this time – as “Bagna” stiffens up under a bone-chilling breeze, stumbling into Rak’s stick-spinning patterns and collective percussive cracks and shivers.

“Czarne ziemie’ is a heavy, procrastinating hip-hop production with vintage 90s piano loop leading to a thrilling, syncopated, cacophonous breakdown. “Rędziny” is a west-side-story, back alley stand-off with plodding piano and cop strings that leads into the initially frenetic bassline-fuelled “Bielice”; slowing halfway into a delicious hip swing that Węgier lewdly makes out to.

“Ziemie zdegradowane przez człowieka” feels like space to breathe, a contemplative respite from the dark intensity that has preceded it. Limpid, liquid, ascendant piano dampens the insistent, metallic wash. It’s simple and bewitching, nostalgic, regretful. Momentary respite only though, as “Glina” disturbs the peace with gunshots and sirens and distress and anger. Intense and unrelenting, Its title is Polish slang for cop and its anti-police-violence message is vivid, felt and understood.

The hauntingly beautiful closer, “Gleby brunatne”, is another introspective piano-led soundscape. It still has the insistence that the rest of the album has but it feels more hopeful, more future-facing, more an imperative.

“Erozje” is arresting, riveting, vital jazz hip-hop for 2020. It has a mixtape feel which although having its roots firmly in the halcyon period of real hip-hop, it’s very much a voice of now. It has a damp, tacit, simmering anger and low-level anxiety not alien to most of us today. It’s not a downer though – more frustrated, I’d say; irritated by those blind to the truth and the change that’s needed. It gets in your head, yes. Does it erode? Maybe, but it hasn’t left me feeling mired at all. It’s left me feeling heard and it’s left me thinking “Yeah, I fucking know how you feel, mate”.

Ian Ward