Writing about instrumental music is quite an intriguing process. In the absence of lyrics, the meaning and nature of the music have to come from interpreting the feelings and emotion found at the heart of the music itself. But then, it is the same challenge that faces the person making the music, that of wordless communication. And so, when listening to RAIA, the latest album from Ludwik Konopko, it feels like a two-way conversation, it’s just that it does not use anything as conventional as words. And, in a way, the process is more honest and more open for it. Rather than having lyrics that take the listener by the hand and lead them to certain conclusions or tell them what to think and feel, it is the music that guides you.
And guide you it does. Through a deft and delicate blend of styles, from flamenco vibes to jazz cool to world infusions to cinematic sound scoring, Ludwik creates wonderfully ornate yet soulful soundscapes. For the most part, it is the ebbs and flows of acoustic textures which form the mainstay of the songs, but as required, he calls on percussion to reinforce the groove, distant bass pulses to help tether the song structures or gentle washes of electronic ambience and atmosphere to colour the spaces between his perfectly placed notes.
The title track and opening salvo sets the scene perfectly, busy yet poised guitarwork drifting across rhythms that evoke Mediterranean vistas and sun-kissed settings. But there is also room for much more. Olin Blues, as the name suggests, is spacious, bluesy and understated, Diody is relaxed and full of gentle reflection, charming and chiming in equal measure, and Nim Zajdzie Slonce is jazz-infused and adventurous.
And to round things off, for the final song he is joined by Mariola Glajcar whose vocals add a wonderful additional dimension to I Have A Question, hushed and soulful, soft and sensuous, her voice acting as one half of a perfect dance as Ludwik’s guitar spins and spirals, swings and sways around her.
It’s a gorgeous album, there is no other word for it. Whether offering up the most understated and subdued acoustic guitar, creating gentle moods or building the more infectious moves that make up the album, the playing is always tasteful, exquisitely so. It would be easy to add too much to the album but the skill here, one of the many skills on show, is Ludwik’s ability to understand just what a song needs and make sure that he allows room for everything to breathe. It’s a skill that I wish more people would learn. Less, as they say, is more.