Artist: Jakub Zytecki
Album Title: Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Label: Independent Release
Release date: 23 February 2018
I may be a little out of my depth with this release, but as they say: ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. Plus, I like this music, so I feel it is my duty to write something about it. So, here goes…
Jakub Zytecki is best known to me, and I’m sure many others, as the guitarist of Polish progressive band DispersE. However, this album is very different in terms of style and delivery, to the point where it is unrecognisable from his work in DispersE.
What is slightly complicated, at least at first, is that this ‘album’ is actually an amalgamation of two already-released EPs, namely ‘Feather Bed’, originally released in July 2017, and ‘Ladder Head’, which saw the light of day in December 2017. The chances are then, that if you are aware of Zytecki as a solo performer, you might already own all the material on this release. There are no bonus tracks, no re-worked material, which is a shame and maybe a missed oppoertunity to add some extra value to the release. Therefore it would be extremely hard to justify the purchase if you have the EPs in your collection. For those unfamiliar though, this album might just be the perfect vehicle by which to explore the world of Jakub Zytecki.
The most difficult question to answer is: what does this solo material sound like? I suspect that if you ask ten different fans, each would come up with their own description and genre tags. Descriptions I have seen range from electronic jazz, right through to ambient, experimental progressive rock. Having wrestled myself with this question for far too long, I realised that I was wasting my time on a futile exercise. The music on this album could easily fit into all of these descriptions and more besides. But more importantly, it is just really lovely and a joyous experience.
It is not often that the music I listen to will be genuinely uplifting. I mean, uplifting death, doom or black metal just feels plain wrong. But with ‘Feather Bed’ and ‘Ladder Head’, I listen and I relax. I listen and I smile. I listen and I tap my foot. I listen and I am bathed in a warm glow.
The influences that Zytecki cites are largely unknown to me but include guitarist Eric Johnson, electronic, jazz and ambient musician and DJ Bonobo, and Australian psychedelic rock band Tame Impala. This in itself will help those who are looking for firmer reference points, but I’d suggest that Jakub Zytecki is quite original in his approach and delivery, taking others as a starting point, before developing his own musical vision. It is a vision that is able to genuinely tell a story or convey thoughts, images and feelings through the medium of music, thanks to the eloquence of Zytecki’s compositions, some of which are purely instrumental.
‘Opened’ is one of the many highlights for me within the ‘Feather Bed’ half of the album. The guitar work is superb in particular, whether it is in the intricate and precise delivery or when offering bolder, more ‘heavy’ sounds. The use of electronics, all performed by Zytecki himself, are a surprisingly excellent addition, adding texture and depth to the modern-sounding piece which benefits from some simple but gorgeous melodies.
‘Letters’ features more excellent virtuoso guitar work, whilst being underpinned by a pronounced electronic drum beat and layers of synths. On the other hand, Jakub’s soft, breathy voice makes an appearance in ‘The Drum’, whilst the bass guitar makes quite an impact, alongside the unsurprisingly strong beat given the title of the track.
Zytecki’s voice is also present in the gloriously smooth and lush sounds within the title track, a song that is very dreamy and almost ethereal in places. It even includes the sound of a steel drum, which doesn’t sound out of place – that in itself is quite a feat.
If I had to stick my neck out, I’d probably say that the ‘Ladder Head’ half contains my favourite music however.
The title track begins this half and if you are not moved in some way by the flamboyant and slightly heavier guitar work in the opening moments, or by the infectious beat, or the ambient textures that call to mind the feel of Devin Townsend’s ‘Ghost’, then this music is clearly not for you. The vocals that arrive just after the half-way mark are again hushed and subtle, further reinforcing the Townsend parallels. It is just a glorious composition.
By contrast, ‘Yesterdead’ has a slightly more upbeat feel as well as a more pronounced jazz element, mainly within the lead guitar playing. But even so, the song is really catchy and I love the moments where the guitars produce something a little heavier, creating a more intense sonic soundscape towards the close.
If you’re after catchy material, then surely ‘Lovetape’ will sate your appetite. After a serene intro, the ensuing lead guitar is cheeky, quirky and infectious, as is the slightly funky, progressive bass and beat combination that together sits just below. Add to this the sampled vocals which are ethereal and fragile and it quickly becomes my favourite track. I could press repeat several times with this song and indeed have done at times.
The contrasts between light and shade within ‘As You Are’ create an epic-sounding sonic experience, whereas ‘NightDiving’ is dominated by a funky bass intro, onto which yet another uplifting and tranquil song is built. It may have been anything but, but the results have the appearance of being effortless.
I would never have thought of myself as a fan of jazzy, ambient, electronic, alternative progressive fusion music. And yet I really enjoy ‘Feather Bed/Ladder Head’. However, I strongly suspect that I like this album because of Jakub Zytecki’s style and delivery in the main. The chap is obviously extremely talented and his knack of penning music that has something to say, whilst being accessible, warm and thoroughly engaging is a rare gift indeed. Indeed, it is the fact that the album is made up of strong, properly-constructed songs, rather than an exercise in gratuitous frivolity that makes this the triumph that it undoubtedly is.
The Score of Much Metal: 8.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse