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A Dreamgaze Wave: Pure Phase Ensemble’s Live At Spacefest!

Pure Phase Ensemble
Live At Spacefest!

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Every year in the first week of December, the city of Gdansk in Poland hosts the space-rock/shoegaze/dreamwave SpaceFest music festival. The Nasiono Association organizes this annual event and each year selected guest artists are invited to participate in a workshop in order to create original music to be performed during SpaceFest. The resulting musical collective is named Pure Phase Ensemble and each iteration features a new co-director who is chosen for his/her talent and status in the music industry. This past year Mark Gardener of Ride was asked to join Pure Phase Ensemble, which is permanently co-run by Ray Dickaty, the British experimental saxophonist and former member of Spiritualized, and Karol Schwarz of KSAS who also manages Nasiono Records.

This Pure Phase Ensemble version 4 also included the Polish musicians Jacek Rezner of Wilga on drums, Kamil Hordyniec of Wilga on bass, Michal Pydo of Hatifnats on guitar and vocals, and Michal ‘Kostek’ Stolc of Cisza Nocna on guitar and backing vocals. Gardener is showcased on guitar and vocals, Ray Dickaty on saxophone, flute, Korg, and Monotribe, and Karol Schwarz on guitar, vocals, Korg, Monotribe, and Phase. The ad hoc band crafted their original material into 7 songs during the first week of December in 2014 and presented it live to those in attendance at SpaceFest. The performance was recorded and released as the Live at SpaceFest! album on August 8th.

Mark, Ray, Karol, and the rest of the band members do what they do best on Live at SpaceFest!, shaping dreamy to stormy, wave-riding, mesmerizing soundscapes from their instruments and vocals. Mark ushers in the strung-out, spacey drone with a short speech at the beginning of “Intro” which sets the mood for the rest of the songs. The murmurings before dawn are brought into the light on next number “Morning Rise”. The airy simmer of cymbals, hushed saxophone pull, wavering keyboards, and chiming guitars form an enveloping atmosphere from which Mark sings sweetly “You can be sure of one thing / The lights will shine for you.” The relaxed vibe permeates Gardener’s drawn out words, the backing vocal support, and brightly shining guitar notes.

“Notaki” speeds it up a bit with a fast-tapping rhythm and low-key, globular keyboard notes that rise in volume as the song moves along. Various sounds flit in and out of the structured tempo, which again increases with the addition of various vocals and an urgently pressing, grittier guitar line. The two male vocals lines, one in a winding tone and the other sing-talking and exclaiming in Polish, as well as the elevated-to-racing pace, creates a compelling feeling that comes across more post-rock than shoegaze. It gets downright noisy (In a good way!) at the end of the track, showing that the guys know how to rock out as well as dream-gaze.

The rock doesn’t stop on the even more jagged, menacing “Zostan Na Noc” which grinds with rough guitars, cymbal bash, and other aggressive noises. The dangerous ambience dissipates for a bit as a light ‘n’ hollow guitar motif materializes from the squall. Vocals are sung airily in Polish and are backed by other vocals; it’s the calm at the eye of the storm. Saxophone pull, the churn of sharp guitar lines, and a stronger beat break the lulling spell, stirring up the whirlwind again before dying down. The low-key, but hypnotic and lyrically trenchant “Peter Song” puts together a supple bass line and tapping, shaking, and clicking percussion that support Gardener’s vocals as he sing-talks the telling lines “We’re getting older / Endless nights / Can’t empty out my mind.” Ray comes in on velvety sax, adding a deeper dimension to the sound.

Clocking in at under 4 minutes, “Doing My Head In” is the shortest song on the album, but it’s the most pop-oriented with its Lush-like chiming reverb guitar, subdued rhythm, short-phrase lyrics, and sing-song vocals. It’s catchy and delightful in a laid-back way, this time with Michal Pydo sighing highly about “Honey pouring out of your soul.” Closer “Happy Dancing Woman” brings in a lively beat and fast-clacking percussion that is contrasted with slower saxophone pulls and guitar chime. Again, Michal sings in a warm hush to “Take me to that secret place… / Take me to the darkness and mystery…” Twiddly wavering notes, sweeps of saxophone, bass line run, and a wash of guitars join in on the droning rhythm, casting a hypnotic spell on the end of the night’s performance to appreciative audience applause.

Live at SpaceFest! is available for purchase at official Pure Phase Ensemble Bandcamp page, iTunes, and the Nasiono Records website. The bonus of an exclusive radio edit of “Happy Woman” created by Canadian-Ukranian dream-pop duo Ummagma is included in the purchase. Ummagma trims the track by half, quickening its pace and increasing its impact, changing it into a smoothly flowing number that builds from a hushed whisper to a rush of dreamy, propulsive sonics.

Listen and/or purchase Live at SpaceFest! here: