Robert Piotrowicz – When Snakeboy Is Dying

I’ve followed Piotrowicz’s work since first hearing ‘Clinamen 3’, his contribution to a split with Carl Michael von Hausswolff on Bocian Records. After perusing much of his oeuvre since, I’ve found that the slow but consistent dynamism of that particular work stands above the rest. When Snakeboy Is Dying, then, is to me something of a return to form. While much has been made of this record’s shift from Piotrowicz’s previously purely synthetic compositions to a mixture of electronic and instrumental sources, it has a surprising number of parallels with that earlier piece.

It begins with the unsettling ‘The Boy And The Animal Mass’, laden with the same minor keys, tense saw-waves and beat-frequencies of ‘Clinamen 3’. The rest of the album only rarely departs from this wavering atonality. The rarity of harmonic resolution lends it the atmosphere of a threnody, appropriately enough. Both this trait as well as the mimickry played between different instruments and electronics is reminiscent of Penderecki, a comparison made more tempting by their shared nationality, albeit in a slower and more contemporary form of dissonant counterpoint.

The record is perhaps most rewarding in its subtle balance between synthetic and organic. There is no acute manipulation of acoustics, and the character and colour of an individual instrument is more often complimented or refuted than actually altered (though the opposite, instruments played in counterpoint to electronics, may also be true). In this manner, the electronic fields and delay-lines provide a geography through which the instruments perform. ‘Formatio’ is a particularly good example of this, while also periodically (in a literal sense, as it is quite rhythmic) emerging as one of the most beautiful tracks with murky percussive elements rising out of tense and complicated tonal fields.

Snakeboy may indeed be something of a departure in structure for Piotrowicz, but certainly less so in tonality. Indeed, given the consistent rhythmic elements shadowing his previous use of beat-frequencies, and his form’s reliance on counterpoint, it seems more an evolution than a departure. ‘Clinamen 3’ notwithstanding, this is likely the artist’s most capable and rewarding work yet. Available from Music Genera, and from the artist’s page on Bandcamp.

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