Tue, Feb 26, 2019 at 7:00 AM
The music that sophisticated Polish quartet Trupa Trupa – Grzegorz Kwiatkowski (vocal, guitar), Wojciech Juchniewicz (vocal, bass guitar, guitar), Rafał Wojczal (second guitar, keys), Tomasz Pawluczuk (drums) - creates lands like anthems, with barbed hooks driven deep by an italicized rhythm section or turned into a fantasy by crisscrossing harmonies. During “Dream About,” honeyed falsetto totters over a menacing bassline, the frisson between them so hypnotic it renders the title phrase as an existential mantra, a lifeline. Their music is an embarrassment of riches, a string of hits in Trupa Trupa’s idiosyncratic, self-made universe.
But just beneath the surface of Trupa Trupa’s bright and indelible songs, there is a world teeming with nihilistic considerations, slyly dark humor, and survivalist self-assurances, all subtly nestled into these refrains and reflected back by secretly complex textures.
The setting of Gdańsk is a crucial philosophical and aesthetic touchstone for Trupa Trupa. A city with a convoluted history of German and Polish rule and self-sovereignty, it is itself a living testament to the turnover of human toil. It’s also the homeland of Arthur Schopenhauer, a philosopher whose system of metaphysical will inspired Nietzsche and, in turn, Trupa Trupa. Klaus Kinski was born nearby, too; Kwiatkowski considers his Werner Herzog-directed film, Fitzcarraldo, one of the best movies ever made. Kinski tries in vain to amass a fortune by piloting a steamship over a mountain into the rubber bonanza of the Amazon. It is a portrait of great effort and pathetic failure, of strain sublimating into nothing. Along with the notions of Beckett, hints of the Beatles, and the knotty complications of Radiohead, these emotions ripple through Trupa Trupa’s music.
Trupa Trupa is the second Polish band to sign to Sub Pop this year, following the February release of Perfect Son’s debut, Cast. As with Perfect Son, Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman, who has long taken a personal interest in the culture and history of Poland, has been following Trupa Trupa for years. In a 2013 interview with Pitchfork, he even mistook their second album, ++, for a set of demos when explaining that he was trying to decide whether or not he liked it. Apparently, he did.
But Trupa Trupa has grown inordinately in both confidence and execution during the last half-decade. Spurred on by a democratic process, where no one is the real leader and all ideas and influences are funneled into the same rich sound, Trupa Trupa channel a multiverse of feelings into its captivating music. They stare into the dark and summon a light of their own, making all our tedium and toil feel not just tolerable but deceptively triumphant.