If I have included a link on the front page to Synopsis Elektronica, a web log devoted to (particularly) German experimental electronic music of the seventies and eighties, it’s because the winter that Warsaw is currently embedded in is particularly befitting of such austere, synthesized sounds (and because the view from my kitchen window bears an uncanny resemblance to Michael Hoenig's album cover above) . Whether Tangerine Dream’s Ricochet or Manuel Gottsching’s E2 E4 or indeed Michael Hoenig’s Departure from a Northern Wasteland, there is something of an electronic intonation to Warsaw’s voice. Even the name - Warsaw (Warszawa) - carries an austere and perverse charge that echoes long after it is voiced.

It needn’t be the neon streaking through the night, or the great experimental spaces invading the city, and all this architectural counterpoint, that renders Warsaw so 'synthesized'. It is perhaps, more, the synthesis of two states of mind, the capital and the communal (the young and the old, the past and the present), that brings Warszawa Elektronica to the fore.

In a Warsaw winter, everything is pared to the bone. Though 2 decades deep in Capitalism the city has not yet relented to the full furore of 'the spectacle'. Austerity is still a visible factor. Xmas begins in the middle of December and ends on the epiphany of 6th January. The city's many birds and trees, in this testing time of year, lend another quality of hardship to the scene. Insofar as this is concerned, and in terms of its natural patrimony, Warsaw is a compassionate city.

There is a super-reality when knee-deep in a Warsaw winter. It comes as no surprise then to discover that Edgar Froese, the founder of Tangerine Dream, the most definitive electronic band ever, had studied under Salvador Dali in Berlin. Later, in 1984, Tangerine Dream would come to Poland for a series of concerts, later releasing the album 'Poland' including a title 'Warsaw in the Sun'. They were one of the few foreign bands allowed to perform under the Communist regime (since the band was wholly instrumental, sound itself could not be seen as subversive).

Back in Berlin in the seventies, David Bowie had recorded the deeply atmospheric and synthesized Warszawa for his experimental album Low. Warsaw was also the name initially adopted by the English band that was to become Joy Division. Like Joy Division (the name referring to a camp of Jewish women used to service the sexual needs of Nazi officers during WWII), Warsaw has had a death in the family and is now embracing a new order, a new economic model under which this old elektronic world will gradually be annihilated. There is a new Joy Division servicing Warsaw, all the more evident in the run-up to Xmas and in the relatively new phenomenon known as 'the January sales'.

Nevertheless, I still find the old world, the ever-retro properties of Warsaw’s Communist city frontage (its album cover?) ever-alluring. It has aged well against the progressive mode of modern tack. And its taste has deepened accordingly. Yet, this view is not shared by everyone. For many, this Communist aspect to Warsaw represents the demonic side of the city. As such, some would rather erase it completely. I'm talking principally of the city's vast architectural wealth of Socialist Realism, of which the tumultuous Palace of Culture and Science is but a single structure amongst many.

Nevertheless, this heritage (architectural and other), no matter how disagreeably people look upon it, is both healthy and necessary for Varsovians in order to come to terms with what 'Warsaw' really is. Look at it as a form of architectural adversity if need be, but do not pretend it never existed. This would simply be falling into the same totalitarian trap as before. A city without a visible past is a city living from hand to mouth. Warsaw would then be condemned to reconstruct itself ad infinitum. And for a city whose motto boasts 'contemnit procellas' (it defies the storms), this would be highly irregular.

However, in the era of the ever-effervescent Capitalist model, perhaps Warsaw will follow the same fate as vinyl, and be melted down and rebuilt as a compact disc. In the short term, the sound will sound the same, maybe even better, but in the process of replacement and 'improvement', the gritty synthesis of Warszawa Elektronica (and Warsaw's own idios syn-krasis) will be lost, and come ten, twenty, thirty years, they'll have to re-build Warsaw again, and again... and again.

Looking north (from my kitchen window) to the city's centre. The beacon of the Palace of Culture and Science is just visible in the centre of the picture. [January 2nd, 2009]

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