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Aural Inheritance: What Szymon Borzestowski Left Us

Perhaps the saddest thing about the departed Szymon Borzestowski’s latest posthumous single “Medusa” is the comments. There is one that acknowledges the Newcastle bedroom electronic folk musicians tragic passing in December 2012 and lamenting the transience and finality of what will be Szymon’s only LP release, Tigersapp, but many of the others seem oblivious of the circumstances surrounding the releases, or even that Szymon was a solo musician: observations such as “Wavy” and “Now this is Some new Flavour! Lovin’ it guys” are trite and blissfully naïve, while BMAN is so entranced by the lush electronic folk offerings that he is “literally going to buy the album, that is how good this is.” It appears BMAN is unaware that what meagre royalties likely to be gleaned from this upcoming debut are matters for the Borzestwoski estate now. Although it’s unlikely a mind that grappled with such existentialities as the weight of existence in the suburban sprawl and closed middle class mindedness of Newcastle such as Szymon’s would have concerned itself with trivialities like these.

When a young life is ended, they are always in tragic circumstances. Illness, accident or self-inflicted: they become an irrelevance compared to the crushing finality of absence. It’s common to look back to the events of the person’s life, to comb through the art and the moods and the utterances that comprise most of what’s left behind, looking for clues in a manner Arthur Conan Doyle would nod approvingly at. But could the swift, devastating and fatal journey of introspection Szymon Borzestowski took into his own psyche be conveyed by the soaring vocal harmonies and blissfully youthful chord progressions of latest single “Medusa”? Are they hidden in the acoustic ruminations of “Golden”, present like some ghastly bedroom companion, breathing by the little clicks right at the bottom of the composition in the chorus? Each progression, lyric and harmony is imbued with an awful knowledge, the sort that the word ‘bittersweet’ could only begin to describe. Likewise, it now seems telling that much of Szymon’s music was composed, alone in his bedroom, with the technological fiddling and repetitiveness of a simple software program.

The truth is, the music of Szymon Borzestowski is as necessarily about loss and alienation as Arcade Fire’s Funeral and Lour Reed’s Magic and Loss are, to name two obvious examples. The looming shadow of Szymon’s illness must have bled into his music: likewise, the still stifling shadow of Szymon’s death must have influenced the treatment of the music every step of the way. The label tasked with releasing Tigersapp, Eloper Music, was created specifically for the purpose by Borzestowski family friend Craig Hawker, who worked closely with Mark Holland and well known producers Ian Pritchett (Angus & Julia Stone) and Rusty Santos (Animal Collective). Even the label name conjures images of youthful exuberance, a lust for life, the devil may care attitude of adolescence.

It’s likely Szymon’s music would be as hyped and widely shared as it is today even in the absence of tragedy. Cream always rises to the top, right? ‘Medusa’ starts with a Max Frost like dark acoustic thrum, and is refreshingly simple, with it’s muted, questioning chords and the contemplative lyrics. It is Szymon’s voice more than anything that would have ensured the spread of his music: broadly, he’s a post- Bon Iver singer, with the associated lush production and conversational tones thrown in with soaring harmonies, but with the more folkish lyrical sense of perhaps a Marcus Mumford. It’s an entrancing mix. First single Katyusha, strays into a sort of dance-jazz fusion, with the sort of twists and tempo changes to even impress M Night Shyamalan. But it’s probably second single ‘Golden’ that shows a taste of what truly could have been: over 100 000 Soundcloud plays and #9 on Hype Machine speaks of song-writing chops that deserved the flowering of a full career. Szymon must be smiling somewhere, that his bedroom aural doodles are finally revealed to be ethereal, genre-bending soundscapes.

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