Shortly after the turn of the century, the unparalleled vibe of Skalpel‘s unique Nu-Jazz downtempo caught the ear of the monolithic Ninja Tune. Despite reaching into its second decade and recovering from a late 90s market over-saturation, Downtempo was still thriving. Many of the latter era’s heroes were just beginning to make their mark (Bonobo, Blockhead and Amon Tobin, for example) and Ninja Tune sat unrivaled.
But the new era brought with it less of a smokey lounge & new-agey electronica backbone (as it had in the 90s) and more dark experimentation. Nostalgic Jazz rolled up in smokey Hip Hop beats had proven its timelessness in the 90s (and was the very sound Ninja Tune was built off of) but was then all too susceptible to being a caricature of itself. Then came Poland’s Skalpel.
With Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudło’s Ninja Tune debut in 2003, they made waves. The duo’s appropriation of 60s and 70s Polish Jazz reinvigorated Nu-Jazz Downtempo in all the right ways & sold like hot cakes. Soon followed two iconic, critically-lauded albums in 2004 and 2005 and then… nothing. Nothing, that is, until this past May when the duo dropped Simple EP via Plug Audio
Meant to serve as a taster for their 3rd studio album out later this year, Simple EP arrives at a truly pristine time. The last few years have seen the slow launch of a 3rd era of Downtempo, one that is far more eclectic and experimental than its predecessors yet not without pockets (such as Gergaz, Cold Busted and Darker Than Wax) that maintain the tradition of smokey broken Jazz.
But even in these widely proliferated times, the brilliance that put Skalpel front and center a decade ago (and inspired a generation) once again allows them to transcend the pack. Simple EP is, above all else, an exercise in Jazz, using the dynamic mode to deliver inescapable vibes that sooth and fuel. Elements of Hip Hop are deconstructed, if not out right hidden, and emphasis is granted more strongly towards original musicianship, rather than cleverly looped samples (as is the tradition).
Given the culture significance of Skalpel’s return and our utter fascination with innovative downtempo, we were obligated to do something special for this release. No, a review would not cut it. So, it is with great honor we present to you HIGHCAST 55, a brief-yet-scrumptious stroll guided by Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudło, a.k.a. Skalpel.
Przasnik – Kinda Buoyant Thing (Kosmos Radio Re:Swing) (Funky Mamas and Papas)
Skalpel – Salvadanio (Plug Audio)
Archie Pelago – Brown Oxford (Mister Saturday Night)
Blakula! – Witches Crew (Bear Funk)
Zombie Zombie – Rocket Number 9 (Versatile)
Mickey Moonlight – Interplanetary Music (Ed Banger)
The Heliocentrics – The Zero Hour (Now Again)
Tosca – Heatwave (Rodney Hunter Bounce-a-Thon Wersion) (G-Stoned)
Jimi Tenor – Year of Apocalypse (Warp)
Broadcast –Monica (Her Parents Have Been Informed) (Warp)