By the end of the seventies, progressive rock music got stuck in a rut. The big bands struggled with their (musical) direction and did not always release their best work. Moreover, there was the emergence of punk, a musical movement that was positioned directly opposite prog, calling its icons ‘dinosaurs’. During this hiatus, I was looking for alternatives as a true prog rock fan. I partly found this in jazz-rock/fusion and also from exploring the Eastern European rock music scene. In addition to the Krautrock and the Rock Progressivo Italiano (RPI), this search brought me to, among others, Hungarian band Omega and SBB from Poland. Beautiful old-fashioned prog sympho with strange vocals, mostly in the bands’ mother tongue.
Klan, also Polish, was not part of my search at the time, I have to be honest. And that is somewhat unfortunate I can tell you. Because the quartet from Warsaw is often associated with the much more famous Silesian Blues Band (SBB), especially the album Mrowisko from 1971, which appears regularly in charts compiled by music fanatics and connoisseurs from this part of the world. On the occasion of the fact that it was fifty years ago that the band saw the light of day, this album and the compilation album Senne Wedrowki were re-released. All the more reason to examine this essential piece of work. But first a small explanation of the band and its origins.
Klan, Polish for ‘team’, was a jazz/fusion quartet from Warsaw, founded in 1969 and led by guitarist/singer Marek Ałaszewski. His friends and fellow musicians were keyboard player Maciej Głuszkiewicz, bass player Roman Pawelski and drummer Andrzej Poniatowski. Their music had a remarkably mature psychedelic sound for a band from an Eastern Bloc country in the early 1970s, somewhat in line with Vanilla Fudge, although slightly less heavy and more melodic.
After the release of an untitled EP in 1970, songwriter Marian Skolarski joined the band and composed a ballet called Mrowisko (‘Anthill’), their best album up to that point. It is a majestic, fluent psychedelic concept with a pretty ‘underground’ feel, full acid leads and fuzz guitar solos, some violin and some jazzy pieces. The songs are well thought out (vocals are in Polish) and the musical craftsmanship is pretty good. Both the LP and the EP are now collector’s items, but luckily they have been reissued. In 1992, Ałaszewski reformed Klan and released an album called Po co mi ten raj.
The music is an extension of bands such as Brian Auger, Santana and, as previously mentioned, Vanilla Fudge. There are also influences from The Nice and King Crimson. This is mainly due to the fact that the Hammond organ played an important role in the instrumentation at the time, even before electronic keyboards made their appearance. Although the description ‘psychedelic prog’ certainly applies, jazz influences are countless. You could also describe it as jazz/fusion, just like their more famous colleagues in SBB. Not surprisingly, both genres would still put themselves on the map, at the time the boundaries between genres was not as well defined as they are now. Also, think about the time: we are talking about a period during which Genesis had released Trespass, Yes Time and a Word and Pink Floyd had just entrusted Atom Heart Mother to vinyl.
The thirteen songs on the original album are on the short side, on average three minutes, the total playing time is 42 minutes, two record sides. They are completed by four, also short, songs from their first EP, making the final playing time just over 53 minutes.
Klan was only short-lived; the band fell apart in the same year as their debut album. Other reincarnations followed, but they never lasted long. Founder Marek Ałaszewski has not stood still in recent decades and has been active as a visual artist and interior designer, among other things. He has also composed a number of pieces of experimental music that have never seen the light of day. His latest album, Laufer, a straightforward rock album, dates from 2012. He had a major stroke in 2016 and has been recovering in recent years.
The book included in this package is full of fantastic, hitherto unpublished photos and a fully-fledged essay on the history of the band and the origins of the album and ballet, unfortunately all in Polish, a language I haven’t mastered. Characteristically, the band is famous in Poland but completely unknown outside. However, fans of early psychedelic prog will be pleasantly surprised by the maturity of the early material of this band. In this respect, Mrowisko is definitely worth a recommendation.
01. Sen (3:17)
02. Kuszenie (3:29)
03. Nerwy miast (3:31)
04. Senne wędrówki (3:52)
05. Taniec wariatki (2:02)
06. Taniec czterech (1:37)
07. Na przekór (2:16)
08. Nasze myśli (5:10)
09. Mrowisko (4:15)
10. Pejzaż z pustych ram (4:31)
11. Taniec głodnego (2:24)
12. Epidemia euforii (3:46)
13. Sen (1:49)
~ Bonus tracks:
14. Gdzie Jest Cztowiek (2:39)
15. Z Brzytwa Na Poziomki (2:46)
16. Nie Sadzie Rajskich Jabloni (2:30)
17. Automaty (3:19)
Total Time – 54:13
Marek Ałaszewski – Guitars, Vocals
Maciej Głuszkiewicz – Piano, Organ
Roman Pawelski – Guitars, Bass
Andrzej Poniatowski – Drums, Vocals
Record Label: GAD Records
Country of Origin: Poland
Date of Release: 31st May 2019 (Originally 1971)
– Klan (EP) (1970)
– Mrowisko (1971)
– Senne Wędrówki (1971)
– Po co mi ten raj (1992)
– Laufer (2012)
– Nerwy miast (2014)
– Working Class Devils, Vol. 2 (2014)
– Live Finland 1972 (2016)
– Chmura nad miastem (2017)
Klan – Facebook