Jakub Tabor is a humble man despite the certainty with which he takes us by the hand and walks us through the memories of the forgotten. “My current life is pretty bare bones as to the point in which I’m not really any different, nor better than my fellow citizens”, he told us. “I’m currently trying to hide away from the sight of others, while making some music for different projects and writing amateurish prose”.
He confessed that throughout the process of creating both of the Isolated Light albums to date, Reckless Spirits in Times of War and Idle Minds in the Times of Angst, his personal family history and its relationship to the present day were his inspiration.
One can only wonder how much of those aspects poured into the characters presented through his storytelling. So naturally, we sat down with Jakub and prodded his mind a little to find out more about these restless spirits.
It’s a cold and dry winter night and you’re alone on the streets. The city sleeps or perhaps, for all you know, it’s already dead. You can’t see much through the fog, the manholes are fuming and you’re shaking in your woolen jacket. You’re a ghost, passing through the side streets, your memories lost in time, to a turbulence you cannot recall. But at least there’s music, yes, the music that’s your only company…
Isolated Light is a music project hailing from Krakow, Poland, released into modern times by a young Polish man living in the dirty and age-old capital, as he himself revealed. The sound of Isolated Light is a mixture of dark ambient with vintage reverberations as it was created using 78’’ records from the 40’s and 50s. Why? The project aims “to present a dead reality”, a nostalgia for a time that has nothing to do with our present anymore.
The changes in perception those times underwent over the course of years transformed them into a distorted reality, some elements forgotten, others involuntarily added. In his words: “the goal of the overall sound of the project – repetitive phrases, sound loops, ever so slowly distorted as they become more and more modern.”
CULTARTES: With Reckless Spirits In Times of War, you’re telling the stories of individuals who’ve suffered from trauma and who are trying to get their life back together. Did they succeed?
Jakub Tabor: Some of them did, although “success” is rather a flimsy term. Some of them died early, much more before the outbreak of the war, many of them did survive to see the light of the new, free Europe.
But there are some whose faiths are unknown to me so I have to improvise a bit, not tell the whole truth. It would be cookie-cutter to just assume something good ended up in all of their lives. I think that some of the tracks clearly show which fates ended well – take, for example “Dancing in Paris” – quite an optimistic piece, beautiful, old-timey decadence.
The end seems rough, but it’s mostly of the reoccurring event, there is a lot of wishing for the good old days to come back, but with a smile, not a tear. The individual on this track had ended up in a pretty good relationship although his life is not much worth digging into after that. The next track, however, seems darker and more sorrowful. I like that constant shift of states, of good and bad, of sadness and happiness. There is always a very thin line between these.
You never know what has REALLY happened to these people, however. And I intend to make that shroud of mystery still lay on most of the pieces, on that and previous release.
Do you see yourself as one of your characters?
If anything I see myself more as a storyteller, the narrator, not necessary as any of the particular individuals. It would distort too much. However, the choice of the characters and the stories themselves is a different thing.
I’m feeling quite attached to that, making them speak in a different way, with a different voice, they’ve been very close to my heart. They underline some of the events that happened in my life but also, quite often, they were a nostalgic view at what is now and what was back then in my personal existence.
It’s that sort of channeling that I’m getting from that activity of preparing the tracks, pushing that emotion, re-create a life, hopefully making others feel that too. In that sense I do not have any particular attachment to my role, it’s these individuals that matter most at the end of the day. It’s their stories and their lives after all.
Looking at the titles of each track and looking back at Poland’s turbulent past, does your music have any political undertones?
Not any modern ones, no. I’m still fascinated by what happened in Poland between the First and Second World War. The political insecurities, the assassinations, annexations, the re-birth of the nation and its flimsy collapse. That’s something that makes the whole element quite unique and it is rarely talked about in the overall stories of nations.
However, as of today, I’m very much against heavy manifestations of politics in music, both past and present. I do not find such manifestations wrong though. It’s just that I’m not really a politically charged guy myself and probably never will be. The issues I’m concerned with on Isolated Light are much closer to relationships, human suffering, emotions, telling of history rather than political squabbles.
Given the state of mainstream culture that permeates how we consume media, how would you introduce your music to a stranger?
By not overhyping it, that’s a start! I see so many people doing this and it makes me really angsty for numerous reasons. I think that I would just say that my music is a vintage regression machine that makes you dizzy but fulfilled afterwards.
Then I would probably say that if you are a huge nerd over The Caretaker‘s music, or just old jazz tunes from 30’s and 40’s, you’ll be right at home with this one. Though there is enough melancholia, distortion, quiet ambiance and decay to go around and speak for itself. A person, very much persuaded by the old records being reveled anew, creating a new way for them to shine, will feel right at home.
Could you describe the ideal setting as a foreground of your music?
Some old ballroom would do just fine. The desolation that accompanies it. Only few people around. You, with a shot of whisky, going paranoid over the sadness that you might soon enthrall. The music comes in from the walls and it slowly starts to surround you.
So essentially think of the worst of the worst in your life events. Though any pessimistic and/or nihilistic foreground will do just fine.
All Photo Credits: Jakub Tabor
Follow Isolated Light on Bandcamp
This article was originally published in Cultartes Magazine #4 – “Dreams and Nightmares”. Get your copy in print here.
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