Sawak is an international group of individuals who have all somehow ended up in the south of Poland, in the historic city of Kraków. Featuring Antonello Perfetto on drums and percussion, Bogdan Markiewicz on guitar, Greg Nieuwsma on guitar, synth and other musical concoctions and Shaun O’Neill on bass, Sawak is a pretty mixed bag of individuals who have been jamming and writing music since Autumn 2014. Indeed when asked how they met Bogdan says - ‘I was the veterinarian dentist Greg had heard about and he was just coming off the anesthetic I had slipped him in the waiting room’. Random? Yes, but so is the formation of Sawak.
Their music is hard to label but in fact they don’t appear to be bothered by this human urge to constantly pin a tag on music. Not ‘radio friendly’ says Nieuwsma, ‘not predictable’ says Perfetto and ‘dark, deathly and demonic music at times’ says O’Neill. Perhaps Markiewicz puts it best when he says ‘we’re just trying to sound’ for isn’t that what musicians should do first and foremost?
As for what listeners can anticipate from the album, that’s quite a problematic one to present. ‘Unsettled dreams’, no ‘reasons for being optimistic about life’ but perhaps the best description is ‘a long journey with unexpected turns, exploring a variety of music territories’. Alternatively you could imagine yourself feeling nice and relaxed and then realising that you’re on a sinking ship without a captain and ‘that rats can swim better than you’.
Their debut release is self-titled and contains nine tracks. It’s certainly a musical journey which begins from the rather epic opening track, En Circling/Schettino/Darkness, which is incidentally the longest track of the album at 15 minutes 12 seconds. It is a collage of sorts with the sound of gulls the transition from darkness to something even more sinister and apocalyptic. As they are based in Krakow I can’t help feeling that the not too distant dark history of the city’s past resonates in this track, and indeed throughout the whole album. The fact that three quarters of the band live in the district of Podgórze, location of the former Jewish Ghetto, no doubt has an influence on their music. O’Neill says that it’s (Kraków) ‘an evil mistress that inspires us and despires us equally’, hence the darkness of moods.
That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom as there are some uplifting tunes such as track 4, Dissonia, which is perhaps the most melodic on the record. Track 8, Stupid Game/Interlude/Pankiewicz, is a rocker which is one of only three to features vocals. There is certainly humour at the end of this song - ‘Here comes something I’ll never forget, here are some of my favourite regrets’ with gruff harmonies ending the song in an acapella style. Progressive rock fans can enjoy the grittiness of track 6, The Well, with an interesting groove redolent of bands from the early seventies.
Another source of inspiration or its antonym is the studio they rather lovingly call ‘The Pit’. This is where the band have spent hours upon end jamming alone or with anyone who is willing to descend into the depths of ‘The Pit’. ‘An escape from everyday life’ is how Perfetto describes it. Indeed this is where the album was recorded using a DIY approach. It allowed the band to craft their songs experiment such as by hitting guitars in open tunings, laid across keyboard stands, with drum mallets. It’s not all guitars and drums and synths though as the stunning inclusion of the saxophone which enters into the middle of track 3, Spider Detective, shows.
What can we expect from Sawak in the future? The band say they will be busy working on film ideas and of course on the follow up album with a greater variety of sounds from current and future musical toys. No doubt the spirit of Krakow, the Pit and their own international experiences and influences will continue to play a part in the twisting path of Sawak.