Rafał Księżyk discusses Antena Krzyku at Different Sounds 2020

 Every year, East of Culture–Different Sounds presents a selected, interesting indie label. The featured labels offer fantastic music and display culture-forming potential. It’s high time for Antena Krzyku to come to Lublin. 

The label was established in 1984 in Wrocław and is Poland’s longest-running independent label. The secret of Antena Krzyku’s longevity lies in constant change which has prevented them from becoming fossilized. They continue to do their own thing, adapting to the ever-changing reality but remain ambitious and uncompromising.And so, Antena Krzyku left their mark on the sensitivity of the 1990s by releasing albums of Ewa Braun, Something like Elvis and Starzy Singers. In recent years, they have been doing an equally perfect job with albums by Hańba, Pochwaleni and Siksa. All this is actually the work of one man, Arek Marczyński.

Marczyński’s first publications were punk fanzines that he started making as a teenager in the early 1980s, where the longest-running and the most influential of them was published in the years 1986-1989 under the title “Antena Krzyku”. At the end of Polish People’s Republic it was an illegal activity, hence the first issues of the magazine were printed on a mimeograph used by the opposition and hidden in the Franciscan monastery in Karłowice in Wrocław.  The final issues were printed in the Netherlands and brought to Poland. Marczyński lived in the Netherlands towards the end of the 1980s. He got there following his musical interests, worked in the independent label Konkurell and got acquainted with the dynamic squatters’ movement. Those years were the beginning of his friendship with the musicians from The Ex and De Kift. These experiences also translated into thinking about Antena Krzyku. The magazine did not focus on music alone, it also promoted the ideas of Do It Yourself, pacifism and ecology. At the turn of the 1990s, thanks to his foreign contacts, Marczyński could organise in Poland concerts of such underground legends as Chumbawamba, Fugazi, The Ex, De Kfit or NoMeansNo. Chumbawamba’s and The Ex’s were the first cassettes released by Antena Krzyku.

Riding on the wave of Poland’s transformation, Marczyński made Antena Krzyku a professional music publisher and succeeded. He established a bridgehead in the market by publishing licensed casettes of cult bands of hardcore punk scenes, including NoMeansNo, LARD, Victims Family, and the prophets of cyber dub – Zion Train and by distributing albums of independent labels from all over the world. In the mid-90s, Antena Krzyku started releasing albums by Polish artists and became one of the major labels of Polish alternative music which was experiencing its golden age. Antena’s albums captured that moment, when post-punk explorations led towards noise, post-rock, experiments with ethno, dub and electronic music, whereas the most important publications of the era were endorsed by such bands as Alians, Ewa Braun, Mapa, Mordy, Something Like Elvis and Starzy Singers.  At the same time, the magazine Antena Krzyku returned, but in a completely different form than its predecessor from the 1980s. This time, it was a professionally but irregularly published magazine not just about music but broadly understood alternative culture. It featured texts on the magic of chaos, New York cinema of transgressions, or the work of Thomas Pynchon.
At the start of the new century, Antena Krzyku became a part of an alliance of Lower Silesian indie labels that built an alternative micro-empire under the name Rockers Publishing. New releases included, among others, albums by Lao Che, the collectives Masala, Village Kollektiv or a three-episode overview “Dub out of Poland”.However, Marczyński changed things up and, once more acting on his own, returned to the roots of independent production following the rule of “small is beautiful”. The opportunity to present the change arose on the label’s 30th anniversary. In2014, Antena Krzyku launched Singles Subscription Club. Once every month throughout the year, they have published one vinyl 7’’ single featuring rare recordings of the artists the label befriended throughout its entire history.. These included the international legends: De Kift, Soulside, The Membranes and Polish performers, including Masala, Plum, Peter John Birch. The vinyl editions have become Antena Krzyku’s permanent, strong offering, but that’s not all. Once the label hit 30 years of age, it received a new dose of energy to seek fresh phenomena in the alternative music scene.

In the last decade, Antena Krzyku has discovered an entire constellation of fantastic bands, faithful to the formula of guitar power, from punk to noise–suffice it to mention Bastard Disco, [peru], Ukryte Zalety Systemu. The label has also shown how to play stirring punk without reaching for a rock line-up and this is thanks to the minimal-noisy electro duo Alles and Hańba who play spirited urban folk. The label also published albums by stars of involved theatre, Monika Strzępka and Pawel Demirski, who fusing with the ex-musicians from Ahimsa created the punk band Czerwone Świnie–the legends of Łódź underground. Antena published records by 19 Wiosen and Daniel Spaleniak, a moody songwriter whose songs were used as soundtracks in American TV series. Thanks to albums by Siksa and Pochwalone, Antena shows a new, feminist side of the independent scene. With albums by Javva (derived, among others from Something Like Elvis) and  Lonker See, Antena invites us on a genre-eluding trance journey into the unknown

Antena Krzyku is also Poland’s publisher of the best export material of Polish alternative scene, that is the band Trupa conclude the summary, let’s also add the genuinely, uncopiable pearl that is the album Janerka na basy i głosy”. With all this variety, all albums of the label share the fact that they have power and truth that cannot be conocted behind the desk of a phonographic company and stylised in a marketing campaign.

It seems clear that in the fourth decade of its activity, Anena Krzyku entered its most creative period.

Different Sounds are in for a challenge: how to reflect the essence of Antena Krzyku on the stage in a compact festival form? This should go well thanks to the artists they have invited. The Dutch legends The Ex and De Kift and the American band The Messthetics–the instrumental incarnation of musicians from the iconic band Fugazi, are best real examples how playing music with punk roots you can go forward and elude the limitations of genres. Javva, [peru] and Pochwalone will add how they do it in Poland. Ane because such an occasion warrants a surprise, Antena’s raid also includes another legend, the band 1984. The Rzeszów-based group, formed in 1985, is the label’s age-mate and an equally enduring project. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that their paths have crossed and 1984’s new material will be published by Antena Krzyku in 2020.

 Rafał Księżyk

Rafał Księżyk (b.1970)–music journalist and critic. Since the early 1990s he has been co-creating the character of the nascent music and pop-cultural press. The co-author of Tomasz Stańko’s autobiography “Desperado” (2010), Robert Brylewski’s “Kryzys w Babilonie” (2012), Tymon Tymański’s “ADHD” (2013) and Kazik Staszewski’s “Idę tam gdzie idę” (2015). The author of the essay “23 cięcia dla William S.Burroughsa” (2013). The editor-in-chief of Playboy magazine. He wrote about music for such magazines as “Brum”, “Machina”, “JazzForm”.