Along its gentle southern curve, the Vistula River flows north, through one of Central Europe’s oldest cultural centers, Kraków, to its younger counterpart, Warsaw. These two metropolitan locations, Poland’s most populous, substantially define the country’s culture, economy, and history. But they’re neither twin cities, nor equal opposites; it might be more accurate to describe them as clashing siblings. The capital of Warsaw is larger, less densely populated, and more cosmopolitan; Kraków, the “second city,” attracts more tourists, and is known for its culinary scene and historic downtown district. Warsaw was utterly destroyed by the Nazis during World War II and much of what stands has been rebuilt; Kraków was largely left intact.
In recent years, both Kraków and Warsaw have witnessed a relatively small but rich explosion of experimental music, mostly—but not all—of the electronic variety. Think stratospheric power ambient, self-styled “post-club” IDM, and avant-garde guitar work, all shoulder to shoulder. Highly collaborative in nature, the scenes in both cities comprise collectively-run labels, group partnerships with remix releases, and a burgeoning network of underground clubs—plus, of course, ever-shapeshifting bands with overlapping membership. Here are some of the most exciting labels from both scenes…..
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