Poland’s FOQL frequently works with narrative forms—radio dramas, film scores, video-game soundtracks—and she brings a storyteller’s instincts to her Crack Magazine mix, interweaving experimental music with field recordings of recent abortion-rights protests across Poland. Things get off to an intense start with raging, early-’80s post-punk from Germany’s La Loora; the sounds of police and protestors’ chants of “Solidarność jest kobietą” (“Solidarity is female”) contribute to the overwhelming sense of discord. But then the street noise falls away, and FOQL (Justyna Banaszczyk, a former member of Poland’s activist collective Oramics) turns her hand to an entrancing blend of ambient, noise, and industrial. Occasionally, a song bursts forth, like a brightly costumed character emerging from the shadows: the tropical psychedelia of Cameroonian musician Francis Bebey’s “Forest Nativity”; the twisted vaudeville of “Rats in My Room,” a 1957 song by onetime Charlie Chaplin co-star Leona Anderson, who once declared herself “the world’s most horrible singer. The recent protests, a response to Poland’s reactionary government, are the country’s most significant upheaval since the Solidarność movement in the 1980s; one leader of the All-Polish Women’s Strike has described the grassroots movement as a “backlash against a patriarchal culture” and “the fundamentalist religious state.” The protestors’ program is extensive: They are fighting not only for the legalization of abortion but also for the separation of church and state, the independence of the Polish judiciary, and greater protection for women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights. With one of Europe’s most illiberal administrations currently in power in Poland, the stakes are high. FOQL’s mix captures the spirit of the moment, harnessing defiance, humor, and a touch of surrealism to offer a glimpse of a better world. (Philip Sherburne)
“After only a year of launching Radio Kapitał in 2019, the non-profit, independent community radio is planning to expand with a studio in Łódź. Commenting on Kapitał’s unprecedented success, FOQL adds, “We have to say the plan seems to have worked and there’s a new point of reference for local actions.” With the help of an extensive list of individual patrons, Radio Kapitał broadcasts a variety of subversive programs such as “Old Wave” with Adam Kaliszewski and “Let’s Talk About Sex” with Bia Sadowska. Kaliszewski’s podcast features playlists of queer figures in new wave, postpunk, and synthpop to educate the public that such a history in music does, in fact, exist. With Sadowska, she leads critical conversations surrounding queer visibility and acts of aggression against the LGBTQ community. FOQL goes on to explain how Radio Kapitał’s success shows that independent music movements are a phenomenon that exist throughout the country—and not just in the capital. At the moment, she says, “We’re trying to slowly return to local scenes, decentralize our actions and build new ecosystems for the circulation of independent culture in Poland. In a nation and, more broadly, a world that continues to validate epistemic violence against marginalized people, the Polish experimental music scene has fully embraced music as a signifier for their shared values. These music activists are taking it upon themselves to reimagine and implement alternative realities—where they can sustain their own musical practices and, at the same time, lift one another up in their respective communities. In this regard, the Polish experimental music scene is proving to be a tour de force—pushing the boundaries of electronic music, while using solidarity as their weapon of choice. As FOQL puts it, “I believe in people and community. Call me naive, but decentralized direct action is the only way for social change—and art is the tool for me.” (Jocelyn Yan)
I’m interested in this transition from classical music to techno, and there was punk on the way (if I recall it correctly). How did you “reconcile” those spheres, in what ways were they connected and how they differed? What was fascinating in each of them and what was maybe not so great? And what marks has it left on you?
I’m happy that you put it that way because those are the questions that I keep asking myself for years.
I told you already that for eight years I’ve been at the Stanisław Moniuszko State Music School in Łódź, then located at Jaracza street, next to Piotrkowska. Classrooms and rehearsal spaces were packed in rooms and corridors were filled with countless secrets. Our cosmic imagination as kids that were growing up was crackling in brains as boiling water (you can imagine a huge room were we spent breaks jammed with loads of old pianos on which you could roam freely like on a playground – WICKED).
In the aftermath of the Pride attacks, the collective felt something had to be done. And when Drvg Cvltvre, the artist behind experimental techno label New York Haunted and FOQL's long-time collaborator, got in contact, the idea came for a various artists compilation LP to raise money for organisations fighting homophobia in Poland.
The resulting LP, Total Solidarity, is made up of 126 tracks. It is an immense collection of works from a rich mix of international underground electronic artists, collected in little over a week.