Almost every song on Of The Sun—the magnetic fifth album from the Polish quartet Trupa Trupa—lands like an anthem, with barbed hooks driven by an italicized rhythm section and a chimera of crisscrossing harmonies. During “Dream About,” a honeyed falsetto totters over a menacing bassline, the frisson between them so hypnotic it renders the title phrase as an existential mantra, a lifeline. The distorted and snarling “Mangle” rumbles then lifts skyward, its wild-eyed shouts and phosphorescent guitar rising like a winter sun. “Angle” is a pensive acoustic reverie, with chiming harmonics swirling like wisps of smoke around the refrain.
Throughout its propulsive 12-song sequence, this is an album that never lets up. From the relentlessly pulsing “Long Time Ago” to the deep glisten of “Longing,” Of The Sun is an unbroken string of hits in Trupa Trupa’s idiosyncratic, self-made universe.
But just beneath the surface of these often bright and always indelible songs, there is a world teeming with nihilistic considerations, slyly dark humor, and survivalist self-assurances – all subtly nestled into bold refrains and reflected back via complex, secret textures. In the breathless rush of “Remainder,” for instance, the band chants “Well, it did not take place” again and again for three minutes, refusing to define “it” so that the emptiness applies to everything. And though “Long Time Ago” hits like a psychedelic romp, corroded sheets of noise spill out beneath the hook, betraying the sense of absolute oblivion at the song’s core.
“It pretends to be nice,” confesses singer Grzegorz Kwiatkowski with a laugh, from the band’s home city in northern Poland along the edge of the Baltic Sea, Gdańsk. “But really, it’s not nice. These are contemplative songs about extremes. Sometimes, I call it vital pessimism. We cherish our freedom but the place where we are from is also a grim reminder of the evil that people are capable of. We cannot forget it. We cannot justify it. We must remember and not be indifferent.”
The setting of Gdańsk is a crucial philosophical and aesthetic touchstone for Trupa Trupa. A city with a convoluted history of German and Polish rule and self-sovereignty, it is itself a living testament to the turnover of human toil. It’s also the homeland of Arthur Schopenhauer, a philosopher whose system of metaphysical will inspired Nietzsche and, in turn, Trupa Trupa. Klaus Kinski was born nearby, too; Kwiatkowski considers his Werner Herzog-directed film, Fitzcarraldo, one of the best movies ever made. Kinski tries in vain to amass a fortune by piloting a steamship over a mountain into the rubber bonanza of the Amazon. It is a portrait of great effort and pathetic failure, of strain sublimating into nothing. Along with the notions of Beckett, hints of Syd Barrett, and the knotty complications of Wire, these emotions ripple through Of The Sun, a radiant album about the damnation of mortality.
Trupa Trupa has grown inordinately in both confidence and execution during the last half-decade. Spurred on by a democratic process, where no one is the real leader and all ideas and influences are funneled into the same rich sound, Trupa Trupa channel a multiverse of feelings into captivating four-minute spans. Throughout Of The Sun, they stare into the dark and summon a light of their own, making the struggle feel not just tolerable but deceptively triumphant.