Šimanský Niesner - Jako doma (2023) 12"
Šimanský Niesner - Jako doma 12"
Music video "Na Hané": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziMvWoJVETA
In Italo Calvino´s famous postmodern novel Le città invisibili (Invisible Cities) the traveller Marco Polo describes to the emperor Kublai Khan strange cities that he supposedly visited. For example, Moriana is a city with no thickness, it consists only of a face and obverse like a sheet of paper. A town called Zoe on the other hand, lacks a centre and people who try to walk around it lose their way and are trapped in the whirlwind of streets composed without any logic. Similar odd feelings can one have when visiting the real town of Přerov, a Moravian municipality in the heart of Haná region. Once a picturesque small town on the banks of Bečva river, it was turned into an ugly industrial area from the 1960s to the 80s by the Czech communist regime and now it resembles absurd places that Marco Polo talks about in Le città invisibili. Walking around Přerov might be an unsettling experience, the jumbled city layout makes little sense and after some time you get the inevitable feeling that something is wrong.
Přerov is a child of the rapid and insensitive urbanisation that started in the 1960s. Whole neighbourhoods were torn down and right next to the defensive walls of the historical centre grew the "skyline" of ghastly grey concrete prefabricated blocks of flats for the new inhabitants, whose numbers doubled in only one decade. The chimneys of chemical and heavy machinery factories were erected nearby in the new industrial zone and now they block the view of the surrounding hills. During the renovation process, plenty of valued historical buildings were destroyed, streets and squares turned into a confusing maze. The character of the city was irreversibly lost.
In this “town without memory”, acclaimed Czech guitarists Tomáš Niesner and Jakub Šimanský were born in late 1980s and grew up here. Their new album Jako doma (Like Home) is an attempt to figure out the trappings of their childhood via the medium of acoustic guitar improvisations. Without the usage of lyrics, their music on Jako doma paints an evocative picture of Přerov that is both meditative and playful, nostalgic and sombre, but at times almost absurd in its approach. Just like their childhood was in Přerov.
"In Czech we have a saying that you say to a person who comes to visit you at your place: "Act as if you are at home." But it is not your home – it is always only "like home". The same way we felt about our town. We were supposed to have it as a home, but it actually never was one for any of us," explains Jakub Šimanský the name of their new album. The black and white picture on the album's cover comes from a private collection of the town´s unofficial archivist, Jiří Rosmus, but the author is unknown. It shows the view from the sky with the 70s socialist prefabs menacingly towering above the former old housing area destroyed by the renovations. We can see a bizarre old military aeroplane in the centre of the children's playground - a reminder that Přerov also used to be an important military base. "In a town without a soul we had no other choice than to play in our own playground," Tomáš Niesner claims.
Stories like that are not unusual in Central and Eastern Europe where fast and insensitive city redevelopment in favour of heavy industrialization destroyed the souls of many towns and that way gave birth to generations of uprooted people with no sense of the past. The identity was erased and what was left was just a meaningless survival. In this “wasteland of signs”, Šimanský and Niesner had to find their own way through. The songs on Jako doma are their most personal and autobiographical to date. The album presents a psychogeography of their youth, with various concealed hints scattered around. For example, Svisle from the title of the first song was the name of the elementary school where they met at the age of 7. There are also references to old local pubs or clubs, such as Goblin - a legendary hardcore punk venue, where they saw their first concerts before the club was closed in 2006. After playing in various punk and metal bands in their twenties, Šimanský and Niesner moved to acoustic guitar fingerpicking in the last decade and together they released acclaimed albums Tance neznámé (2019) and Všechno dobré (2022).
„But why, then, does the city exist? What line separates the inside from the outside, the rumble of wheels from the howl of wolves?“ wonders the emperor Kublai Khan in Calvino´s Le città invisibili, when he is told about one of the cities built with strange logic. But the traveller Marco Polo remains silent. Jako doma by Šimanský and Niesner offers a possible answer. Maybe towns like that exist so that people who live there have to find their own way out of the labyrinth and transform the conditions. “We want to dedicate the album to the people who stayed in Přerov and keep trying to make a difference there,” say Šimanský and Niesner, who themselves managed to escape the trappings of the past with the help of music. On Jako doma they finally found their real home.