Name: Tobiasz Biliński
Where He’s From: Warsaw, Poland
When He Started: Birth
Genre: Abstracted Folk
Most Similar: Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Nick Drake, Elliott Smith
Sounds Like: Nostalgia. Sweet, sweet nostalgia.
Maybe it comes in the wake of a long night of drinks with friends. Perhaps it happens after a chance encounter with an ex. Or the discovery of a long forgotten birthday card. Whatever the catalyst, it’s something we can all identify with: that moment when a memory refuses to stay put and vividly invades the present tense.
It’s called nostalgia—and it’s a feeling Tobiasz Biliński knows all too well. The Warsaw-based musician (who also pulls double duty with ambient outfit Kyst), crafts delicate, haunting folk music under the name Coldair. Live, the band can blossom to five or six people. But, as evidenced by last year’s album Far South, this is the vision of one man, yearning to dig through the fog of memory and make sense of it all. “I try to remember/it fades away when I try,” Biliński sings on “There,” displaying the beauty of circular logic and lyric structure.
Throughout the album (his second, although if you ask him he’ll call it his proper debut under the moniker) Biliński proves himself to be a musician willing to hold his listeners close—even when he’s not exactly sure what he’s looking for. Far South’s eight tracks are peppered with sketched stories that drift along on a dreamlike train of thought, their character derived from a half-finished state. It’s a rare and intriguing look into a tangled emotional thought process most of us try to gloss over.
Just don’t mistake intimacy for meekness. While unafraid to strip it down (“Together/Alone” demonstrates the power of less), Biliński proves to be equally at home orchestrating a lush brass section or layering vocals as he is wielding just voice and guitar. As a result, Far South is a multi-faceted web of sound. The touch points and are easy to spot. A splash of 1970s warmth here (“I Won’t Stay Up”). A Bon Iver-worthy falsetto there (“There”). “Digging” in particular will have Sufjan Stevens fans crying Michigan. But Coldair—more than the sum of its parts—is a project awash with deceptive simplicity offering no answers…just a stunningly beautiful unease.
Coldair’s forthcoming album Whose Blood is due out April 15. Until then savor the recently released, horn-heavy album cut “Sign” below. – Laura Studarus