Skalpel is Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudlo.
These two Polish DJs make their sound by chopping up old ’60’s and ’70’s Polish Jazz records and interlacing them with hip hop beats. Their unique style melds the smooth instrumentation of Jazz, its hooks and melodies and the interloping dance-ability of hip hop. Surprisingly high-energy given its synthetic nature, Skalpel somehow capture the best aspects of great Jazz and reinvent it for a new audience.
The Polish music scene isn’t a widely known one, and its one that I’m entirely ignorant of save this group. I originally found them through one of my favorite labels, Ninja Tune. I’ve mentioned Ninja Tune before for their releases that perfectly capture a late-night vibe, a vibe that Skalpel fits snugly with. Their work is akin to labelmate Amon Tobin’s jazzier work, though with a more accessible and upbeat flair.
Skalpel – Skalpel (2004)
While they’ve been releasing music since 1999, their 2004 album, Skalpel is the first one I heard from them. It’s a great release, kicking off with a triple punch of songs that perfectly capture the sound that I love from Skalpel, “High,” “Not Too Bad,” and “1958.” Absolutely seamless sampling and great breaks are abound on this record.
“High” kicks off Skalpel with one of the best drum beats I’ve ever heard. Simple and effective, the fidelity of it makes it hard to place as a sample or studio creation. The song continues with horn samples that layer the track in a dreamy nighttime glaze that continues through the entirety of the track.
Skalpel – Konfusion (2005)
Skalpel’s second full-length was a double album called Konfusion and it was released in 2005. More laid-back than their first release, it continues the sound of Skalpel, but slows it down. It’s a great album to spin on late nights alone. There are some stronger elements of electronic influences that seep into the later parts of the record, as on the intro to the title track but the album as a whole seems to really more on synths for an airy feel.
Long Distance Call
“Long Distance Call” encapsulates the sound of Konfusion. A late-night Jazz track that doesn’t sound like it was made by two DJs chopping up samples. The infectious bassline of this song carries the song, but the addition of light horns and harps layer to make it more akin to The Cinematic Orchestra’s early work.
Unfortunately, Skalpel hasn’t released anything in the five years since Konfusion and it’s been difficult to find much information about their goings on. Since they come out of Poland and operate fairly exclusively in that country, it’s unlikely that we’ll hear much until they actually drop something through Ninja Tune. Here’s to hoping.