Part of the furniture

This article is from 2007.

You wouldn’t get this kind of thing at IKEA but inventive Polish rock outfit Karbido have brought their music skills to bear . . . on a table

It’s the kind of thing any band could have dreamt up on a boozy night after a gig. ‘Instead of playing our guitars and drums,’ one musician would say, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we all played one big instrument?’ Everyone would agree and, of course, they would forget all about it by the morning.

Except in the case of Karbido, a jazz-rock four-piece from Wroclaw, Poland, they didn’t forget. Calling on a carpenter friend, they put their mad idea into practice. They came up with the specifications for a maplewood table, inlaid with strings to pluck and tubes to blow down, resonant enough to serve as a marimba-style drum and wired up to effects pedals and loop generators. Each musician would sit around this custom-built curiosity and truly play together.

They devised a 50-minute piece of music that embraces African laments, didgeridoos, finger piano, death metal, ‘I Wanna be Your Dog’, rhythmic breathing, ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, spinning coins, knitting needles and razor blades. The result is a mesmerising performance, equal parts novelty value, imagination and skill. In other words, the perfect Edinburgh Fringe show.

‘We were rehearsing in winter, it was minus twenty and the table was freezing,’ says saxophonist and flautist Michal Litwiniec in the dressing room after a home-town gig. ‘We had 18 days to the premiere and we had to create the sound, the conception, everything. We almost killed ourselves, we were quarrelling so much.’

What sparked their creativity was the idea of structuring the piece around the four points of the compass, taking on moods and musical influences from the north, south, east and west. ‘Now we’ve forgotten our arguments because it seems so simple,’ says Litwiniec. ‘The idea was that we would play once, then we could destroy the table. But people thought it was so great that we started playing it more and more.’

Part of the joy of the show for the audience is watching the interaction between the musicians, whether in the way they catch each other’s eyes or in the rehearsed moments of business where, for example, one beats out a staccato rhythm and the other mimes a typewriter spooling out a piece of paper that someone else folds into a paper boat. From the band’s perspective, they have achieved their ambition to get closer to each other through playing the same instrument.

‘It’s like we’re telling a fairytale between each other,’ says Litwiniec. ‘When we sit around this table I feel we are going into some kind of spaceship and flying to some different planet – we are the space team. When you play a normal concert you have a similar emotion, but this is much deeper. It’s something between theatre, music and meditation: many times after doing The Table I feel I will just sit there for an hour.’

Assembly Aurora Nova, 623 3030, 4–27 Aug (not 7, 14, 21), 3.10pm £12–13 (£9–£10). Preview 3 Aug, £5.

The Table (Stolik)

Polish jazz-rock outfit, Karbido, create music from a large kitchen table. 'Part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007'.

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