Tomasz Mreńca one of Poland’s most in-demand violinists, having worked on projects with Baasch, and as duos with Bartosz Dziadosz on the album Black Lake and with Tomasz Bednarczyk under the alias ‘Venter’.

Mreńca’s most recent release is his sophomore solo album Peak. Utilising ambient, experimental and drone motifs and combining classical violin and piano with 80s synths. On Peak , Mreńca prefers to leave untouched the imperfections that come with playing each instrument. Electric crackles and booing from his synth, fingers hitting the neck of the violin all enrich the experience of listening to Peak’s wonderful soundscapes.

We caught up with Tomasz in Gdynia to reflect on Peak, making electronic violins and finding balance along the Baltic Coast.

Hi Tomasz, how are you?

I can’t complain, if you ask in the context of the new album, thank you. It's been a short time since the release of Peak and there have been a lot of positive reviews and the reception of the material has been well received, which generally makes me happy.

I was curious, especially as I felt my second album may seem a little more difficult or less accessible than the debut - Land. I’ve already done the first concerts, among others in Kolonia Artystów in Gdańsk. There was a favourable climate of tranquillity and concentration and I played well there. It’s also great that a visit to the Tricity enabled us to meet.

Can you tell me a little about what instruments you used to make the album?

Among other things, I used instruments from the 80s, such as Korg Polysix and tape echo. Synthesizers always amaze me at their possibilities when it comes to creating sounds. By learning and constantly wandering you can achieve some interesting effects. There is no following the usual paths here because each launch of equipment and turning knobs can be a journey into the unknown. This is what really fascinates me in these instruments.

I also recorded with my violin. This instrument has accompanied me since childhood, so it’s a tool that I use easily and can express what I want or just play what I have in my head in a very natural way. I also recorded sounds on the piano and electric guitar, but they were usually so prepared that they are difficult to recognize. I modelled the sound in various ways.

I've read that you have made your own electronic violin?

It is true. I have several instruments that I have done, including an electric violin. It started a long time ago when I dreamt about the instrument as a child. I wanted to connect them to effects like an electric guitar, increasing the palette of sounds.

Many years ago, on an expensive whim, I decided (with the support of my father, both financially as I lacked the money but also he is great with his hands and has a small workshop in the basement) to do it myself.

Later, I studied design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw. The carbon fiber violin was my graduation project in my final year. I combined my passion for music with my studies. For my diploma, apart from discussing the whole process of designing and using new technologies, I presented the instrument by playing on it.

Your background is in classical music, when did you become interested in electronics and start to experiment with them?

Quite late I became more interested in electronic music very consciously. Of course, I listened to electronic music before, but a few years ago, I started to really think more analytically about what I was listening to. I wondered how it was constructed and I tried to apply my own strengths to this area. I approached it by looking at how one achieves a given effect, how the sounds are generated. It was all new to me and I was fascinated by it so much that I started to buy more synthesizers.

I like to have an instrument in my hand physically and I do not generate electronic music on a computer. It’s never interested me because I missed this physical aspect and so I use the computer to record only. Certainly, the acquaintance and my joint project "Venter" with Tomasz Bednarczyk contributed to the entry into the world of synthesisers, because when Tomasz visited me, he would always bring a lot of new electronic music.

In the promo for Peak, you say you gain balance by staying in open spaces' why did you decide to record this album by the Baltic coast and how did it influence the album?

The Baltic Sea is a well-known environment for me. I grew up in a small town that lies relatively close to the sea. I also knew that nothing distracts me here and I can sort out some thoughts in my head. The view of an open space helps me charge my internal batteries. I like the atmosphere that prevails here, as well as the peace and quiet. I like to be here alone, especially in the off-season. Loneliness at the seaside doesn’t frighten me, it doesn’t bring me down, quite the opposite. I feel relaxed and very happy here.

I do not want to sound banal, but to put it simply - the sea gives me strength. While working on the material, I came to the beach every day, resetting myself after a few hours of sitting with headphones. Certainly it was not without significance, I do not mean romantic walks at sunset, for me the priority was to try to restore balance and breathe-in the fresh air.

How much of an idea did you have for the album before coming here?

When I want to create a CD or record, I try not to impose specific assumptions. There are no frames within which I have to move. It was not a planned record when it comes to any particular concept, form, style or musical genre; I was not afraid of any inconsistency.

For me, composing and generating sounds has become a kind of everyday life. A need that I systematically practice, I just sit down and work. I record a path that is an inspiration for the next sounds. It is a record of a moment or a period rather than a reconstruction of a previously planned concept. The most important thing for me is to record sounds that in my opinion are close to me and naturally pour out of my head / hands / instrument.

Do you think the ability to find balance and reset yourself affected the music when compared to your first album, Land, which was created in your flat in Wroclaw?

I'm not sure, but it seems to me that the recording place / conditions matter ... but I'm still thinking about it. My uncertainty results from the fact that it is sometimes difficult to assess the actions as they are still so fresh. This is a seemingly simple question, but immediately after it also appears: what would happen if this material was recorded elsewhere? I do not know, Or maybe it is not about the direct impact of a place on compositions but on the fact that space can affect my well-being and somehow shape it and in my way of working translates into what I record.

It seems to me that in such a first superficial analysis and what distinguishes these two albums is the fact that the first is milder, more romantic and delicate. Peak seems to be more harsh, raw, with a wider range of emotions, there are both "good" and "bad" ones. I created it with greater awareness and skills. I have more control over the sound of the whole.

Analysing it a little deeper, it seems to me that the vibe of a particular album reflects the atmosphere that accompanied me, it's about my internal state. The difference is also that by creating Land I had a lot of peace and post-stability, while creating Peak it was not like that anymore. Other emotions accompanied me, which certainly translated into the atmosphere on the album. I was at the stage of organising some personal matters, recovering and seeking peace, and certainly the sea and open spaces helped me with that.

Going back to the promo, you also talk about pairing sounds that are 'seemingly incompatible'. Does writing music become a puzzle solving exercise for you?

I like extreme combinations. This is not a puzzle for me, it just happens naturally. This balance and combination of these non-matching or extreme sounds sometimes seem natural to me. I like to connect the gentle part of the violin, for example, with noises or slamming or recorded synthesizer passages through the machines that vibrate the sound, deconstruct it and theoretically give it an "inferior" quality.

For me one complements the other. This combination is also "truer". The faults and defects and a certain degree of incorrectness seemed closer and more “human” to me. I like to look for beauty in different things, also the imperfect can amaze me even more.

I also like a certain degree of natural "dirt" in the sound. For example, when I record a violin, I leave the noise of the bow that has been recorded or the hitting of the fingers on the neck. When recording a synthesizer, which because of its age, makes a booing sound sometimes I leave it. I like it when it is not fully cleaned up. It is not a matter of sloppiness but assumptions and concepts. I do not leave everything just like that, because you have to consciously control it.

It's all a matter of taste. You either love photos that have been corrected for hours in Photoshop or you are delighted with a photo of the analog camera that you develop yourself and accept, and you even see the advantages in that it is not "perfect" - whatever that word means.

With both of these albums beings so connected to the landscapes are there any plans to perform them outside in any unusual settings?

Concert plans are still in progress. Certainly it would be really interesting to play in interesting open spaces where the surroundings would boost the experience. However, it also feels good in contemporary closed spaces or churches. The most important thing is that the listener has the ability to calm down, so that there is an option to create conditions for an internal journey, sometimes you just have to close your eyes to listen to music and have a feeling of being totally elsewhere without additional stimuli around. Although, the idea is actually an interesting one.

What else do you have coming up in the future?

I have a new video for the song 'Canada' will be released in May and the song 'Viral' will be recorded in a concert in the Book Museum in Łódź, which is a beautiful space. I’m going to present material from Peak live more often. We’re working on it! Of course, any information about news will be available via Facebook and the record label Nowe Nagrania’s website.