Experiencing a Polish live music event with absolutely no knowledge of the language is simply surreal. At Mister D’s live gig, on Wednesday 28th January, the venue might be London’s edgy-cum-hip Hoxton but the setting is decidedly Polish, so the only way forward is to lose yourself in the moment. Basking in it comes easily, despite the rather awkward distance between act and fans and the lack of a surging crowd.
Mister D, the Polish “music project” is front person Dorota Masłowska on vocals, DJ Karolina Jacewicz, and a guitar, synth and drums backing-band: Kuba Wandachowitz, Marcin Zabrocki, and Piotr Gwadera. The act might sell itself as conceptual, but their music is easy to grasp and relate to, their repertoire spanning an international spectrum of genres, so you always know, musically, where you are. There are familiar strains of mild punk rock, industrial sounds reminiscent of Röyksopp, and the primal otherworldliness of Björk, which all blend well with the background of synthesised bass and sampled beats.
With Masłowska’s cool delivery and her spat-out lyrics, it turns out that anger, like music, speaks a universal language. Like every lucky stranger in a foreign land I’m adopted for the night by two locals, Klaudia and Darek, who confirm to me that yes, Masłowska is angry. According to my guides the ballads I can’t decipher aren’t love songs at all, but lamentations on Polish tenements, growing up poor and urban squalor. The songstress doesn’t rant or rage despite the subject of her lyrics, instead exuding a prove-you-deserve-me stage persona that hits home perfectly: all an act of course, and the ice maiden does eventually warm to the small group of fans who, defying her restrained delivery, take it upon themselves to keep the atmosphere charged. Getting your audience to crave your approval, rather than the other way round, is a masterstroke, and Masłowska pulls it off.
The temperature rises further and things really erupt when a rock anthem begins. Both aloof act and accommodating audience get on the same page, belting out the lyrics and jumping about. Curiosity demands I ask what the anthem igniting all this frenzy is about and I’m told it’s called Prezydent. A title like that is all you need to get the gist, helped along by its punky, rocky, angry tone which delivers the same message, whatever the language.
Mister D end their one-off London set on the atmospheric high of an encore, which sees all members of the act rapping in turn, including the drummer and Maskowska herself, with careless abandon. The only thing conceptual or surreal here is the Polish mothertongue, but the style and tone paying homage to Curtis Blow, NWA and the Beastie Boys are quite familiar. Given the rhythmic electronic beats, the lamentations of social injustice and the use of flashing images of concrete cityscapes, Mister D. prove themselves an important addition to the Urban Grime Scene – and a bracingly Polish one at that.
Dorota Masłowska’s Mister D. appeared at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, 2-4 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU.