Va pour le casse du siècle
L’austérité d’une plaque
Le choc des systèmes
Quand les ondes se diffractent
In 1969, on the historic cobblestones of Wenceslas Square, Prague, Jan Palach’s name became indelibly etched into the annals of protest. Palach, a young Czech student, committed the ultimate act of dissent against Soviet oppression: self-immolation. His fiery gesture, a lament for freedom and a cry against Soviet-led occupation as well as the “demoralization of Czech citizens,” resonated beyond the borders of Czechoslovakia. Even as flames consumed him, they ignited a spark of resistance that would smoulder in the hearts of many.
The solemnity of Jan Palach’s funeral evolved into a profound demonstration against the stifling grip of occupation. Merely a month later, on a cold February day, Wenceslas Square once again became the tragic stage for a similar act when Jan Zajíc chose the same fiery protest. As spring touched the city in April, Evžen Plocek in Jihlava made a similar sacrifice. This wave of defiance – three literal human torches – rippled through the Warsaw Pact nations: Hungary’s Sándor Bauer in January ’69 and, not long after, Márton Moyses in February ’70, both embodying this poignant, combustive dissent. Today, amidst the tumults of global politics, Palach’s sacrifice stands as a haunting reminder of the profound costs of political defiance.
The new single and video from French post-punk act VARSOVIE, Pochodeň číslo jedna (Torch Number One in Czech), pays homage to the sacrifice made by Jan Palach. This is the second single and video from VARSOVIE’s fifth album, “Pression à froid” (Under Cold Pressure), which will be released on October 6th, 2023, by Icy Cold Records. The song is an updated projection in the form of a trajectory around this act, its consequences, and, more generally, the notion of resistance.
The French lyrics allude to the mourners and the faceless masses impacted by the invasion, their identities suppressed by the regime. The references to “Shares for Darmstadt, Shares for Warsaw” demonstrate the interconnectedness of European countries during the Cold War era, the ripple effects of Palach’s protest, and the ideological battle between democracy and communism. Although abstract, the words and jagged post-punk tension in this deeply emotional track evoke the impact surrounding the death of “Torch Number One” in the fight for freedom. The sound deeply evokes Gang of Four, Killing Joke, and Fad Gadget’s political stances through cutting, angular guitar work.
The monochromatic self-directed video, coupled with the song lyrics, provides a multi-sensory exploration of the theme of determination and resistance. The hypnotic march, akin to dancing, can be seen as a metaphor for the relentless and unified movement against oppression. The various places in which the faceless figure wanders suggest the universality of the fight for freedom and the interconnected struggles across different geographies. The presence of indistinguishable characters mirrors the collective nature of resistance, where individual identities blend into a single, resolute force. It’s also reminiscent of the many unsung heroes who rally behind a cause, much like the faceless masses who supported or were impacted by Palach’s tragic protest.
In 2005, amidst the cobblestones and ambient air of Grenoble, France, VARSOVIE was conceived. A post-punk ensemble of considerable artistry, it is the brainchild of Arnault Destal, who brings his prowess in drums, lyrics, music, and art direction, and Grégory Catherina, a virtuoso in vocals, guitars, bass, and music composition. As 2023 dawned, they found themselves ensconced in the atmospheric Drudenhaus studio in Brittany, crafting their latest auditory tableau.
Accompanying this album is the visual artistry of Sotiris Lamprou, a Greek photographer whose lens captures the very essence of their music.
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