The duo CEEYS from East Germany, recently came to Poland (to Kraków, to be exact) for the first time, to play at one of the two Sofar Sounds Krakow’s July shows, on 13th July, 2018. The location was important for Selkes, as they always carefully choose to play in such places that best reflect what they had in mind when creating the album WÆNDE.
CEEYS, formed by two brothers, cellist Sebastian Selke and pianist Daniel Selke, is a contemporary music project far from ordinary. In fact, through their music, the duo evokes such atmosphere and emotions one would not expect to find in mostly minimalist compositions. Even their name is uncanny (and rather difficult to pronounce, as some people observed, if one does not speak English that often), a hybrid of two words: violoncelle (French for cello) and keys. Those are the instruments important to understanding the duo’s sounds, as Selke brothers play them when performing live, along with some rhythm boxes and keyboard instruments. But to truly understand CEEYS, one has to dive deeper than the (not so) usual sound.
Being professional musicians by education, Selkes use their broad knowledge of music to transform some ideas into sounds, to bring to life some concepts that, for them, are essential. The brothers grew up in East Berlin, communist GDR and Germany (and eastern hemisphere) was reshaped before their very eyes. Thus, their work is driven by the desire to explore memories of their youth, and to apply their experience of the times and their influences to classical chamber music. It is worth mentioning that the musicians search for a distinctive sound, either in the instruments they play or in the equipment they listen to music on. Many of the instruments they play were originally manufactured by some German and former Soviet companies, and were made between 1950s and 1980s. Of course, as brothers, the two musicians understand and know themselves, which works quite well on stage.
In May 2018, Selkes released their third album WÆNDE. The album and the photography project attached to it is, as they state, their impressions on the year 1989, demise of the wall and fall of the regime. The record is an incredible atmospheric work, an example of a beautiful minimalism. Music on WÆNDE represents the true nature of music somewhere between avantgarde and pop. Immaculately combining the classical and modern instruments Selkes created a special, ethereal climate. The compositions are somehow cold and warm at the same time, as for sure, are the memories that inspired them. The early influence of Bach, Beethoven and Debussy can be heard alongside the almost-forgotten compositions of East German based artists like Reinhard Lakomy, Wolfgang Paulke and Frank Fehse. There are echoes, too, of Arvo Pärt, Arthur Russell, Philip Glass as well as contemporary acts such as Greg Haines, Sarah Neufeld and Ólafur Arnalds. Sebastian Selke even worked with Arnalds. It is because of the classical instruments that one can experience the music’s magic, the nostalgic tones, the melancholy. Being in a dream-like state is what one experiences listening to Selkes compositions.
How to better reflect on and understand the concept behind WÆNDE and the photo project than by bringing it to life when playing the concert in the eastern hemisphere? They played a short set at Goethe-Institut Krakau located in one of the buildings surrounding the famous Cracovian Main Square. There, they performed for an audience consisted of people who barely, if at all, who they were and what to expect of their music. Yet the audience loved their show and appreciated every minute of it. Some time after the concert people even said:CEEYS’ music was so atmospheric and soothing it moved them to the core. It truly speaks of Selkes talent and their passion for music, clearly distinctive in their work. A favorable and honest opinion of people who only just listened to CEEYS for the first time is one of the best recommendations. One can only hope that the duo will return to Poland someday.