Jan Fic – Potom

4 November 2020, 1:00

Jan Fic – Potom

Until recently, this Brno singer with the shortest given and family names was the leader of the blues band The Weathermakers. He also led the ephemeral "tramping" group The Honzíci. However, the main thing that he attracts attention with – in addition to the guitars and other instruments that he produces under the brand Red Bird – is his original solo production. After the mature debut Město [The City] (2018), he has now made himself heard with a new album entitled Potom [After]. In the lyrics he goes down to the core again, being able to transform his personal problems into timeless stories and extraordinary poetic expressions. And even though he abandoned the blues form in most of his songs, the recording, in which Martin Kyšperský once again participated as a producer, has a blues nature by its very essence.

The song world of Jan Fic is believable, among other things, because he doesn't idealise his heroes. These are frequently tragic characters, which nonetheless retain a piece of humanity. The author, by the way the winner of the 'Blues Aperitiv' international contest and a finalist of the 'Porta' festival, perhaps best shows it in the opening song Bouře [The Storm], specifically in its verses: "Ve stejnou chvíli somrák, kdysi taky něčí táta / dopil víno, co se nevešlo do flašky od coly." ["At the same moment, a hobo, once also someone's dad / Finished drinking his wine, which did not fit in a coke bottle."] Personal destiny is eventually complemented by a general yet no less strong statement: "Svý jméno dávno zapomněl, / lidi zapomenou cokoli." ["He forgot his name a long time ago, / People will forget anything."]. However, the 'storm' in the song is not experienced by an anonymous hobo, but by the author himself: "Buď tu bouři zlomím / a ráno zase přijdu k snídani / […] / Nebo se na mě prosím vás nezlobte / kdybych se nevrátil domů." ["Either I break the storm / And I'll come for breakfast again in the morning / […] / Otherwise, please don't be angry with me / Should I not return home."]

Other excellent lyricists also played with "heroes" who only have memories of the fact that they once had a functioning family – for example, hardly anything can beat Černý pasažér [The Fare Dodger] by Jarda Svoboda from Traband. Fic's poetics are no less original, yet at the same time rough and precise: "Chtěl jsem rozveselit jednu smutnou duši / a místo toho jsem vyrobil dvě, ještě smutnější." ["I wanted to cheer up a sad soul / And instead I produced two of them, even sadder."] His character (meaning the character of the narrator) shakes his head dully in the dark, sets fire to the house before dawn, runs from one door to another and is alone in it, afraid of the ghosts of sorrow and being full of anxiety at night. Yet at the same time he sings: "chci tak málo – možná jen kousek štěstí, nebo zažít skutečnej a zdravej spánek" ["I want so little – maybe just a bit of happiness, or to experience a real and healthy sleep"]. Despite the apparent desolation, which also affects those he talks about in the third person ("Jitku to sežralo za měsíc, prej od prsu…" ["Jitka was devoured by it in a month, they say it came from the breast..."]), but the album also hides glimpses of hope: "Bouře nás nespolkla, Sirény prohrály / všichni máme voskem zalitý uši / a svítá." ["The storm did not swallow us, the Sirens lost / We all have our ears clogged with wax, and the sun is rising."]

It is not by coincidence that the motif of a storm from the first song is repeated in the ninth song Svítá [The Sun Is Rising]. The Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of (Jan) Fic works with recurring motifs: A silo resembles a steamship, and a cloud resembles a sailboat. The steamship has thirty-four chimneys, and somewhere else the sun shines through the dirty forest of chimneys. And while in the first song the author hesitates if he would come home for breakfast, in the last one (Listopad  [November]) he is already at home: "A když přijdu domů / děcka po mně skáčou / a nenechají mě vydechnout. ["And when I come home / Children keep jumping all over me / And never let me take a rest."]

Careful, however – not only the album Potom in itself forms the tight and intertwined whole. In fact, it forms a single unit with the debut album Město, the City forms one whole, and often a song from the new album resembles another song from the debut album – with its mood, melody and arrangement procedures. In spite of that, this never means the author is plagiarising himself; this consists of inconspicuous hints, for example in the use of a recitative or in the degree of filthiness that Fic together with the band put into the song.

In terms of content, Potom – just like Město – is powerful testimony of the singer-songwriter. Musically, however, the album is pretty far from being folk with acoustic guitar. Just as Fic himself uses various registers of his vocal expression – recitation, half-singing, narration, distorted voice… –,  together with Martin Kyšperský, they created a varied musical accompaniment around the strong stories of the songs: a distinctive bass line, electronic as well as industrial beats, a libertarian saxophone solo by Radim Hanousek (Stejně to zkouším [I'm Giving It a Try Anyway]), an electric guitar as well as an electric keyboard. All this has its place in the universe of Fic and Kyšperský. Nothing is self-serving; everything depicts the mood of the songs. The balladic title song Potom (reminiscent of the prematurely deceased and now forgotten excellent singer-songwriter Ondřej Metyš) and the pulsating Podvedená generace [The Deceived Generation] fit into the whole that resists being closed into any genre drawer. The music supports the testimony, the words further explain the chosen musical jacket.

The basic rhetorical principle says that we should never begin a statement with the word "so". Fic ends with it: "Chci pryč, ale vím, / že tohle je ten Bůh / A jinej tu pro mě není, / takže…["I want to go away, but I know / That this is that God / And there's no other God for me, / So…"] So, all you have to do is wait for the sequel, maybe the third part of the trilogy. Město, Potom… and what comes next? Will the pilgrim find peace in the streets of the city of his torn-apart soul? Will he really hang his unfulfilled wishes on the lampposts and experience healthy sleep? Will he enjoy a tasty breakfast? While Město was one of the strongest original testimonies of contemporary (not only) Brno-based authors, Potom followed on it with perhaps even greater intensity of lyrics and musical inventions. No matter whether Fic's hero/narrator succeeds next time or not, it is almost certain that it will be an extraordinary experience again. Also thanks to the inventiveness of Martin Kyšperský as a producer.

Jan Fic – Potom. Indies Scope 2020. 11 tracks. Total playing time: 41:17



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