Outside The Academy: Second Guessing

An outsider for sure, but is Pawel Cholewa enough in control of all the things he's got going on, to really polish this diamond in the rough?

- Outside The Academy, otherwise known as multi-instrumentalist / producer Pawel Cholewa, has reached outside the box with his second EP, appropriately titled Second-Guessing. The four tracker is a mishmash of conflicting beats, melodic guitar, creative production and an ambivalent outlook on life.

First single and opening track on the record Solutionism¸ sets the tone... but without being an early high. Melodic guitar refrains hit your ears before the glitchy beats and dirty bass change the pace of the song, creating a panicky, vulnerable vibe. The same melodic guitar refrains return periodically throughout the song, acting like the eye of the storm. The lyrics pay homage to the EP’s title, with repeated phrases such as “second-guessing the beat of everything” describing the internal conflict of anxiety that we all know too well. However, Chowela’s vocals are pushed to the back burner, and this unfortunately doesn’t let the lyrical component speak as well as it should.

Salient, the second single from the EP, does a much better job of showcasing Chowela’s many hats. His vocals are more in the forefront of the mix, and this complements the ambient synth patterns, laid-back drums and underlying guitar. Open harmonies conflict with the bleak lyrics, which tell the difficult and all too real story of miscommunication between people. The EP runs the risk of being underrated, in a lyrical sense: it can be easy to overlook the vocal phrases, which are laden with cynicism and a downbeat outlook, but also cleverly intricate metaphors. The production, by contrast, is really in your face. I know that the words are often an afterthought in beat-heavy music, but here they deserved more of a go.

Outside The Academy is, well, exactly that. Pawel is right out on the edge, experimenting and taking risks. If those risks don't pay off the defeat can be pretty crushing, but negotiate the precipice successfully and it's all worth it, right? Outside The Academy is out on a ledge and, for the most part, he has a firm footing. He synthesises diverse elements into a productive whole. Part angsty teenager, and part wise grandparent, his music sublimates the ambivalence between the two into a powerful vision, a crushing reality. It's so productive that I'm left wanting to hear more of what he's got to say. It's easy to point that out when it's not my skin in the game and I feel kind of guilty; but maybe this risk taker needs to play for even larger odds, move one step closer to the edge and make this shrewd brinksmanship really pay off.

- Olivia Shoesmith.

Album Details

Album Title: Second Guessing
Artist: Outside The Academy
Record Label: (Indie)