Polish experimental quartet T'ien Lai combines drone with spiraling psychedelia and live percussion to create heavily distorted, ritualistic dance music. The project borrows from Le Corbusier's brutalist architecture and the materialist side of magic realism and is described as "magic brutalism.
T'ien Lai was founded in 2012 by Kuba Ziołek, of freeform improv collective Innercity Ensemble and Stara Rzeka (a one-man band combining drone, prog rock, and black metal), and Łukasz Jędrzejczak (So Slow, Alameda 5). The two artists sought to create new forms of meditative electronic and electroacoustic music. Their debut album, released the following year on Monotype Records, leaned heavily on the sound of old PRL Śnieżka radio receivers. Processed through guitar effects and layered over synthesizer loops, the LP's layers of noise were said to conceal mystical themes.
In 2014, the duo expanded into a foursome with percussionists Rafał Kołacki (Hati, Innercity Ensemble, Mammoth Ulthana) and Mikołaj Zieliński (Alameda Trio, Alameda 5, Rara). T'ien Lai describe the resulting sound as "quasi-shamanic trance, raw, almost industrial rhythmic electronic music" with modern techno pastiche. Live, the quartet improvises its ritualistic dance music with no computers and their faces obscured behind scarves. Their second album, RHTHM, was laden with glitches and plunderphonic samples and saw an official release in fall 2015.
T'ien Lai are supported by the 2016 SHAPE platform, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.