Billion Dollar Brains

Yannis Kyriakides / Andy Moor
A Life is a Billion Heartbeats
NETHERLANDS UNSOUNDS 47u CD (2014)

A billion isn’t what it used to be, you know. In my youth, a billion was a million million. Now it’s just a measly little thousand million. It’s like Wagon Wheels getting smaller, everybody is out to shortchange you these days.

Well, maybe not everybody. Yannis Kyriakides and Andy Moor certainly don’t stint on the musical interest, as they continue their deep explorations of Greek rebetika for the Unsounds label. The key to the album is the subtitle, “Improvisations On Old Rebetika Songs”, although you may be bemused if you’re expecting improvisation in the jazz sense of taking a melody line and running with it. Here, “on” means “on top of”, as Kyriakides and Moor build distorting layers of electric guitar and electronics over the original records. Haunting, ancient voices bleed through the gaps in the gamma-ray noise bursts, like faded café posters glimpsed under torn club flyers and spray-can graffiti.

Rebetika is often referred to as the “Greek blues”, which is really just a way of saying that it’s music which comes from a marginalised sector of society, dealing with earthy themes of hardship, death, sex and drugs. Despite flinging their source material across the cosmos, the duo remain true to the fatalistic spirit of the originals, especially in the song titles – “Today Is The Same As Yesterday”; “Everyone Should Think About Their Final Breath”; “Doorways Make You Forget”.
Unlikely to be heard any time soon at your local taverna, this is a rich feast nevertheless. Kali orexi!

anarchives

Junko / Michel Henritzi / Fukuoka Rinji
Billion Years Of Sighs
AN’ ARCHIVES AN’07 LP (2014)

Similarly generous helpings from An’archives records, who serve up a Franco-Japanese sound summit in a truly handsome package – a limited edition LP on a satisfyingly thick slab of vinyl, in a silk-screen printed sleeve with the all-important obi strip. The music is pretty handsome too.

Side one features lapsteel wrangler Michel Henritzi and his Junko partner, live in Brussels, summoning the demons with a top notch blast of avant-garde blues and free noise. It’s very hard to believe that these explosions of feedback are being played on a lapsteel, an instrument more usually associated with country bands or palm fringed Hawaiian beaches. It’s also hard to believe that a human being can scream so hard and so long without doing themselves a mischief, but Junko seems to manage it easily enough, and she makes it all weirdly melodic in the process.

Side two documents two Spanish performances by Henritzi with Fukuoka Rinji on violin, voice and percussion. These are more reflective and melancholy pieces, relatively speaking, and would sit very nicely next to the Kyriakides and Moor tunes on any discerning heavy modal fuzz-blues playlist.

Music to jumpstart your heartbeats (just remember you’ve only got a billion to spare).