To the Mother of Gods
[Beats in Space; 2019]
In William Gibson’s The Peripheral, an omniscient character, a post-human Pythia, recollects about the future from a past not their own: “Eras are conveniences, particularly for those who never experienced them. We carve history from totalities beyond our grasp. Bolt labels on the result. Handles. Then speak of the handles as though they were things in themselves.”
Burrowing into similar premises of volatile chronicles, Greek musician and singer-songwriter Seirios Savvaidis finds more truth in poetry than in history. Throughout his solo work, he engages with a malleable account of Greek folk music. He reaches beyond Christian, Eastern Orthodox traditions to conceptualize compositions whose imagined roots lie in antiquity and paganism. Like the remnants of antediluvian societies used as throwaway tropes in pop-cultural artifacts (see: Lost), Savvaidis’s music narrates a story based on unreliable fragments, a hybrid of truth, fiction, and magic realism informed by decidedly contemporary perceptions of the eras they originally belonged to. But his is a loving take sprinkled with traces of other stylistic affinities. Archaic sonic genes spliced with 1970s psychedelia and anthemic rock become vessels of lyric melancholy and bittersweet nostalgia. The music swells with harmonious vocals coated in layers of rich instrumentation, akin to an esoteric version of Fleet Foxes’ homages to folk.
Now, Savvaidis’s music is given new form through Aggelos Baltas’s Anatolian Weapons. On his first record under the moniker, the Athenian DJ and producer dismantles and reassembles Savvaidis’s compositions until they become his own. While Baltas has a history of exploring and reframing various Greek scenes of yesterday, like with his Fantastikoi Hxoi project that created krautrock mutations out of pop from the 1960s and 70s, To the Mother of Gods is an expedition farther into the past, guided but not limited by the singer-songwriter’s formulations.
To the Mother of Gods is a scaled down, minimalist recoloring of Savvaidis’s voluminous vision. It shifts the retro-retro approach to a future of EBM silhouettes and sumptuous beats while retaining and amplifying its lyricism. The music’s crucial innate occultism is likewise preserved, as the eight cuts repeatedly spiral through dark meditative moods. Their remixes become dancefloor-ready, polyrhythmic drones, which swirl around Sevvaidis’s infectious vocals and ooze with a warm affectivity but avoid any semblance of banality. Instead, the music’s character is one of emotional immediacy.
Opener “Tarachti Katarrachti” strips most of Savvaidis’s original instrumentation and instead focuses on a repeating, funky bass line intercepted occasionally by a tambourine’s lazy and hazy sway. Savvaidis’s voice is panned from left to right and back, made to circle in a vertiginous dance until a drum floats in, drops the beat, and anchors the song. Simultaneously, subtle manipulations in the vocal lines make them harmonize with themselves. It’s a gorgeous cut that instills nostalgia for places never visited and times never lived in.
Throughout the remaining seven pieces, Baltas employs a variety of stylistic incisions. On the title track — easily imagined as playing in a hippie bar in the 70s — a rocking guitar riff and flute open up the thick, intoxicating atmosphere. There, handclaps and diffuse guitar licks engage in mutual snake charming, while an angelic chant flashes briefly but brightly. Elsewhere, the record achieves peak melancholia on “Kalesma,” as droning bass is accompanied by the technicolor purr of analog synths and Savvaidis’s blue, wistful delivery reminiscent of Fabrizio De André. On “Ofiodaimon,” The Doors’ more psychedelic moments creep in amidst bagpipes and diffuse incantations crafted from Savvaidis’s repurposed articulations. Before a voiceless ambient reprise of “Tarachti Katarrachti” closes the record, “Limnothalassa” examines the limits of emotionalism with piano chords surging along a hummed melody. A sense of tension builds up and resolves cyclically, driven by guitar strings screeching and plonking.
To the Mother of Gods has a tendency to linger with perceptual hooks buried deep in the lizard brain. Despite its historic ties, borderline retro-fetishism, and Savvaidis’s precise initial concept, the album gives off an aura of being neither then nor now, neither there nor here. Instead, it exists in a small pocket of cosmos of its own. A crossroads of dimensions. A mystic offering to nature and divinities.