Chondros and Katsiani on the Mountain by Costis Drygianakis


Costis Drygianakis | Chondros and Katsiani on the Mountain
Rekem Records (CD/BK)

An interesting reissue (originally pressed in 1998) from Greek experimental artist Costis Drygianakis. which originally started as a joke about Nixon in China. And I am so glad this hasn’t been lost to time or region, as this is my fresh introduction to a spellbinding hour-long work over two decades old. Drygianakis incorporates voices (in Greek), violin, over a melancholic wavering drone that transcends the years in which it was made. It creaks and throbs with imaginative, fleeting dis/harmonies but never comes off coarse or too noisy. It’s like the aftermath of something at first.

Long before he established his name as senior statesman in the Greek experimental music scene, Costis Drygianakis met with two thirds of the group Dimosioypalliliko Retire (see Rekem 10) to produce this moving yet humble radio “opera”. Tip-toeing on absurdity based on the improvised libretto (the edition comes with translations of both lyrics and newly commissioned texts), Drygianakis produced here one of his definitive works, based on irreverence and boundless spirit.

Embedded there are folk underpinnings, the music of the people, interspersed with peculiar percussion and sudden instrumental riffs. In a fleeting moment you might find yourself in an ancient castle, the next in embarking into a game of sci-fi laser tag. The cosmic references are strokes of genius, as are many of the unlikely turns (a piano interlude, castanet techno, and a multitude of tiny percussive elements like torn paper and the sort). This is at its best when its most abstract  as he’s developed a very physical mix that stops and starts back up at regular frequency. High pitch tones mix with thriller synths and a rollercoaster cavalcade of frequencies. This is one that will make an eager active listener out of a serious slacker as it tell its tale, as deformed as it is. And that is just it, form, and Drygianakis’ abridgement and tinkering with what it is, and can be. At one point it literally sounds if he sawing away, pun likely intended.

As wild as this ride is …on the Mountain it has just as many junctures of rumination. There are silences that lead to handclaps or short synth flourishes as if starting an artwork completely from scratch more than two-thirds the way through. No stone is left untouched in terms of style, there is an all-in-one approach, there is even a dreamlike hip-hop riff, followed by dark alleyway footsteps. The only real expectation in rolling with the unpredictable. It’s the magic of the edit, and the tension building mood swings that are musical (tribal, classical, native) in between and embedded into the larger freeform musique concrète patterns.

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