Optical Music

Tomos 1

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This first album from the Greek experimental group Optical Music is one weird avant-garde ride. Its leader, Costis Drygianakis, had not yet refined his art, but that doesn't mean Tomos 1 (Volume 1) should be turned down -- on the contrary. With its coarse character and the way it throws scrapes of '70s electronic music, Greek folk, and angular '80s-style avant-garde rock at the listener's ears, the album has a naïve charm and expresses the excitement of discovery in a way you simply cannot find in the works of older, more accomplished composers. Drygianakis wrote all the music and plays synths and electronics throughout. Yiannis Argyropoulos (drums), Alexis Karavergos (piano/guitar), Costas Pantopoulos (piano/guitar), and Christos Kaltis surround him, plus a few guests. In "To Party," short drum outbursts (the squarest rock beat you can imagine) clash with synth ad libs and bass -- think This Heat. "Koinonikon" and "Alexandros" feature strange narratives over acoustic guitar and electronics. Group improvisations are reckless, even though they seem to be quite structured in the end. This album was aimed at alienating both rock and classical music audiences. It has the essence of "art brut," or amateur art performed by people with musical training. Some avant-garde fans may find this music affected or a little forced -- and the Greek-only lyrics can turn you off, too -- but it deserves attention, if only as an intriguing statement from a group of musicians trying to shake off academic rules.

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