Savage Republic's association with Greece started with their striking fourth album, Customs, and continued over two decades later with 2012's Varvakios, but under circumstances almost as fraught as those which resulted in the creation of the earlier album -- and on a much wider scale beyond where the band's concerned. Recorded during a visit in February of that year which occurred during one of the many widespread economic protests that broke out in the country as it dealt with the impact of elections and subsequent decisions about staying in the Eurozone, Varvakios isn't an audio documentary of Greece's political climate, but is definitely informed by both its energy and the country's own musical traditions. Considered by the band to be an experimental effort made quickly over three days, it's still another compelling effort from the fully reactivated group. Following the opening found sound in the Athenian-street snippet that begins "Sparta," the music rumbles to life with their near-patented post-punk-in-the-desert guitar and slow deliberate rhythms, and Blaine Reninger's guest violin adds textured elegance. This feeling is mirrored and matched in turn by the concluding "Anatolia" as a big dramatic effort, with further found sound elements appearing after the music wraps up. "Hippodrome" also aims for a big, beautifully stirring sound, while the mix's focus on bass and drums actually makes the guitar parts sound all the more intriguing; a background power that's up there with the textured work of the Chameleons. Not everything aims at the specifically electrical: the title track's acoustic bed bows more directly to a traditional Greek sound, thanks to Reininger's lead work and the peppy kick of the music, while "Poros" is initially a Reininger solo over more on-the-street samples before a flowing acoustic strum takes the lead. Other highlights include "Pigadi"'s drumming bursts and floating tones, and "For Eva," a nice dollop of brief electric guitar moodiness.
by Ned Raggett