Gavouna: Stings & Dum Machines

Some albums we anticipate with such fervour, they're almost destined to disappoint. Then there are others which, being less familiar, arrive unencumbered by the baggage of grandiose expectations and, consequently, impress even more than they otherwise might. One such album is Gavouna's utterly charming (if r-phobically titled) Stings and Dum Machines. While short at 37 minutes, the ten instrumentals on Athanasios Argianas's debut entrance with sinuous melodies and timbral arrangements of strings, electronics, mallet percussion, and, yes, drum machines. The album's distinctive sound is attributable to Argianas's rather retrograde sound sources (e.g., antiquated electronics) and, as a result, Gavouna's music sounds 'hand-made,' even if that's not literally the case.

What makes the album most captivating, however, is not just its unusual sound but the caliber of its compositions. Already heard on the Melodic comp Tracks For Horses, the orchestral folk swing of “Three” is a prime example. Featuring animated vibes melodies and Konrad Köhler's multi-layered strings, the unusual yet engaging piece captures some flavour of Argianas's Athens, Greek heritage. A similar impression emerges in “One Four” when strings (violins, cellos) and horns (trumpets) etch dreamy Eastern melodies. In the emotionally arresting “Leo & Lydia,” the deep bowings of an aching cello introduce a veritable orchestra of see-sawing strings, with the composition further distinguished by a mournful warble that pierces the song's electronic haze. Similar theremin-like electronics dominate the becalmed setting “Ondespiece,” while a lush string- and horn-centered arrangement in the melancholy “Lament” (based on Isan's “Kittenplan A”) makes for a memorable outro. The album's sole misstep is “Trickstick” which opens promisingly with pizzicatti plucks but goes somewhat off the rails in a too-messy detour. Given its almost cinematic aura, one could easily hear Stings and Dum Machines as the regrettably lost soundtrack to a 1970s Greek film.

March 2005