CULTURE

Greek electronica prominent

This article will support the arguments of those claiming that art is produced socially via the objects from which it draws its inspiration and due to the circumstances in which artists live. Last month, there was an advertisement for the electronic band Coltnoi’s album «California Uber Alles» on the last page of the credible British music magazine Wire. It depicted the Statue of Liberty giving a Nazi salute. The American distributors of the magazine suggested covering the photograph with a sticker for obvious reasons. There is yet another example: The music network MTV censored a video of the band Netrina because it considered its content, inspired by the protests against the war in Iraq, extreme, and broadcasted a milder version. Both occurrences were discussed as examples of «war against terrorism» censorship, which is being imposed on artists, record companies and distributors. One could well say that these incidents are just another drop in the ocean, yet what is remarkable is that both these bands are from Athens and represent the Greek electronica scene which has earned international respect. No one is a prophet in his own land, the saying goes, and most of us are unaware that there are many musicians among us who form a prominent and varied scene that is recognizable and accepted anywhere else but at home. DJ Stefan (or Stefanos Constantinidis) is collaborating with Briton Terry Francis and DJ Lorenzo on an album to be released by the British company Wingle. Four years ago, Nikos Patrelakis (or Nikko) released a single in collaboration with Heather Mills and her husband, former Beatles frontman Paul McCartney; his album «Habitat» was well received by British critics but went unnoticed in Greece. Poptraume’s album «Ulterior» was named Album of the Month by the British magazine Record Collector and the Greek drum ‘n’ bass wizard Digital Alkemist records for the New York record company Shadow and is already popular in Germany. These facts are unknown to the average music lover, who is not really sure what electronica is and has even less knowledge of its artists. «One could hardly define electronica,» admits Costas Skaltsas, a member of the band Netrina, who also teaches music technology. «It is based on the digital reproduction of sound. We usually use samples and artificially produced sounds, then combine different sounds and process them using techniques like FM synthesis (which creates certain sound waves with special generators). We can also sample different sounds, even from traditional instruments, and rearrange them, thus creating a new music theme.» Electronica provokes the same reactions in man as does acoustic and electric music: It is good to dance to or to listen to alone. It can be fast or slow, sad or happy, easy or difficult to understand. All these tendencies in electronica can be traced to the Greek scene. The success of the Greek electronica scene should be attributed to its artists who, instead of waiting to garner the attention of the big record companies, have created their own companies and collaborated with like-minded individuals abroad. Every group specializes in a particular style. For example, the company-team Bios is active in the field of experimental electronica; they recently released a series of «picture discs» by Digitanalog and Poptraume. The same group is constructing a venue to be used only for electronica concerts, located on Pireos Street, which will hopefully be ready in September. The recording label Rubber, which usually releases collections in a range of every electronica sound, recently released the album «Deep Tones» with compositions by Digital Alkemist, DJ Stefan’s Electroware, Hyplar and Nighthaze. In Thessaloniki, the old-fashioned electro of The Decades can be heard alongside UVA and Density of State on the Poeta Negra label. Other record companies active in Thessaloniki are Music Kitchen, which collaborates with the Reverse Brothers and the company Plus, which also works with the more well-known group Universal Trilogy. The 1001 Tilt label specializes in cheap recordings from home studios. The group Cities of Desolation handed out a live CD from their tour to Mostar and Ljubljana for free. On the other hand, the Thessaloniki-based Mikro, the main Greek representatives of electroclash, have become quite well-known and have broken away from the restrictions of the electronica scene’s hard nucleus. Many artists do not limit themselves to one particular kind of electronica but create various alter egos as well to cover their different creative needs. For instance, Stefanos Constantinidis composes electronica and techno as DJ Stefan, house-trance as Joylab (he has a contract with Sony), electro-funk as Electroware and also plays with the upcoming Astralwaves, who combine electronica and rock music. Dubient is working on similar combinations (with an addition of ethnic and dub elements) as are Palyrria and Spy F and the Zakulas, whose sound could also be described as electronic hip-hop. Artists like Giorgos Christianakis, Christos Alexopoulos and Markos Delivorias come closer to the traditional methods of composition by processing the sounds digitally on the computer. There is another tendency that encourages working with Greek songs: Constantinos Kambanis from Woofer recorded a series of songs by veteran singer Mary Dalakou, while Allou (the duo of Ilias Aslanoglou, the singer of Magic De Spell, and Savvas Isatis) also use Greek lyrics in their music, perhaps addressing the audience of Mikro. Undoubtedly, those who defined the electronica sound in the early ’90s were Stereo Nova. The band succeeded in becoming accepted by the general public and influenced the artists who are very popular today. Constantinos Beta recently launched an album with remixes of Manos Hadjidakis songs, a Hadjidakis interpretation that was much discussed. A few months ago, his dance album «Movement» was not very successful. Former band member Mikael Delta has moved closer to dance music; he collaborated with the British company Glasgow Underground and with vocalist Tania Tsanaklidou. All former members of Stereo Nova made frequent references to the well-known personalities of Greek song, thus demonstrating how easy it is to break down the barriers between different kinds of music. Antonis P. recently released two solo albums (as Alpha P. and Supermarket) while his new album «Plasticine» is on display in music stores. The band’s producer, Coti K., is releasing the rare results of his experimentations (his album «Lego» being the most interesting) and he also participates in Coltnoi. Costas Skaltsas, their sound engineer, also plays with Netrina, the Greek equivalent of Prodigy, and they are getting ready to perform in Japan together. Our knowledge of the Greek electronica scene is hardly adequate and definitely the scene does not need us. However, it remains a vigorous field, an oasis in an otherwise bleak musical landscape. It also demonstrates how close all these musical «subcultures» are to the global village. In fact they are so close that their definition as «Greek» is probably unnecessary.