Thanasis Papakonstantinou
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Thanasis Papakonstantinou
Agrýpnia (Insomnia)
Lyra CD (www.lyra.gr)

The artist states that his lyrics are based on the poem "Insomnie" by Tristan Corbière (1845-1875):

    "Insomnia, the untouched animal!
    Without a trace of caring,
    To anyone thirsty for a chimera, you turn
    Your cup which is always empty"
This is one pole of this record, the state in which the sleep one seeks becomes elusive, trapping its seeker in the state he is trying to get away from:
   "Anyone who sleeps becomes
    a child and surrenders himself.
    Over the closed eyelids
    The wind of time blows furiously"
At the other pole is "Rua da Bella Vista," based on the "The Book of Disquiet" by Fernando Pessoa:
    "The tax of logic is paid by insomnia:
     it's a wild animal that disguises itself 
     within the body of an accountant"

cd cover In a recent interview by Vangelis Perakis, Papakonstantinou noted that the first book by Pessoa he read, the poems he wrote using the name Alberto Caeiro, was "a shock, the kind of shock we register when we find out that things we consider utterly personal and unique have been felt by others, who actually wrote them down, in a way that clarifies them for us."

This is a record that follows more or less in the footsteps of his previous unique experiment, Vrachnos Profitis (Hoarse Prophet). The overall climate is very much the same and this record in many ways is a continuation rather than a new beginning. Having discovered a new universe, he refuses to leave it yet, looking at his previous experiences (he includes two songs from his previous records) under this new light. Still, you get the feeling that this is not due to a lack of creative spark but rather because he is in awe of this new sound he has created.

No wonder. There are moments where this record soars, full of sounds that seem to be created for the first time ever. The musicians here are almost the same as in his previous one; a welcome addition is saxophonist Floros Floridis of the Florina Brass Band, who brings his unique sound to a few of the tracks. The other noted difference is that this time all the singers are male. His two sons even contribute a traditional carol, one of the most amazing songs on the record), and two new vocalists, the well-known Sokratis Malamas and Nikos Papazoglou, lend a much harsher sound. Although "Work No.1 in Mib for axe and TV set" sounds like it could be gimmicky, it falls perfectly in place in a record that unlike Vrachnos Profitis is not about the past but the present, about the small choices each one of us has to make day in and day out in order to follow the righteous path. "Teiresias," one of the songs about the prophet of Thebes who was blinded upon foretelling the upcoming defeat of the Trojans, and "Liquid," a song about a growing fear, follow this line.

The rest of the record is more about the night time, the hard time of the day when we are face to face with no one but ourselves and our choices. There are also two "secret" tracks on the record. The one is a rembetiko, the other a different, sparser version of another song on the record.

Papakonstantinou says, "I like to say that the best 'songs' that have ever been written are personal relationships and that the songs are just substitutes for them."

More than a record, perhaps closer to a philosophy lecture, Agrýpnia refuses to completely give out its secrets. Each listen is a different experience, each time a different song will rise to amaze you, each time a different chord sequence will touch another part of you. Papakonstantinou seems like a sage, the intellectual friend who is smarter than you, but also loves you too deeply to seem pretentious. "One is led to create, " he says, "by the desire to get in touch with everything."

It is this desire that has created a worthy sequel to the most important Greek recordings of the last twenty years, a record that truly seems in touch with everything.

It is a shame that the record company has again failed to include an English text for his work. It is a great pity that people who cannot understand Greek will find it more difficult to unlock its secrets. But then again, maybe this is not really a problem after all:

"Most of my songs come from the endless steppe of emotions, where the wild wind of loneliness blows. Actually, the best of them come from the country of unclassifiable emotions. I don't quite remember how I started writing songs and I don't know how I'll end doing it."
- review by Nondas Kitsos


See the complete interview with Papakonstantinou (only in Greek).

More on poet Fernando Pessoa

Audio samples and CD available at cdRoots


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