Thanasis Papakonstantinou - The Minimal Self)
This time, Thanasis Papakonstantinou has made it easy for us to decipher the meaning of his music, right down to its rather cryptic title. A two-page text in the middle of the booklet, offers some guidance. As the recording is only in Greek, I thought I should provide a translation. Mind you, it is equally cryptic in Greek.
When he's scared, his hair changes and becomes the tendons of a hunted animal, needles in the forest with the emigrant pines or even bodies on the train tracks. And while it can recognize fragments, it cannot recognize the difference between terror and tenor. He uses his dirty feet to mess the lying sky and steals from the inferno all that belongs to him. The minimumalist, the one who is nostalgic of the beginning, the white of the eye filled with moss, the host of dreams that alters the shapes and causes the space to get motion sickness.
The one-sandaled Helot, the sudden crack, the city, where buildings have no doors, the nasal whale, the whale of Jonah, the wild boil that prepares the herbs. That minimal, that self, same as the whir of a fridge in an empty house, that harmoniously ties in with the other, the universal self and weaves terror and then faith. It freezes time, freezes the blood, doesn't evolve, doesn't interpret.
Dips his fingers in life's honey and in an almost autistic manner, forever churns it.”
Three years after the last recording by Thanasis Papakonstantinou, The Miminal Self was released. The way the record industry is lately, this record was a comet; it came out, was a huge success and before long couldn't be found anywhere. Meanwhile, the Greek economy continued to go to the dogs. People were running low on money for gigs, yet Papakonstantinou was one of the few people to have successful tours over the summer. Somehow, over there in Metaxohori, Papakonstantinou has found a way to transcend modern times, the modern economic crises, perhaps time itself.
Papakonstantinou makes the ingenious move of using Orfeas Peridis as a guest singer on two songs. Peridis, a wonderful singer-songwriter in his own right and someone who also has found a way to bridge the gap between entechno and western pop/rock music, brings with him a melodic voice that serves these songs well.
This is more of a record of words than of music and it is a pity it doesn't benefit from a bilingual booklet. But in these times, even a recording is an achievement. We should be thankful that a new, independent record company managed to produce it. Apart from the declaration of intent above, words of utmost beauty pepper the recording:
“Who will remember me when I become the fever that stayed in the body for a night only…” ("Who will remember me")
“Pain is here to tell you: 'You are nothing special.'” ("Antarctica")
“The breath is like a saw. It cuts time and disperses in the immaculate silence, fire and snow.” ("Like a child")
“I wear the magic cap that makes me invisible; I swiftly get under her sheets to run incognito. It's dark, freezing. In their houses all are asleep, but from the louvers dreams come out and meet up.” ("Fog")
“I asked Riva, my dog if he feels Greek, indigenous or something similar. He yawned, turned back to sleep and his breath was beautiful as a wave breaking on the shore. Hey ho! Fuck the fascist whore.” ("Trick question")
“With one hand in joy and the other in fog, the hungry birds took a liking at my tied self” ("Simoun")
“I don't want the songs I wrote to light up lighters. I'd like them to cut across foreheads, to open up craters” ("The songs I wrote")
The only song that somehow catches up with the modern reality is “Trick question.” At 1:40, it's a very short song. Somehow, it manages at 1:03 to go into a fanfare - a medley of a march used extensively during the last military dictatorship in Greece - and then the theme tune of the Karagiozis shadow plays (a shortcut to claiming someone is a joke). In half a minute he has made a powerful political comment that doesn't sound crass, but extremely funny.
I know I've written, time and again, ecstatic reviews of Papakonstantinou's music but he never ceases to deliver some of the most interesting music made anywhere in the world. Transcending style, place and era, his music is very Greek but it's also primordial, agrarian in spirit. It is music of the soil, carrying in its DNA the same power as the shamanic incantations of aboriginal music, music revelatory of the power of the Universe, of Earth and of Humanity. - Nondas Kitsos