Among multiple translations, the etymology of the word “rebetiko” links this ancient form of Greek folk with traits of individual indiscipline in certain subcultural contexts. However, the second attempt by Kyriakides and Moor to devise strategies around rebetika tunes (following 2009’s obviously titled Rebetika) shows its subversive facets in the very approach to the original materials. A Life Is A Billion Heartbeats respects, enhances and ultimately disassembles the nuclear elements of a somewhat unhappy melodicism, the pair displaying a barely predictable disaffection for the customary “avant” perspectives on a local musical tradition.
Countless twists and turns are admirably balanced by an “instant organization” kind of improvisational neatness. Starting with a processed female vocalist in “Everybody Should Think About Their Final Breath” — perhaps the most satisfactory chunk of this brilliant album — Kyriakides and Moor build a whole microcosm of acoustic ramifications, bizarre electronic pulses, wonderfully dirty resonances and subterranean detours. Other notable episodes are typified by concomitant insurrectional tendencies. Some of Moor’s enlivening baritone guitar tones are so fabulously filthy, as in “Doorways To Make You Forget”, whereas Kyriakides’ prowess generates constant counteraction by mixing the unique character of analogue synthesis and the digital quirkiness of laptop-driven solutions. The title track sets in motion a mechanism of scintillating harmonics, infinite-repeat vocal fragments and fluid rhythms, maintaining a hypnotizing aura throughout notwithstanding the weird timbral juxtapositions.
Chock full as it is with alternative aural information and snooping fantasy, this music reveals an overwhelming cosmopolitan attitude that doesn’t jeopardize the (expert) listener’s tolerance. The strength of the message is directly proportional to its modern-sounding harmoniousness, improved by corrosive liquids and implausible protrusions.
In a nutshell, we had a ball.