Notes from a bittersweet Mediterranean voyage
Nick Tsiavos returns with Ananke's new project
This month, award-winning musicians Achilles Yiangoulli and Anthony Schulz join critically acclaimed bassist Nick Tsiavos to continue their exploration of the outer-reaches of the musical universe.
Their new CD Ananke (also the name of the band) is to be launched in a one-off performance at Melbourne Recital Hall next weekend. 'Ananke' (the Greek word for 'necessity') says Tsiavos, perfectly describes the creative urge felt by the experimental trio, who began working together ten years ago. "I asked these guys to come with their baggage. Achilles on bouzouki comes from rebetika, and Anthony on accordion and piano, comes from a European modernist jazz tradition. These energies enter a conversation, a point of distillation."
The way Tsiavos talks, like his music, is a flow of weighty ideas and metaphysical reflections. "My music starts where words fail", says the 54-year-old musician and composer who has been creating 'new' music for more than 20 years. Ananke is one of half a dozen vehicles Tsiavos uses in his continual mission to invoke strange musical landscapes: audio odysseys that have made him one of Australia's most enigmatic and interesting musicians and composers.
As a self-confessed 'ethnic' musician, Tsiavos' work, "is about consciously repudiating the tokenism that ethnicity often entails": his cultural touchstones create a new language made up of a strange grammar and syntax. Charged with emotion, often bare in its simplicity, accessing Ananke's work is like facing a vividly coloured abstract painting - multilayered, hard lines, soft edges, indistinct images, bewitching echoes of something once familiar, reconceived. For the latest recording, Ananke has journeyed again to the Mediterranean for inspiration. It's a theme that remains a regular driving force in the trio's ongoing 'project'.
But the impassioned canvas collectively painted by Tsiavos and his collaborators is not overly concerned with the alluring traditional icons of the Mediterranean, with its cosmetic reading of gentle folk traditions lived by a glittering bountiful sea. Ananke plumbs the depths of an altogether darker experience - lands and peoples touched by strife and displacement. The new CD, is in part, if not whole, a work that takes at its root, the experience of displaced diasporas over centuries; the ebb and flow of the tides of history felt by the cultures of southern Europe.
And what is it we will hear at the performance, I ask the bass virtuoso somewhat impertinently. It's like asking a Greek Australian Picasso or Rothko, what their marks on canvas will be, and what they mean.
"There's a bouzouki in there, and elements of Greek music," says Tsiavos, "but you see things from different perspectives. You get thrust into these soundscapes that toss you around. "The music is a deconstruction of the sense of loss and grief felt by the diaspora. The impetus was always about exploring that, but it also moved beyond that too."
"The audience goes on a journey. You enter this world which is at times epic and at times an intimate exploration of the interior world of the soul, the unconscious - but the molecular engine of all this emotion is still the voice of a single 'psyche' struggling to be heard. "It's bittersweet music - a touchstone to feelings that all of us keep contained." To lose yourself in Ananke's latest transcendent landscapes, head to Melbourne's Southbank next Saturday. You may just release something yearning to take flight.
Ananke perform at the Melbourne Recital Hall on Sat 10 Dec at 7.30 pm. Tickets $35 ($25 concession). Bookings on (03) 9699 3333 and www.melbournerecital.com.au
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