Epavlis Pavlakis is the moniker under which in 1999 Greek composer Pavlos Vakalos started exploring the confluence of music and speech/voice. In a recent conversation we had he shared with me three of his self-released albums made between 2003-2006. It took him two years to complete each one of them and the process involved the meticulous gathering of speech-sounds, field recordings and self-designed musical patterns filtered by his life experiences and occurrences. By listening to these works I found his motions circling inside a nebula of voices at times reciting poems, at times engaging with everyday conversations. His selection of speech and voice however sounded to me blurred, collaged or contrasted with familiar and unfamiliar snippets of found sounds and music, not always aiming to making sense but creating however interesting dynamics and textures.
?n the case of Epavlis Pavlaki’s “Christos Laskaris”, the territory exposed is that of an observer whose existentialist words coexist with aloof and bleak soundscapes. The album was originally created in 2009 when Vakalos, inspired by the haunting voice of the poet, decided to work on ten compositions or as he coins them “comments” on the poems of Laskaris. In our conversation he insisted on the fact that his approach was not to set the words to music or to follow them but to create a hybrid universe of electronic sounds that exist in parallel to the text and to pay homage. The need to create this album was also influenced by a relationship to the poet that grows beyond the context of this record, found in Laskari’s everyday life in the Greek city of Patras where since 2004, he maintained a close friendship with Vakalos’s family.
Laskaris was a poet who for the most part lived in Patras, following a conventional life and using poetry as a means to exorcise the mundane and alienated post-war Greece.
Unlikely to most of his contemporaries, Laskaris’ poetry was not intended to speak about the traumas of war. On the contrary he chose a solitary route whose laconic verses, even though personal, spoke deeply about the collective. By listening to Epavlis Pavlakis “Christos Laskaris”, this trajectory of memories is expanded, refreshed and repurposed. The music helps a big deal to facilitate the process without being interpretative, obtrusive or overbearing. By being minimal and respectful to the grey landscape of Laskaris, the composer has managed to provide a beautiful conversation with the crucial moments of the poems and to let the words be brought to life by the poet’s reading voice, its pauses and pace. Both music and poetry give hints but it’s the listener’s work to attach meanings to them, to let their intimate, personal “building materials” seep through in a Bachelardian kind of motion.
The poems selected for this album provide a good example of the different themes explored through Laskari’s writing: the mechanistic, asphyxiating and lonely life in the city ( “Lone Travellers”, “Super Market”), the recurring fear and agony of absence (“Dream”, “Finishing” “Sunday Winter Afternoons”) or the beauty of madmen and outcasts (“ Van Cough”). His universe contains colors and aphorisms also encountered in the music of Lena Platonos or in the flipside reality of anarchist poetess Katerina Gogou. His recitation in this particular work offers a fresh look into how he might have wanted his poems to sound like. The low-key delivery of Laskaris in “In the clinic” metamorphoses the theme of death to the nostalgia of another place, the place of childhood where warmth still resides in the guise of memory; a theme also present in pieces like “Deposition”. Pavlakis does a great job letting these images unfold and breathe without leading to misinterpretations.
The use of the word image is important when it comes to understanding Laskaris, a poet whose writing was often compared to the eye of a photographer. Expression through words provided to him a much needed space to reinvent himself in. This record is perhaps a result of such an attempt. Laskaris recorded his voice reading some of his poems years before his passing in 2008 only this time for these to be brought to light and be given a new life via the hands of Epavlis Pavlakis. The album closes with the repeating phrase that can roughly be translated as follows: “Neither happy, nor unhappy, just a surface upon which time slides”. That surface to me feels like an open space, perhaps a mirror, upon which slide the listener’s estuaries of individual memory.
Epavlis Pavlakis “Christos Laskaris” is released by Granny Records and comes as a clear vinyl record with beautiful artwork by Opora.
– Maria Papadomanolaki for Fluid Radio