RCA 1978 / Esoteric 2013
Pictures of Paris as seen through synthetic oscillations of a singular mind.
Abstract or not, Evangelos Papathanassiou has always been a master of melody, yet his dark streak started to loom large as early as on APHRODITE’S CHILD’s “666” and reached the ultimacy here, on the Greek’s last album for RCA. Skeptic say, then, that the tuneless gloom of the record was the artist’s way of parting unpleasant company, yet the piece’s quality screams against such a suggestion. Its two parts, one per LP side, might be a new way of making musique concrète, if they weren’t so solid a depiction of Paris, the city where composer lived and which he loved, or, to be exact, of French capital’s grey district wherein Centre Georges Pompidou is a hi-tech color spot.
Improvised on a synthesizer in what seem like a single take, “Beaubourg” – remastered by Vangelis and sonically enhanced now to correct the previous versions’ errors – is an arresting reflection of the place’s look and mood, its tonal experimentation wrapping around the listener’s ears thanks to a clever stereo-panorama. Random rhythm set to the cosmic sounds of varying length and loudness, “Part I” fluctuates from a string-like waves to percussive bursts, with not a note to remind of traditional keyboards audio. It’s a mind-trip in slow motion, although occasionally the sparkling belches speed up – only to dissipate into a nebula again – and crystallize into clangs. In its turn, the nocturnal “Part II” explores less eclectic tropes, the upper register shaping up a quasi-symphonic pattern, while the lower one nears a tectonic shift, and when the two meet at an insistently buzzing junction before going their separate ways, joie de vivre oozes out of it before the drift dissolves in crepuscular fatigue.
So pay attention to the album’s title: unlike the music, it’s as concrete as it gets, and there’s an urban wonder in these sounds which renders “Beaubourg” an eerie classic.