For this writer’s money, the best excavations take a broad view. There are a lot of “lost scene” compilations out there, and many of them rely too heavily on the cache of a particular era or locale and slack on quality control. Take Italo disco, for example. For every “I.C. Love Affair” there must be a dozen nameless, mindlessly cheesy tracks that should have been left to rest in peace. But they end up populating retrospectives anyway because they are rare, or part of a particular scene, or perhaps the compiler just liked them. It’s a problem that spans virtually every genre, be it minimal wave or Pakistani pop. The compilation selected by mood — one that unfurls like a Mancuso-style DJ mix and takes in a range of styles and years — is a rare bird. Into The Light: A Journey Into Greek Electronic Music, Classics & Rarities (1978-1991) achieves this ideal.
Even its title (“electronic”) is broad, and its years have seemingly been extended to include some pre- and post-1980s gems. Although its focus is opulent, organic, slow-motion disco, this openness allows it plenty of room to maneuver. Dimitris Petsetakis’ “Clearance Part I + II,” for example, is a beatless, new age jungle simulation in its first movement, but develops a circular, rite-like, vaguely African (albeit mechanized) rhythm in the second. The collection spans from these spots of tranquility to more straightforward dance material, but it is interconnected by a sense of patient hypnotism. Even 141 G’s “What You Gonna Do” (12″ Dub Version), which begins like a typical boogie-ish disco track with its twangy bass, chirpy guitar, cowbell, and ebullient piano, ends up in a kind of subtle psychedelia, as the smear effects on its vocoder penetrate the instrumental. George Theodorakis’ “Stou” develops in a similar way. Initially tightly wound, its synth and clavinet arpeggios open up into a freewheeling jam, inflected with the use of unusual scales, at least within the European canon. This sense of looking across the Mediterranean also pervades the slap-bass-and-string infused “Roots” (12″ Extended Version) by Syndrome, though its eventual interplay between searching, yearning vocals and wavering synthetics is anything but cheap exoticism.
Virtually every track here offers a glimpse at what was clearly a fertile decade (plus) for Greek musicians. They warrant comparison to everything from the first edition of Computer Incarnations For World Peace to Nuel’s Trance Mutation; as on those albums, a careful modulation of moods is maintained throughout. One wonders how often Akis’ sparse but hopeful title track was heard in Ibiza or Northern Italy back in the day — it certainly deserves to have. Michalis Rakintzis’ “Arrest” may be totally “Miami Vice” with its wailing guitar and synthetic backdrop (especially the pitch-shifted vocals), yet just try denying it. It’s somewhat of an anomaly, however. As a whole, the compilation shows a generation in thrall to new technology, but not willing to let it override a sense of earthiness.