Rebetika is a form of urban Greek music. The Sun Is Setting On The World collects together songs from the rebetika movement recorded between the 1930s and the 1950s. The songs are all dark in their subject matter with sorrow, loss, poverty and the end of the world hanging heavy in their lyrics. Tape on Death Is Not The End.
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LP on Death Is Not The End.
Just looking at the track titles on this thing you’d be excused if you thought this was the emo’st emo record that ever emo’d. Just look at them, ‘What Is My Blame World’, ‘I Ached in My Heart’, ‘When I Die’. I don’t know what was going in Greece in the mid-20th century but on the strength of the latest compilation from the wonderful Death Is Not The End, I’m going to have to assume it was nothing good.
‘The Sun Is Setting on the World’ offers us 14 tracks worth of rebetika, a kind of Greek folk music that uses the bouzouki (a long necked lute) and other string instruments. Despite the dourness of the lyricism, there’s that same sort of liveliness that comes whenever a musician can pluck a string instrument freely. Yorghos Kavouras’ ‘I Complain to the Society’ opens with some string instruments dancing around each other, it's almost happy.
But then the vocals kick in. And friend, if you thought the emo bands were mopey, you clearly haven’t listened to any rebetika. This lot are the most sorrowful bunch of singers I’ve ever heard. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but wow. They hold syllables, oscillating between different notes. It feels a bit like the glissando that is so prized in opera, but is much less alienating and immediate.
I suppose this could be the last line of any Death Is Not The End review, but I'm grateful to the label for helping me listen a little more widely. Even if this one is depressing as hell.
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