Aggelos Baltas is a veteran of the global electronic music scene, responsible for a handful of celebrated EBM 12"s as Dream Weapons, and a particularly heady and open-ended brand of krautrock as Fantastikoi Hxoi. His newest project, Anatolian Weapons, was conceived as a way to bring together these two seemingly mismatched concepts, with the polyrhythmic percussion and wailing tones of Greek folk music serving as their unlikely bonding agent. His output garners praise particularly around the Golden Pudel scene, such as Vladimir Ivkovic, and Phuong Dan. Lena Willikens, from the same circle, included Baltas’ track “Disillusioned” on her Dekmantel Selectors compilation in 2018.
But where much of what Baltas has released as Anatolian Weapons is instantly recognizable as dance music, To The Mother Of Gods—Baltas’ debut album for Beats In Space—is something else entirely. Created in tandem with Greek folk musician Seirios Savvaidis, it is a work of simultaneous collaboration and subtraction whose meticulous construction becomes more apparent with every listen. An album-length exploration of what happens when the principles of dance music are applied to pre-digital musical modalities. It is a record of psychedelic folk music that has more in common with Kikagaku Moyo, Minami Deutsch, and the Habibi Funk label than it does with anything else Baltas has produced under any alias. It’s difficult to imagine this music in any kind of club setting.
And yet, it’s very much the work of a DJ. Baltas initially heard Savvaidis’ music through a friend, and was absolutely amazed. “It was his very esoteric, pagan [music and] beautiful lyrics that grabbed me,” he writes. Seirios is a composer and performer of traditional Greek folk music with a growing discography of regional psych-rock gems. Baltas reached out to collaborate and the seeds of To The Mother Of Gods were sown.
Savvidis contributed stems of ten songs, which Baltas deconstructs and rearranges with appreciation of the ancestry of their lineage and of the deceptively ancient eerie, droning qualities inherent in the style. Occasionally augmenting Savvaidis’ recordings with his own, Baltas treats these elements as if raw materials for an architectural process.
To The Mother Of Gods showcases Baltas’ arrangement skills. He treats Savvaidis’ songs as landscapes, filling them with slanted, droning light and setting the singer’s vocals in dead center. His years behind the decks have given him an intuitive understanding of dynamics—drums crest and recede like tides, snippets of bassline repeat and swirl. He knows how to entrance, and when to push the music from the head to the body. Opener “Taratchi Katarratchi” (“Stormy Cataract”) is sung as a spell to ward off the fear of death, but Baltas’ orchestration demonstrates that dancing is an equally effective way of dispelling the darkness. The beat he assembles from Savvaidis’ playing recalls the late-night ecstasies of Primal Scream circa Screamadelica.
To The Mother Of Gods is a reminder that folk music and dance music are both powered by their audience as much as the musicians themselves. Savvaidis’ lyrics echo pagan Greek themes, touching on what Baltas calls “the magic of nature.” At times, as on “Kalesma” (“Invitation”), this can feel incantatory. Savvaidis chisels his vocal melodies into hard, clipped syllables, their cadence recalling Gregorian chant, and yet Baltas cloaks these details in washes of distortion. “Ston Stavraito” (“In Stavraithos”) is delivered with a lamentive tenderness that Baltas swells into a prideful stomp, immersing Savvaidis in marching drums and distant vocals that form a resilient protest-song.
To The Mother Of Gods is a testament to the ongoing and innate truth that music can take us beyond ourselves. That repetition and drone can shepherd us to a liminal space beyond thought and rationality, where the wall between perception and reality does not exist. Call it spirit, if you want, and watch as it courses its way through modern-day dance music, mid-century psych, and the ancient sounds of the anatol.