Review of Galliard Syndrome’s Velvet Rings: A Musical Expression of Carpe Diem

To appear soon on Wellesley Underground.

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Image of Galliard Syndrome provided with permission by Christos Ntanos

Music. It’s more universal than cultural ties or genetic bonds, though my introduction to Galliard Syndrome arose from both. A few years ago my cousin, a now newly minted PhD engineer from Athens, Christos Ntanos, introduced me to Galliard Syndrome’s “Velvet Rings” video. Michael Andritsopoulos, who was an original member of the band on guitar, composed the score and wrote the lyrics for the video produced under The Leaders Records label. Current members of Galliard Syndrome include vocalist Dimitris Barbas, Ilias Mitatos, on guitar, Christos Ntanos, on keyboards and production, Serafeim Georgousopoulos, on bass guitar, and Michalis Galanis, on drums.

The opening bars of “Velvet Rings” transport you from the cement-walled office you might be occupying to a sunlit morning in an Athens park with the distinctly Greek sounds emanating from a single guitar. The buoyant chorus, the feel-good vibes, the patent joy in the upbeat sound will have you instantly hooked. The whimsical video features the romps of an initially untethered dog who, with a woman companion later, leads us from morning to night as the companion disseminates fliers for the band. We also follow the band from relaxing and grounded on verdant grass to a rooftop at sunset which later evolves into night. This diurnal, unending cycle seems to be the basis of the song about the indefinitely persisting velvet rings. In the video we encounter the development of life in a individual day, a musical version of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, from a young couple admiring an ultrasound of a fetus to an elderly woman reflecting on photographs from her youth. The life cycle repeats itself, as in the lyrics of the song, which parallels the infinite evolution of the universe as well. The idea of infinity is indicated by the band’s logo, a Mobius strip fashioned into an infinity symbol. The song elucidates that this is the rationale, presumably for everything. It’s true; if right now you are buried beneath the psychic burdens of life or perhaps the existential meaningless of it all, watch the “Velvet Rings” video. You will unleash your joy, recall your youth, and recognize the importance of relishing the present, a moment you share with the band and audience on a rooftop in Greece. Galliard Syndrome’s Velvet Rings is a musical and visual expression of carpe diem.

Naturally when I heard of Galliard Syndrome’s 2015 Velvet Rings album release by The Leaders Records, I was eager to discover more novel sounds from the band. Velvet Rings contains much of the same feel-good, joyous tones, though with an eclectic potpourri from other musical traditions and philosophies creating a dynamic, fresh collection of distinct songs, an antidote to the stale overly electronic sounds that dominate the radio waves. The album is a musical journey from a peaceful Celtic mood conjured in “Celtic Forest,” produced by virtual symphonic instruments, to a heavier metallic frustrated rage expressed in both the lyrics and music of “Pissing against the wind” and “Your Love is a Game.” “S.M.S.” (“Save My Soul”) elicits a combination of lyrical, symphonic sounds as well as more electronic ones in a collaborative project with the Youth Choir of Lycee Leonin with lyrics based on the students’ fears and dreams. As the song progresses, the choir of teenagers accompanies the band’s vocalist, Barbas. The dichotomy of the chorus and Barbas creates a beauty in its balance and reinforces the band’s theme of unifying generations.

The album’s song “Ode to Beer” is also a mixed lyrical and slightly electronic-sounding song that might be a substitute (or a co-conspirator) to its suggestion (to consume alcohol) for coping with a soul-robbing experience. Although at times it seems beyond the vocalist’s range, this doesn’t detract much from the song’s expression of a drunken despair. “Under One Sky” is a song sung twice, once in Greek with a Greek folk feel and once in English with the band’s more signature sound. I prefer the English version as it is more compatible with the vocal range of Barbas. Although I am ignorant of the Greek folk song’s translation, the English version’s advice not to surrender parallels vibes, both in lyrics and music, of some of the band’s other songs.

The album also features a number of songs in Greek most of which possess similar addictive choruses and lively melodies that characterize Galliard Syndrome’s English language songs. Some of the songs are inspired more by folk roots, others more by rock ones. Though I can’t translate the lyrics, retaining the Greek language for some of the pieces captures a diverse and ethnic authenticity that enables you to take part of a cultural experience, to travel via music to Greece.

In “Galliard” we hear a lyrical, bittersweet song accompanied by the sounds of ocean about meeting again in some possible future. It leaves you with thoughts of parting and impermanence, in contrast to the perpetuity of “Velvet Rings.” Incorporating water as an instrument lends a sense of life’s journey to the piece.

In “Everlasting Feast,” Galliard Syndrome returns to a carpe diem theme of “Velvet Rings” with a slightly less folk and more electronic feel. The lyrics capture the same impression of savoring the beauty, dreams, and lights in life, the stars in the night sky as opposed to the black-hole oblivion to which humanity seems to be careening (if you’re too cognizant of the media). In the song, which constructs a space-music ambiance that could easily be at home in a planetarium, the uplifting lyrics are synchronous with an equally positive musical accompaniment. “Everlasting Feast” is, indeed, a musical fountain of youth that can rejuvenate even one afflicted with a psychological arthritis and induce her to get up and dance.

In short, Galliard’s album Velvet Rings, features diverse musical sounds and ideas and lyrics, often converging within a single song. The overall caliber of all of the songs achieves a level almost unmatched by a single rock album, which usually contains songs of mixed quality. Although some of the songs will provide you with misery-loves-company community for those days you feel the dreary bruises that befall us all, overall, the album leaves you in an optimistic state of mind seeking to fill your day with pleasure and the pursuit of your dreams.

Do you need to refresh your brain? Are you stagnating in a less than optimal place, either physically, emotionally, or elsewhere in your life? Do you need to escape the dregs of your existence, even just for a few moments? Then I prescribe viewing Galliard Syndrome’s “Velvet Rings” video or listening to their album for a jaunt in Greek-rock sounds and images. Music. Inspiration. In Galliard Syndrome’s Velvet Rings you will find a combination of both providing therapy for the soul.

Bravo.

 

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