Larry Gus is throwing a party, and we’re all invited. Panagiotis Melidis, the Greek-born producer and multi-instrumentalist, has been performing as Larry Gus since 2006. Years Not Living, his latest album, is a fun-but-dark take on dance music using a heady blend of live instruments and samples. Like every other party there are breaks and lulls, but it’s the high points that leave a lasting impression.
Just as you would spend most of a party hearing brief bursts of songs you half recognise, the same can be said for Years Not Living. Much of the album’s grooves and rhythms have more than a hint of Talking Heads about them. ‘The Sun Plagues’ wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Fear of Music’, especially when Melidis throws his voice in that particular Byrnesque way. ‘The Eternal and the Ephermeral’, with its “doo-doo” sample peppered throughout could easily be The Avalanches. Once ‘Pericles’ disperses with the 70s-rock-out intro it calls to mind ‘Don’t Hold The Wall’, from Justin Timberlake’s latest album. Before it morphs into the pitch-shifted, voice-of-Satan crescendo, of course. The rest of the songs have the same kind of energy as those early Go! Team demos or Matthew Dear, loose high end samples grounded by a solid live drum kit.
The album highlight though is the lead single ‘The Night Patrols (A Man Asleep)’. The circular bass line the current rolling beneath the splashes of percussion and swirling vocal loops. It’s that rare kind of special that sounds like absolutely nothing else. Melidis may enjoy referencing other artists, but if he’s been looking for his signature sound then here it is.
Put simply, when Melidis relies on a groove to push the songs forward, they work. Most of the album functions as a dance album, and a pretty good one at that. It’s the sections of the record where the focus is shifted, and Melidis tips his hat to the rock and pop music of the 60s or 70s or another by-gone era, that let the album down. There are only a few of these momentum-sapping moments though, and the fact they they are disappointing is a testament to the bewildering sense of fun running through the rest of the album.
Listening to Years Not Living may sound like a party, but it’s far from familiar. It’s a party in a foreign country that you’ve been led to by a friend, the one who’s in charge because he knows how to ask for a beer in the native language. You don’t really know anyone. The sights and sounds are disorientating. It may be odd, confusing even, but you have to make the most of your situation and just go with it. You only really remember the fun you had anyway.