Check this one into the DFA deep digs pile. US-based Milan-via-Greece producer Larry Gus, aka Panagiotis Melidis, uses free jazz and psychedelic pop samples to create compositions that sound like the bastard children of The Avalanches and Caribou. His new record Years Not Living, which follows the disappointing Silent Congas, probably sounds amateur for sample-based music elitists, also known as Dillaheads, but for those looking for a little weirdness in their music, it has enough charm to at least grab attention for a few spins.
Opening track With All Your Eyes Look introduces us to the bizarre, yet somehow familiar world of Larry Gus, combining the hectic nature of a Dan Deacon with the sunny disposition of Caribou. You do often find yourself playing spot the influence when listening to Years Not Living; whether Gus was actually influenced by these artists is irrelevant, because you feel like you’ve heard his music before. Occasionally, however, Gus is original; the AM radio pop of The Night Patrols (A Man Asleep) suddenly sports a groovy bass line that’s complemented by his deadpan, deep vocals. Eventually, the song becomes a dance track, at which point you realize that Gus isn’t so much a longform electronic artist who’s interested in music theory, arpeggios, peaks and valleys, but in travelling musically within songs and within albums by jumping from concept to concept, genre to genre.
Third track Taxonomies is an example of jumping to a totally new musical genre over the course of an album, if you consider incomprehensible psychedelic noise its own genre. Taxonomies is essentially two minutes of useless, stuttering vocal samples that’s weird but somehow acts as filler within Years Not Living, especially because it comes before the wonderful, groovy, fuzzy The Sun Plagues, a perfect electronic recreation of psych rock and soul using samples. In fact, The Sun Plagues is sandwiched by two weak tracks, Taxonomies and the more up-tempo, self-righteous The Eternal And The Ephemeral, which finds Gus singing about suffering and a conceited title.
Overall, Years Not Living is sequenced smartly, its high points mixed with the lows, keeping interest levels up because you never know when another gem might show up. It’s impossible to listen to the album and be satisfied; it’s also impossible to it and be entirely put off. The album is inconsistent throughout. And even if Gus displays a realized, recognizable sound, that sound is only recognizable as the sum of its parts. Most notably, you spend the whole album waiting for something that sounds like an Ariel Pink track, and lo and behold, it arrives in the form of In Violet Ink (Misprints). Gus must realize that putting psychedelic, sitar-era George Harrison-esque effects on guitars is short of a unique and worthwhile stamp, yet it seems like there isn’t one song on Years Not Living that isn’t laden with such unoriginal psychedelic wash.
Nonetheless, the album ends strongly. After the Southern-tinged, nonsensical, avant garde The Percival Seascapes, closing track Paths Laid Down opens with guitar chords not far removed from Vampire Weekend’s Hannah Hunt and Old Weird America-esque lyrics not far removed from Daughn Gibson, as Gus sings, “Don’t you die alone,” as if to encourage the revival of the hippie communes whose collective drug trips seemingly inspire Gus’s music. Most importantly, however, Paths Laid Down showcases Gus’s ability to be catchy. In sum, A DFA artist such as Gus doesn’t have to be dancey to be catchy, but he has to offer something to which one can willingly return. In that aspect, Gus succeeds a few times, but he still has a way to go.