To this day, Danis Tragopoulos, Thanasis Chondros and Alexandra Katsiani form the greek avant-garde trio Δημοσιοϋπαλληλικό Ρετιρέ or Dimossioypalliliko Retire – meaning ‘Penthouse of the Civil Servant’. The band started organizing performances in Thessaloniki’s art galeries and self releasing cassettes and LPs in 1983. Their happenings were art events including sculptures and specific outfits, with costumes designed by Alexandra Katsiani, the latter sometimes sewing on stage. Their art background is akin to that of Berlin duo Die Tödliche Doris and generaly speaking, despite their uniqueness, they belong to a wider group of mavericks who created their own style. They launched an art galery in Thessaloniki called Alli Poli to showcase their art and performances. On a side note, they are the greek ambassadors of the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland utopian country created by Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Leif Elggren. Much of their output include spoken word and art-songs, often with political lyrics. Musically speaking, their songs use popular greek references as well as orthodox liturgy chanting or ancient greek music. Though supposedly untrained musicians, they use classical instruments like piano, acoustic guitar or flute, as well as abstract electronics, concrete sounds and the occasional location recordings. Their music ranges from sound poetry to romantic song, from concrete music to sprechgesang.
During the first years of Dim. Retire they only performed live for a series of eccentric events, and later went on to record and release their works. From the very beginning the collective adopted the principles of the most anti-conformist waves and movements of the avant-garde, drawing a line between them and the vast majority of the Greek underground scene. A sometimes surreal but always intense criticism of the life modern man leads and especially Greeks. One of their main weapons is of linguistic nature, making it sometimes difficult to translate it in a foreign language without loosing its meaning.
From 2002 to 2006, Dim. Retire published 9 issues of a self released, limited run magazine with accompanying music, now uploaded at their website. Their server’s limited capacity means downloading all these files actually takes several hours. This post gathers the music for the first 4 issues, with mp3 file names translated into english. What follows is a brief description of each album and download links to re-upped files.
Dimossioypalliliko Retire’s discography:
1987 Who Is Afraid Of Phenylketonuria?, cassette, Alli Poli, Greece
1988 Gesture, cassette
1989 The Other Side, LP Anokato Records AK015, Greece
1995 Janus, CD, Harsh Dept. Productions, Greece
1999 The Party, CD-R, Alli Poli, Greece
1999 0+, CD, EDO Records, Greece
+ compilation appearances:
ReR Quarterly Vol 2 No 4, Recommended Records, 1989
‘Apo Mikhanis Music’, Anokato Records, 1991
Thanks to Dmtls Merzbau for invaluable help writing this post.
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Notes for Panic Management
‘Σημειωσεισ για τη διαχειριση του πανικου’
Released October 11th, 2002
- When I Retire [Οταν θα βγω στη συνταξη] (9:58)
- Takeovers [Καταληψεισ] (6:49)
- Full Erection [Πληρησ στυση] (3:38)
- The Marbles Of Parthenon [Τα μαρμαρα του παρθενωνα] (4:11)
- Knowing [Γνωριζοντασ] (2:34)
- The Strangler [Ο Στραγγαλιστησ] (5:08)
- Fifty–Fifty [Φιφτυ φιφτυ] (4:47)
- The Teaching Of The Day [Το διδαγμα τησ ημερασ] (2:06)
Total time: 39:00
A provocative and highly individual release, ‘Notes for Panic Management’ incorporates elements from DADA sound poetry a la Raoul Hausmann, surrealist atmospheres, new-wave song writing, even grotesque punk art, so much so that it could pass for a survey of 20th c. avant-garde movements. Concrete noises abound: splashing water, lighting matches, flushing toilet, scissors, … on top of a guitar+bass+drum machine backbone. This is Dim. Retire in art-rock configuration. Even without understanding the lyrics, you still can smell the non-sense permeating the whole project. The openner is an a capella sound poetry performance by all members of the trio. Declamatory poetry and spoken words often return on following tracks – the trio’s signature. This music is full of energy and matter of fact ideas, you would think the first album by beginners. But there’s no trace of anger in here, no menacing vocals or noises. Excellent.
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A Civil War
Released February 15th, 2003
- It’s Dawning [Ξημερωνει] (4:20)
- Slogan [Συνθημα] (1:22)
- Firings [Πυροβολισμοι] (4:21)
- Soya Crabmeat [Καβουροψιχα απο σογια] (5:11)
- The Unconfessed Pleasure In Front of The Appalling
[Η ανομολογητη ηδονη μπροστα στ αηδιαστικο] (2:32)
- Old [Παλια] (3:20)
- The Perversion Of Institutionised Fear
[Η διαστροφη του θεσμοποιημενου φοβου] (1:31)
- Confession [Εξομολογηση] (3:14)
- Truce [Ανακωχη] (1:50)
- I Didn’t Imagine [Δεν φανταζομουν] (3:08)
- Newscast [Δελτιο ειδησεων] (2:46)
- Capitulation [Συνθηκολογηση] (2:38)
Total time: 36:10
‘The Civil War’ is less overtly avant-garde than ‘Notes for Panic Management’. A very consistent effort, the album is a collection of songs and a few instrumental tracks, the ensemble sounding organic, nostalgic and classical, with some very moving sad songs. Melodies are derived from ancient greek choir and instrumental music (known in the rest of Europe thanks to the spanish Paniaga brothers’ disc), as well as popular greek romances and film scores. An homage to greek popular culture, maybe. Band members use a profusion of real instruments: harmonica, piano, classical and electric guitar, violin, accordion, cello, trumpet, xylophone… Some instrumental passages sound like Only A Mother’s first album, while elsewhere the harmonica player is not afraid of Ennio Morricone reminiscences. Vocals are often beautiful, sometimes even hieratic, whereas in ‘Notes for Panic…’ it seemed no one could properly sing. Here, supreme dadasoph Dim. Retire show they master their instruments when required. I love this one.
Download 1+2 (Panic Management+A Civil War): 85.6mb
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Released June 7th, 2003
- Chapter A [Κεφαλαιο α] (2:42)
- The Song Of Paschalis [Το τραγουδι του πασχαλη] (2:43)
- Chapter B [Κεφαλαιο β] (1:23)
- Second Song [Δευτερο τραγουδι] (3:50)
- Chapter C [Κεφαλαιο γ] (2:37)
- Third Song [Τριτο τραγουδι] (1:47)
- Chapter D [Κεφαλαιο δ] (2:05)
- Fourth Song [Τεταρτο τραγουδι] (2:26)
- Chapter E [Κεφαλαιο ε] (2:33)
- Fifth Song of Paschalis
[Ο πασχαλησ τραγουδα απο μεσα του παντα] (1:48)
- Chapter F [Κεφαλαιο στ] (1:09)
- One More Song [Ενα ακομα τραγουδι] (2:35)
- Chapter G [Κεφαλαιο ζ] (0:54)
- Seventh Song [Εβδομο τραγουδι] (1:46)
- Chapter H [Κεφαλαιο η] (4:06)
- Eighth Song [Ογδοο τραγουδι] (1:11)
- Chapter I [Κεφαλαιο θ] (1:45)
- One More Song [Κι αλλο τραγουδι] (1:50)
- Chapter J [Κεφαλαιο ι] (2:10)
- The Tenth Song Of Paschalis [Το δεκατο τραγουδι του πασχαλη] (3:16)
- Chapter K [Κεφαλαιο ια] (2:08)
- Eleventh Song [Ενδεκατο τραγουδι] (1:17)
- Chapter L [Κεφαλαιο ιβ] (2:19)
- Paschalis Doesn’t Stop His Singing [Ο πασχαλησ δεν σταματα το τραγουδι] (2:13)
- Chapter M [Κεφαλαιο ιγ] (2:08)
Total time: 54:30
- (*) Note by Dmtls Merzbau: Sorry about being kind of obscene but I cannot avoid it if I want to explain this title. Archidi[-stis]=Orchis=Testicle. Here Dim. Retire use a neologism, generally the suffix –istis in Greek, among other uses, is used to indicate a musical instrument player, such as viol-istis [violinist] or arp-istis [harpist]. The construction of a word like archidistis [‘testiclist’] apart from its general provoking intention is more specifically used to criticise certain practices and ways of living in modern Greece.
Comparatively sparse and minimal, ‘Testiclist’ is a suite of very moving songs. I suspect this is the duo of Thanasis Chondros and Alexandra Katsiani, since the music is intimate and mostly one instrument+one voice. A concept album with returning topics and motifs. Vocals are gorgeous, sounding warm and exotic to my ears – though according to Dmtls Merzbau, they might be singing obscene texts. Some songs have a concrete/electronic accompanyment, though it remains in the minimal side. A collection of haunting, nonconformist songs.
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Released December 13th, 2003
Alexandra’s Dream [Το ονειρο τησ αλεξανδρασ]
01 I Will Dictate [Εγώ θα υπαγορεύω] (2:14)
02 An Enigma [Ένα αίνιγμα] (3:53)
03 If You Could See Too [Αν κι εσύ έβλεπες] (3:13)
04 The Night [Η νύχτα] (3:08)
05 A Chain [Μια αλυσίδα] (3:02)
06 The Tale [Το παραμύθι] (4:50)
Danis’ Dream [Το ονειρο του ντανη]
07 Dripping With Passion [Ποθοσταγής] (2:20)
08 The Horizon [Ο ορίζοντας] (3:25)
09 The Buzz Of The Bee [Της μέλισσας ο βόμβος] (2:47)
10 Their Teeth [Τα δόντια τους] (3:44)
11 Wings And Pretences [Φτερά και προσχήματα] (3:33)
12 I Have Written My Life [Έγραψα τη ζωή μου] (3:43)
Thanasis’ Dream [Το ονειρο του θαναση]
13 Art [Η τέχνη] (1:43)
14 I swim [Κολυμπώ] (3:13)
15 My Drawers [Τα συρτάρια μου] (4:21)
16 Sometime The Night [Κάποτε η νύχτα] (4:10)
17 That Swan [Εκείνος ο κύκνος] (3:51)
18 I Must Revolt [Να εξεγερθώ] (6:02)
Total time: 60:00
A chamber opera for people who can’t. This is an attempt at the most elementary form of opera, with roots in greek Attic tragedy, including background chorus commenting the action, actors playing several male or female parts, and declamatory texts. As Dim. Retire are skilled artists and stage designers, it seems appropriate to imagine ‘Romantische Strasse’ along colorful stage designing and exhuberant costumes. The fact that the title is in german might be evidence of german influences, and indeed comparisons can be established with Hans Werner Henze’s opera for children Pollicino (1980), Heiner Goebbels’ Hashirigaki (2000), or other experiments for untrained musicians. Not that the music sounds neoclassical – there’s still Dim. Retire’s unique weirdness in the air. It seems each member of the trio is telling a series of personal dreams in this 3-parts chamber opera. We find recurring themes throughout ; catching melodies ; prominent use of low bass rumbles. Mostly this is keyboard or sampler with real instruments’ samples (cello, brass, piano). By the way: is track #10 (‘Their Teeth’) a Paolo Conte impersonation, or what? This might be the satire part of a greek tragedy, then. Awesome, anyway.
Download Romantic Street.