CD reviews

Andreas Hourdakis – “Underworld”

Andreas Hourdakis – Underworld
(Bolero Records BOL5044. CD review by Rob Mallows)
Deftness of touch and melodic subtlety is not an adjective one might associate with a guitarist who, among his side-hustles, is guitarist for Bitchhawk, a Swedish hardcore-punk-sludge-neo-trash band who, frankly, make an absolute racket (which is no bad thing).
Yet Swedish guitarist Andreas Hourdakis is nothing it not versatile, and his third album with his jazz trio, shows that whatever genre he plays in, he is a super-inventive player.
You won’t find any hardcore sturm or drang on this album. Instead, it is replete with laid-back, at times almost soporific tunes. It is also achingly beautiful.
Playing with Hourdakis are his regular trio compadres, Ola Winkler on drums and Martin Höper on acoustic bass. On the face of it, their sound and playing seems pretty standard, jazz guitar trio stuff. And in some respects, it is.
But, examine this music at a microscopic, almost atomic level of detail, and that’s where – in the choice of inversions, the passing notes, the sustain – the magic happens.
A number of the track on the album are – not surprisingly perhaps, given Hourdakis’ Greek heritage – on the subject of Greek mythology, but each song is more of a lyric poem than a full-blown heroic epic.
Opening stanza Unto a Star offers a low-key start, with lots of angular runs and very few chord soundings.
On Craftsman a jaunty little bass riff by Höper opens proceedings, over which Hourdakis gets out his palette and paints a kaleidoscope of colours. The quality of the thinking behind the composition is self-evident throughout.
Talos was a giant automaton in Greek mythology made by the Gods to protect Europa in Crete from pirates. There is nothing bulky or threatening about Talos Run, however. It spreads out gently like concentric ripples on a pond stone, until there’s a step-change and guest keyboardist Daniel Karlsson (a bandmate in Magnus Öström’s band) and Hourdakis duel in a light-touch, safety-catch-on sort of way.
The track starts so laid-back it’s almost horizontal, but it is all about the denouement and a sweet solo from Höper, backed up by effortlessly simple drumming from Winkler, especially on the ride cymbal. Karlsson’s playing adds an ethereal, dream-like feel to what is the best track on the album.
Aiwass, the next track, was evidently a mysterious being summoned by Aleister Crowley who dictated one of his most famous works to the author, This ghostly idea is brought to life by a conversation between Hourdakis and Tobias Winklund on cornet.
Hourdakis here is all about the arpeggios and runs, allowing the bassist to wend his way stealthily in between. The peppery playing by Winklund is never over-wrought, sitting very much the right side of uncomfortable, increasingly so as the track develops.
Midnight is a cup-of-Horlicks sort of a track, one that you could happily fall asleep too, the sweet tone of the guitar offering no rough edges whatsoever to break the mood; while On Matter is a touch more metaphysical, Hourdakis’ playing proving as malleable as gold, but equally as lustrous.
On Gaynmede, the chords glide around like the heavenly body around Jupiter after which it presumably is named. Homer described Ganymede – of the eponymous moon – as the most beautiful of mortals, and this track, with an extra touch of echo, aims to reflect that assessment.
The Express, meanwhile, ups the pace, delivering more urgency from bass and drums, yet even here Hourdakis doesn’t depart from his crystal clear, point-perfect playing. Winkler’s drum solo over a simple chord pattern, with great snare work, deserves a round of applause.
On Underworld – a gossamer-thin, stretched out filo pastry of a track – Hourdakis’ guitar playing pulses in and out over the quietest of accompaniments by the other two thirds of the trio, to great effect.
This is not an album marked by variety, surprise or great leaps of sonic invention. Indeed, there seems little to draw the listener up out of his or her seat. This lack of variation and sonic adornment might, you think, jar.
But that’s not the point. This is an album all about the beauty of Hourdakis’ tone as he liberates each notes from the fretboard. It’s one in which the listener can simply wallow in the joyful iridescence of the music.

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