Greece has never been known as a hotbed of the progressive music scene. Composer/keyboardist Vangelis is probably better known among prog/rock aficionados for his collaborations with YES vocalist Jon Anderson than in establishing the legendary Greek band APHRODITE’S CHILD.
A quick glance through Greg Walker’s extensive Syn-Phonic Catalog of International progressive rock offerings can attest to the fact that Greece in not as well represented as many of their European counterparts. So this excellent double-disc release from the Greek group MK-O comes as a bit of a surprise. But it’s a disservice to this talented duo to pigeon-hole them under the singular moniker of progressive rock since the variety of music on UNREEL is so eclectic and diverse.
UNREEL is the follow-up to their 2006 debut album OVATION. MK-O is the collaborative effort of two Greek artists, Marina Kanavaki and Oannes.
Kanavaki studied art and music in London and Athens , combining her passion for classical piano and singing with art and design. Her art work has appeared in Smith’s Gallery ( London ) and Epohes Gallery ( Athens ). Marina Kanavaki released the solo album ‘POTE & TIPOTA’ (based on the poems of Elias Petropoulos) in 2000 on the Virgin/EMI label.
Before establishing MK-O multi-instrumentalist Oannes performed with a variety of rock and electronic groups, appearing on five albums as well as composing the music for several film scores. Drawing inspiration from classical composers Bach, Chopin and Debussy; psychedelic 60s’ rockers LOVE and THE VELVET UNDERGROUND; and artists such as THE STOOGES, ZAPPA, KING CRIMSON, BRIAN ENO and industrial metal group MINISTRY, one can hear the diverse musical influences reflected in the music of MK-O.
The 23 tracks on UNREEL are a delightful schizophrenic hodgepodge of 80s’ new wave ‘synth-pop’, eclectic avant-garde experimentations in psychedelia, electronic techno, new age ambience, and orchestral filmscore. Since the individual songs are so dissimilar, listening to the album is like discovering an obscure R.I.O. satellite radio station or a VARIOUS ARTISTS INDIE compilation. Each track is a new discovery on a strange aural adventure. I’m alternately reminded of groups like MAGMA, HENRY COW, ULTRAVOX, KRAFTWWERK, MIKE OLDFIELD, DEPECHE MODE, SOFT CELL , APHAVILLE, A TRIGGERING MYTH, IN THE NURSERY, early PINK FLOYD and PORCUPINE TREE , and the very first MINISTRY album “With Sympathy”. I even detected a hint of the superb symphonic progressive group KARDA ESTRA on the tunes “2ND INTRO” and “ Jerusalem ”.
15 out of the 23 tunes are instrumental – which is all for the best since Oannes’ vocals are not his strong suit - more monotone than melodic. Thankfully the same cannot be said of Marina Kanavaki, she’s an excellent vocalist with a breathy angelic voice, displaying a style very similar to Kate Bush – oftentimes using her voice as an instrument, as in the tunes ‘WE A’ and ‘ABSOLUTE’. The majority of the songs on UNREEL are sung in English but Kanavaki also performs a few in her native tongue.
If you are bored by the unwavering predictability of bands like OZRIC TENTACLES or THE FLOWER KINGS then this latest offering from MK-O should satisfy your musical wanderlust. This double-disc collection is chock full of music and pleasant surprises. On a scale of 1 to 10 I rank it a strong 8. Recommended.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on May 11th, 2009