Despite its proud political and intellectual history, its moderate climate and breathtaking landscape, Greece is a difficult place to call home. A debt crisis near the end of the last decade transformed the country from a tourist mecca that delivered its citizens a comfortable lifestyle into an economic pariah.
Ten years later, the national unemployment rate remains an extraordinary 21%. Youth unemployment is near 44%.
Imagine the frustration and pessimism that would build in a society faced with those figures. Phil Gardelis has put all of that to music on a stirring new piece aptly titled “Fragmented Lives.”
The 36-minute work is in two parts. From the album’s notes: “Anticipation is about hope that things can change in a better way … [L]ike every Greek, [Gardelis] had hope that something would change for the better after the Greek election two years ago.
“Realization is what comes after hope. It’s what is now. Greece is still in a crisis. Many people lost work and the election seems to be a mistake. Also the rest of the world seems stuck in a crisis with so many refugees and strange election results all over the world.”
“Fragmented Lives” consists primarily of Gardelis on tenor saxophone and guitar drones. Nima Aghiani is featured on violin and Babis Coltranis on drum cymbals. Gardelis has also added field recordings. It is a powerful, at times angry piece that portrays the day-to-day of life in Athens in a harsh light. It’s an economic primal scream.
Which is not to say that it lacks nuance. The trio’s reliance on non-electronic instruments reminds us that this is a human tragedy more than a financial one. Even the piece’s most intense moments are emotionally relatable.