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One of the interesting things to discover while listening to different composers is to hear how their culture influences their style. I met Fivos Valachis on SoundCloud over a year ago and when I listened to his compositions for the very first time, I thought, “Wow, I could have known he is from the Mediterranean even if I didn’t check the information on his profile”. Those Mediterranean motifs are shining in Fivos’s compositions and his playing style, making them sound so bright and authentic. No wonder that Fivos Valachis has around 6 thousands followers on SoundCloud, who have played his tracks over 2 million times.
“A Day In Venice” is the second album released by Fivos, and appeared in November, 2014.
It opens with the title track, and is gently hypnotizing with its repetitive circles of arpeggios supporting a spacious, brilliant melody. It is so gracefully and masterfully performed by the composer himself. I can surely sense the folklore, and the Greek influence shaping the track and its ending.
Following this is “Looping Nocturne”, supporting its name with bluesy harmonies which are continuous, creating a loop as the title suggests. It immediately became a personal favourite due to my love for jazz and more spacious playing, witnessed in this particular composition. The dynamics of the piano vary from explosive to “sotto voce”. This is what I refer to as a “dramatic theatrical” combination, in spite of the chilled jazz chords. The melody is fairly minimalistic and perfectly complements the edginess and richness of this music.
Another totally different mood and style is shining through the next track, “Color your life - Yellow”. I appreciate the space in the intro before the next story is shared: very energetic rhythmic patterns follow the empty start. Then Fivos brings in the true modern piano style: broken measures, lovely contrasting highs and rumbling lows, intertwined with spaces. The playing reminded me of one of my favourite pianists, Tori Amos, as she usually attacks keys in a similar way.
The fourth track, “Trip in mind”, starts with an intro that is a contrast to the previous composition’s ending. It is nostalgic, introducing echoing melodies yet building tension and suspense with tempo changes, like a wandering mind at ease, exposing the subconscious. My favourite part starts around the middle of the track with a very low and solid chord progression, topped by spacious melody. I hear so many storylines in this single piece. The details are meaningful, emotional, contrasting one another, and it all creates a haunting effect. I would listen to this again numerous times, not least for the lush jazzy chord at the end.
“Memories - You and me on the beach” sounds like a lovely pop song with synthesized choir, reminding me of another great talent on keys - Elton John. The positive vibe is so different from the nostalgic mood of the previous story that it immediately brought a smile to my face. I could easily sing along to the melody, and lyrics would come just as easy! This is a treasure of a musical language, connecting any culture or style together, and I am grateful to Fivos for being such a powerful composer and pianist.
The following track, “An old photo”, includes some wandering harmony moves, many of which are semitonal or diminished, adding bitter-sweetness to the overall mood. The waltzing at the middle and the elegance of the melody, runs and delivery are definitely worthy of comparison with such maestros as Chopin. This was another tune that left me speechless and became one of my favourites of this album.
As a long standing fan of Fivos, I immediately thought of “Sunrise at Meteora” as of a signature track: Fivos’s authentic influences and his interesting inspiring compositions combine modern with neoclassical, emotional with spacious, cinematic with meditative.
Eighth track of the album, “Racines, Une Histoire, Nocturne”, brought another name to my mind, that I’ve known for years: Richard Clayderman. The nocturne sounds adventurous, exquisite and very melodic, not to mention passionate. I was overwhelmed by surprising harmonies and by the soaring melody.
“On the road again” contains a very enjoyable gradual build up of the tempo and multiple echoing rhythms and melodies, giving it a rushing feel. The piece has an interesting combination of highly explosive original chords and high-speed runs, topped with abrupt endings.
“The next film” is, as name suggests, cinematic in its nature. The track as a whole comes across as a variation of the central phrase constantly travelling through registers, scales and middle Eastern motifs. This “next film” was dramatic and very colorful!
“New day”, the eleventh track, sounded epic to me, both vibrant and a little wild. It showed the unleashed energy with every triumphant chord.
“Conversing by myself” is a little lonely, thoughtful, moody, at times dissonant and most of all, original track. It feels almost like a “Moonlight Sonata”: mysterious and enchanted, like stepping into an artist’s secret room, reflecting his soul.
“Greek in Vienna” is a track full of amazement, with a touch of a childlike, naive atmosphere. As my six-year-old son was listening to the album with me, he had the urge to comment on this music, describing it as a little bit sad. I very much liked the waltzing melodies, reminding me of Tchaikovsky with the passion of “Black Eyes” Russian tango song.
The following track, “Ithaka”, has a surprising arrangement: a blend of an electro trance and Eastern motifs around the original piano line.
The album ends with the bonus track “Untitled Canvas by Jensfelger, Variations by Fivos Valachis”, the groovy R&B beat of which is composed by Jens Felger, with guitar parts also played by Jens. This is a chillout tune enhanced with Fivos’s recognisable and stylish playing: trills and interesting harmonies on top of a groovy R&B beat, paired with an acoustic guitar.
“A Day In Venice” has become one of my favourite albums, which I highly recommend for everyone who loves piano solo.
It’s original, bright and authentic.
A Day In Venice by Fivos Valachis - Φοιβος Βαλαχής
Album review by Milana Zilnik
Proof-reading by Arty Sandler