Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ohra Speirohaiti - early demos

I've been sitting on a couple of Ωχρά Σπειροχαίτη demos for over a decade now. Seeing as they (apparently) haven't been digitized yet - or, if they did, failed to reach a safe haven open to the public - I thought I'll do it myself. Truth is, this particular issue also cropped up recently in the band's blog; it seems that they have lost track of their early (pre-1994) recordings acetates & were left with barely listenable, worn-out tapes - one more reason to rip them myself. Not to mention, also, that not only I but also these tapes are not getting any younger; or that I strongly wish that everyone listened to this material; or numerous other things - I don't know why I feel the urge to justify myself for ripping these tapes & I am not interested in psychoanalysis of the online-variety either, so I'll just stop excusing myself here & proceed with the details.

As usual, people who have heard of Ωχρά Σπειροχαίτη (greek for Treponema Pallidum - the spirochaete bacterium associated with syphilis) already know everything I know, & people who haven't have a slew of other bands to check out, so this is a loose-loose situation pure & simple. & yet, uninterested as I am in baring my soul (argh!) in front of an invisible (maybe even nonexistent) public, I remain very much interested in telling stories that I like to tell & so I'll go on & tell this particular little story too. You can scroll down to the download links for all I care, I doubt you'll learn anything useful by reading on. Meanwhile, I'll just say that one of the most spectacular things regarding this band is their ability to also grasp people who don't speak the language: I've traded cd-r copies of their first cd twice - once with a serbian friend & once with Jeremy Toomey (omnipresent in world punk circles), & they both singled it out among several other recordings & contacted the band. (Jeremy even wanted to feature one of their tracks in a compilation he was preparing at the time; I'm not sure what came out of this, but I believe that nothing happened in the end.)

I'm not sure when I heard of them for the first time, but I remember very clearly how I got to sit on these tapes. Sometime in the mid-'90s (no later than 1997; not earlier than 1995), I was in my room with my (now ex-)girlfriend listening to - what else? - Radio Utopia. A track came on, my girlfriend saw the light, & suddenly I had to call the radio station to find out who the band was. The person on the other end of the line proceeded to mention the name Ωχρά Σπειροχαίτη, to which I must have produced a null reaction; somehow he offered to dub a couple of tapes he had in his disposal & then drop them off at Villa Varvara (the pride of the local squat scene at the time), where I was supposed to subsequently pick them up. The week after the phone call I stopped, indeed, by the little library at the squat, spoke my name, & was handed a couple of Maxell UR60's chokefull of Ωχρά Σπειροχαίτη material. The ownership of the tapes must have switched immediately to my girlfriend, as I was unimpressed by the song on the radio (& remained unimpressed as she played these tapes in my room); I only saw them again when we broke up, at which point she returned to me certain items of mine still in her possession. These two tapes were among these possessions (my choice of the word 'possessions' is not accidental), although I had even forgotten their very existence by that point. We also managed to catch them live once - in Villa Varvara - in a beautiful show, probably in '97, in the little room to the left with the bee-like light fixture. (My girlfriend managed to catch them live once again, in one of Radio Utopia's 3-day festivals; I've no idea why I wasn't there, apart from the fact that I often tend to be despairingly stupid.) I don't recall the setlist, apart from a song whose lyrics they attributed to a poet known to be christian; & I recall that, because they made a neat job of explaining their decision to set these verses into music (these verses being, with near-absolute certainty, T.S. Eliot's 'The Hollow Men;' the song found its way in their second cd in a most dazzling performance). Varvara itself was evicted in the following months; the bee-like light fixture moved to the Biologica squat; & I still hadn't fell for the band.

When I moved out of Salonica a year after, the tapes crossed the atlantic with me - I don't know why. Finally, near the end of 2001, I got hit (& got hit hard): while studying with one of my roommates, we played a little game where one would pick a number & the other would find the tape corresponding to it counting from the top; then, we'd listen to that tape. Thus I ended up listening to these tapes again, after I don't know how many years, & this time I did fall for them. I contacted the band immediately, asking whether there was other material; they replied 13 months later (meanwhile I had copied their first cd from a friend - 'half-roommate,' as the inner joke goes - back in Salonica, which was passed to him by his ex-girlfriend) asking for an address to which they could mail their new cd, assuming I was still interested. (The band distributes their material free of charge; in fact, they hold very specific views on commercial & monetary relations in general - visit their blog to find out more.) I was (still interested), which is how I got to listen to the best recording of that year & one of the most spectacular records that have graced my ears to this day.

This is, then, the little, innocuous, irrelevant, & incoherent story of these tapes. Be sure that all the demons on this earth conspired so that these tapes become unlistenable as well: apart from having been dubbed by who-knows-what-generation tapes themselves, flying back & forth quite a few times, & being generally mistreated in a way that only tapes can & do handle, they have also been played extensively by both me & the aforementioned ex-girlfriend. & still, they're very much listenable... Seize the opportunity & enjoy.

P.S.: Some technical notes: the artifact (slight discontinuity) in track IA08 at around 3:13 is due to the fact that the track is the result of stapling together two tracks: Side A of the tape run out (remember tapes?) & the dubbing continued in Side B... Tracks IB07 & IIA08 are also butchered: the second halves of these tracks are missing for the same reason (luckily, you can find both tracks in the band's first cd). The artifact in the beginning of track IIB01, on the other hand, should be recognizable to anyone who grew up with tapes. Note that I also decided not to split track IIB06 into two tracks, as I should, since there's no clear cut - 'Αλίκη' merges into 'Ραμποειδές.' & finally, most of the tracks contained here may be found (in reworked versions) in the band's first cd - the ones that are not are IA04, IA05, IA06, IA07, IA08, IB04, IB05, IIA05, IIA07, & IIB06.


(tape I)
IA01. Δερβίσης (1991)
IA02. Απελπίζομαι Καθολικά (1987)
IA03. Μπαλάντα Για Μια Λυπημένη Χώρα (1987)
IA04. Ρεκβιέμ Για Μια Αυτοκτονία Στο Στρατό (1988)
IA05. Μια Εισαγωγή (1991)
IA06. Ένα Μονόπρακτο Για Να Μην Πεις (1989)
IA07. Της Σαπφούς
IA08. (άτιτλο)
IB01. Διάβασε Με Απ'την Αρχή
IB02. Εθνικά Ιδεώδη (1993)
IB03. Μπροστά Στη Πύλη (1993)
IB04. Δημοσθένους Λέξις
IB05. Θρακιώτικο (1993)
IB06. Οι Στίχοι (1993)
IB07. Στο Χωριό Πριν Το Γλέντι (1992)
(tape II)
IIA01. Περιθώριο (1994)
IIA02. Αθήνα (1994)
IIA03. Για Το Νίκο (1994)
IIA04. Ορέστης (1991)
IIA05. Με Το Πανί Μου Πάντα Ανοικτό (1994)
IIA06. Δειλινό Νοτισμένο (1994)
IIA07. Η Μπαλάντα Της Έγκρισης (1994)
IIA08. Βαρκαρόλα (1994)
IIB01. Αλβανικό (1995)
IIB02. Θα Φύγω Μια Μέρα (1995)
IIB03. Καπετάν Σαφάκας (1995)
IIB04. Κιθάρες (1995)
IIB05. Ίων (1995)
IIB06. Αλίκη/Ραμποειδές

tape I
tape II