Lena Platonos - Lepidoptera

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  • Of all the artists Dark Entries has helped pluck from relative obscurity, Lena Platonos has intrigued me the most. Her music, an odd but sleek blend of synth pop and spoken word, feels cutting-edge even though it's from the '80s. She's considered an electronic music pioneer in Greece—she studied music on a scholarship in Vienna and Berlin before returning home in the late '70s—and her productions are quirky and creative. But that's only half the appeal: Platonos's husky voice and clever delivery are as captivating as her programming, and her combination of poetry and dialogue is deeply introspective. Lepidoptera, originally released in 1986, is the third—and best—of her trilogy of solo albums. Platonos's previous records dealt with themes of consumerism, heartbreak and, in her own words, the "mythology of urban population of the contemporary metropolis." Lepidoptera—whose title refers to the order of insects that includes butterflies—is more esoteric, inspired by a book about butterflies that Platonos found in the trash. "My concern in this work," she says, is "transformation as a metaphor, or transcendence as an existential condition." It's all backed up by some mind-melting electronics, using a wide palette of synth sounds to establish playful moods, tense atmospheres or sudden bursts of song. On "Λητώ" (pronounced "Lito"), Platonos recites a surrealist story about the growth of a child over a slow-burning ballad of plucked bass, synth horns, strings and, later, some gated reverb drum fills. The sparser "Cyaniris (Κυάρινις)" finds her reciting a poem by Giorgios Voloudakis. (She sings in Greek throughout, but the label provides an English translation for each track.) The lyrics are peppered with scientific names for various species of butterfly (though some are fictional), and she seems to savour saying each one. The poem, like Platonos's vocal style, is beautiful yet slightly unnerving: "Out of a flaming magma of orgasms / spurt the juices on naked body parts / Cries against the grain of death / again they throw your wings Cyaniris upon the wind." Still, Lepidoptera has plenty of lighthearted moments. "Brenthis (Μπρένθις)" has cartoonish slap bass. "Eros Pantoriana Pandora (Έρως Παντοριάνα Πανδώρα)" has slide guitar and a chorus in which Platonos seems to spit out as many words as she can. The arrangements here are complex yet captivating, and her talk-sing vocals move around the the tracks in unusual and unexpected ways—listen to how she moves from pained speech to exaggerated chorus on "Εσπέρια Ίρις Γκρέκα (Hesperia Iris Greca)," or how she inhabits a hushed lower-register on "Araschnia Levana (Αρασχία Λεβάνα)." There's something subtly virtuosic about Platonos, whose records are pioneering electronic experiments and a kind of musical theatre. Lepidoptera's powerful stories and poetic lyrics are laced with wry humour and raw emotion, and the music shows a verve and confidence that is as impressive now as it must've been in 1986.
  • Tracklist
      01. Araschnia Levana (Αρασχία Λεβάνα) 02. Tικ Tακ Ή Aurorina Selene (Ωρορίνα Σελένε) 03. Λητώ 04. Cyaniris (Κυάρινις) 05. Eros Pantoriana Pandora (Έρως Παντοριάνα Πανδώρα) 06. Brenthis (Μπρένθις) 07. Τα Γενέθλια Ή Aporia Maturna (Απόρια Ματούρνα) 08. Εσπέρια Ίρις Γκρέκα (Hesperia Iris Greca) 09. Ένας Κύκλος Ή Erynnis Eroides (Ερύνις Ερόιντες)