by Maria (Mouv) Kouvarou
From the day of its release (that is, from 24/5/2020), I have been listening to MoulD’s “King of men” either on a loop, or on and off in between other songs and life’s busy course. I have been listening to it in such a frequency not because I was searching for musico-technical jargon to dress it up, but because with every hearing it touched yet another emotional string that I had hoped it remained numb for a bit longer. Some creations do resonate with us like that…
Did it take me by surpise? It did.
Was it because of the combination of the sound of rebetiko with grunge and metal features? No, it wasn’t. Such experimentations have been around in various combos and parts of various traditions since the progressive rock of the 1960s. In fact, they keep being an element of our music diets to this day courtesy of local rock scenes, experimental and avant-garde tendencies, and, even world music, to state but a few channels by which it reaches us.
Was it because of the sophistication by which the rebetiko scale, heralded and served by the baglama sounds, balanced with the grunge and metal elements in such a way as to not affect their own generic impact? No, not really, again it wasn’t. That’s pure theoretical grounding; the artistic intellect playing musical mathematics.
Was it because of the impact of the vocals - that is, the additional instrument, the not-just-here-to-present-the-lyrics carrier of well-pitched multi-layered singing? Well, again, no. That’s a technique employed by many good songwriters and vocalists alike.
Was it because it’s all done by one and the same artist? Nahh, we’ve seen and heard quite a lot of one-(wo)man projects, as for the concept to have stopped fascinating us.
But…something did take me by surprise….
…and that was the eloquence by which all the above are brought together in a way that none dominates any other. In fact, they all combine in creating the atmosphere that allows the “King of men” to become a listening experience and not a song somebody listens to.
The atmosphere of the song exudes despair from the opening vocalisms. The baglama sounds that appear might be pointing contextually to the sadness of the rebetiko, yet, when combined with the metal/grungy timber of the vocals, set you out of generic context again. It takes almost two minutes for any further – electric, plugged and loaded – instrumentation to enter, but still, by the time it does, MoulD has managed to set us at ease with our gen-related displacement by merging smoothly two diverse layers, so that we are ready to take whatever comes next. That is, a contained, esoteric, instrumental build-up that takes us (while the rebetiko loop keeps providing the atmospheric carpet) through a further build-up, leading to the outburst of powerful emotions that were so well contained in what preceded. The way I hear it, this happens in two phases. It starts with the higher register of the vocals that take on a more clearly grunge air and it culminates in the metal outro of the guitar and drums.
All in all, “King of Men” is a song with qualities that can stand the test of time, yet it remains a song of its time. It projects claustrophobia, loneliness, uncertainty, fear, acceptance and esoteric rejection of the acceptance (has anyone said "quarantine"?). It is the internal explosion of frustration that cannot be directed anywhere else. The haunting, video, produced and directed by MoulD, is the visual extension of this sensation and it definitely worths a watch.
All in all, “King of Men” is what you get when you send a multi-talented person to his room, but you allow him to keep all his toys. A reminder of the fact that confinement never was – and should never be – outright restriction.
Further information about "King of Men"
Produced by MoulD
Mixed & mastered at Otherworldly Studios
Artwork by @rot.tuna
Mould (stylised as MoulD) is a Cypriot artist and multi-instrumentalist. His broad musical background and his mysterious and peculiar personality influence his musical style. He grew up listening to the Alternative & Nu-Metal of the 90’s but later he will return to his roots. Now heavily influenced by Rembetiko, also known as the “Greek Blues”, combined with modern genres such as Grunge, Metal and industrial, MoulD gives fresh breath to the genre with a pioneering sound, self termed as Grungy Rembetiko with Alternative Metal breakdowns and industrial beats - where the Pentatonic scale has been replaced with the Phrygian Dominant scale and the Shuffle rhythm feel with Zeimpekiko and Hasapiko.