Last Wave by Dirty Fuse CD Review by Noel
Dirty Fuse are a five-piece surf band from Athens, Greece who’ve been together since 2008. Their previous recordings are the self-released 7” EP “Lost Riders” in 2010, the self-titled “Dirty Fuse” CD in 2012 from Green Cookie Records, and “Surfbetica” in 2013, which is a 10” EP also from Green Cookie Records. “Last Wave” is their new release and it’s from Deep Eddy records on CD and 12” LP from Ikaros Records.
There are fifteen songs on “Last Wave”. Twelve are originals. “The New Victor” is by the eternal Dick Dale. The other two, “Islands in the Surf” and “Stranger on Mykonos” are by the legendary Jim Skiathitis of The Atlantics!
Islands in the Surf:
It doesn’t get more classic surf than this song written by Jim Skiathitis of The Atlantics. The first sound you hear is a lovely theme in mono, sounding exactly like the old transistor radio I used to take to the beach, and there are waves lapping against the shore to complete the illusion. Then the song starts over, a wonderful, rolling, timeless surf melody. Beautiful, this must be the surf coming ashore. A saxophone eventually introduces a second melody, Latin and swaying like a tropical breeze. This is the song of the island. Guitars continue playing in the original theme, taking turns with the sax as they play back and forth. As the song continues, both themes finally come together, fully interweaving the two melodies. It’s effective, evocative, lovely. “Islands in the Surf” is wonderful.
Teenage Cactus Twist:
This song reminds me of some of the earliest surf or even pre-surf music I’ve heard. Maybe it’s in the clapping to start the song? Maybe it’s in the way the saxophone carries the melody? Maybe it’s in the guitars? Maybe it’s in the overall sound and feel of the song? Whatever it is, it reminds me of songs I heard when I was young. The more I listen, the younger I feel.
You’re gonna want to dance the Surfer’s Stomp to this fast-paced, rockin’ surfer. Guitar and sax exchange leads, and then double up for lots of musical fun. There’s even a hint of the Mediterranean in here. And, the percussion and bass break is just pure cool. Sounding very mysterious are some fantastic noises percolating up during the break. I couldn’t identify how they were created, so I asked Kostas, who said, “I make these sounds with my guitar. They're supposed to be animal sounds in the oasis (Oasi is oasis in Greek by the way). The frog is the guitar pick scratching the low E string in a certain way, the birds are a coin sliding across the high E and B strings and the rest is just muted strings picked fast. The only effect on my guitar throughout the song is a delay.” Let’s dance!
Another stomper, “Monsoon Diva” starts with a hot bass intro that continues as the song propels the listener along for the ride. The sound and feel of the song is definitely on the heavy surf side, fitting for something with “monsoon” in the title. A listener might be caught doing some head-banging to this one. If this song is about a girl, the implications are that she’s a high-speed blast of wide-eyed excitement. So hang on if you can, and expect to get tossed around before getting dropped off. If the song’s about a rollercoaster, or surfing a monsoon-size wave, I would say exactly the same thing.
Here we go! “Storm” takes off where “Monsoon Diva” leaves off and is even more of everything that made that song like a rollercoaster ride. Pounding drums, heavy, over-driven, tremolo-drenched guitar tones trade off with the saxophone and bass to propel this song to an all too sudden finish. There’s are brief hints of Greek folk-song and classic surf glissandos while “Storm” passes by. If you’re gonna surf storm-generated waves, expect it to be an over the top ride.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea:
There’s lost treasure from ancient civilizations yet to find on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. This song takes me to the waters somewhere off the coast of Greece. The sky overhead is that deep blue that matches the deep clear blue sea. The waves roll the boat to and fro. Then someone turns on the radio to a local station and a folk melody starts playing. Its joyful melody makes me smile. But it’s time to dive, so over the side we go and start swimming down. What’s down there on the bottom of the sea? Adventure? Treasure? You won’t find it if you don’t take the voyage.
This song is mysterious. The saxophone lead has a noir feel that pervades everything. Dark and brooding, there’s a hint of, if not the sinister at least the potential for danger. Percussion is used to great effect to add to the sense of off-balance. So, lean on the lamp post that dimly illuminates the lonely, dark street corner, tilt your fedora low over your brow, and listen to the sax wailing from an open third floor window somewhere down the street. Is that a scream? Or just your imagination?
Stranger on Mykonos:
Also written by Jim Skiathitis of The Atlantics, “Stranger on Mykonos” puts me right there on Mykonos, island of legend, history, and modern night life. Just like Mykonos itself, the song combines the old and the new, elements of Greek folk music and traditional surf music, with enough modern touches to make it a contemporary experience. Enough mysteries and dramas have been written and filmed on and about strangers on the Greek islands to fuel the imagination for days while this song plays. There is something inherently mysterious about a place that has survived for over a millennium, named after Mykon, a descendant of Apollo, mentioned in Greek Mythology, settled by the Phoenicians, ruled by the Persians, the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, and even conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. One more mystery. How soon can I go there? And there’s something else about this song… You’ll know it when you hear it.
A modern traditional surf song, “Potiguara” is very danceable, which I always like in surf music. You could play it to accompany any surf footage, and some of it for surfing big waves. In an album full of stand-out music, this song is plain and simply a very good surf song.
“Atlas” is a wild ride. It’s got galloping drums and contrasting, alternating themes played on reverb-drenched guitars. It starts like a chase scene in a Western, the drums pounding out the beat of horses’ hooves, while the guitar plays a very spaghetti western-sounding chase theme. Abruptly, an eerie sounding guitar starts a second musical idea. It’s very discordant, high-pitched, futuristic, adding more drama to the musical tension. Something from outer space just appeared, and it’s doing the chasing. The music alternates back and forth, the traditional versus the other-worldly. It’s like a two and a half minute musical interpretation of cowboys versus aliens.
Dirty Fuse can surf with anyone. Their traditional surf songs, like “Surfness” have a first-wave sound and feel that probably has a lot to do with the prominence of the saxophone in their arrangements. It lends an air of mystery or nostalgia to their songs that other instruments might not. But they bring to their music other traditions that become interwoven into songs like this one. There is a definite surfness to “Surfness”, but also something else, another feeling. This is a lilting song, slightly melancholy, like the wistfulness that comes at the end of a great day, or when remembering something or someone that won’t be seen again. It’s a beautiful, melodic, evocative song.
Midnight Heat Wave:
Wow! This song’s hot. It’s got the driving, urgent beat and the off-balance feel of a jazz dance number Leonard Bernstein might have composed for Jerome Robbins to choreograph, but orchestrated for a 5-piece surf band. Teenagers from the rough side of town pour out of their six floor walkups onto an empty street at midnight on a hot summer night. They kid around, then bicker, argue about anything, everything and nothing. Some start pushing and shoving. Then, they face off, one side against the other and… dance to this song! Yeah, “Midnight Heat Wave” is that kind of song. Dig?
One minute and eighteen seconds of antiquity, mystery, and intrigue. It sounds as old and timeless as ancient Greece. This song is a time-machine. I sounds as if it could have been played a thousand years ago in a small village somewhere in Greece. Maybe it was? Just not with electric guitars. Very cool!
The New Victor:
“The New Victor” is a classic surf song by Dick Dale. You’re hearing the lead played on a tzouras, which is a smaller version of the bouzouki. One listen and, of course, that’s perfect. The use of the tzouras, combined with the folk music style Dirty Fuse play it, makes the song sound as old as the hills above Kalamata. It makes me want to dance the kalamatianos, if I could dance the kalamatianos. Now that’s traditional surf music!
The interesting percussion instrument you hear is the sound of a darbuka or toubelek, also known as a goblet drum. This is an ancient instrument with examples dating to over 3,100 years ago in Babylonia and Sumer. “Dark Sands” takes me back to the desert at night, a long, long time ago. People are quiet after the hard day’s efforts. Fires are low. It’s time to reflect, to ponder the clear, star-filled night sky over the dark sands.
“Last Wave” by Dirty Fuse is a marvelous reminder of how global surf music has been, and is even more so today. There are so many influences from so many different global regions that inform the music on this album. On this record we can travel back in time and space to hear music rooted in ancient Greece, modern Greece, America, Australia, and even the Middle East and North Africa. “Last Wave” is an album that grabs attention right away, and with every listen, reveals more complexity, subtlety, charm, mystery, and beauty. This is a wonderful record.
Dirty Fuse are Kostas Bakoulas – guitar, Manolis Kisamitikas – saxophone, Christos Kogious - drums, John Drake – bass, and Duda Victor – guitar and tzouras.
Other credits are:
Photographer, Spyridoula Emmanouel,
Illustrator/graphic artist, Stavrina Inno Kykalou,
Sound engineer, Haris Zourelidis,
'54 Plymouth, Stefanos
Dirty Fuse also want to thank Ted at Deep Eddy Records and Lefteris of Ikaros Records. And, I want to thank Kostas for answering my questions. You don’t think I could identify those folk instruments by sound, do you?—
This is Noel. Reverb's at maximum an' I'm givin' 'er all she's got.
Last edited: Oct 29, 2014 21:43:52