BREAKING DOWN, 'SAKI ~ THEODOSIUS': by Jason Michas
Over the coming days, we’re going to post the songs that Omnibol members Jason Michas, Amos Resnick and Robin Steen contributed to in various capacities (linked to Spotify, but feel free to use your streaming platform of choice) to the recent release of Theodosius Kaskamanidis' (aka Saki Kaskas) posthumous album, 'Saki ~ Theodosius'. Those songs were:
Tear this Temple Down
For each song we’ll do a little breakdown and tell you about how each piece came together. It can be interesting stuff. But to start off, we’d like to talk about the two versions of ‘Changes’ on the album, the first being the ‘acoustic version’ and the latter expanded and developed. These instrumental pieces are basically all Saki, save for the drums and some tweaking by Jeff van Dyck. It’s a fascinating showcase of Sak’s voice and virtuosity.
The music is best listened to at a generous volume, on your stereo or through a good set of cans with your favourite nightcap. Prepare to be transported!
1. Changes Acoustic
2. Changes Expanded
CHANGES ACOUSTIC & CHANGES on SAKI ~ THEODOSIUS
As best we can tell, Saki started working on ‘Changes’ in June 2013. Recorded first as an acoustic version (with a touch of effects added), it comes in at just under 5 minutes. According to Jeff Van Dyck, who produced Theodosius, this is the first sketch Saki did of the composition, recorded in one take, alone in the studio of his home, almost certainly at night (Sak was a night owl). When we all had the opportunity to hear it, along with the other tunes he’d been working on in the last two years of his life, we were overcome, first by sadness and then by awe of the beauty and energy of what he’d been creating.
It was especially heartrending, because we also knew that after nearly two decades, Saki had finally taken a sabbatical (with Jeff’s encouragement) to focus on composing music to his own creative ends. It must have been especially effecting for Jeff, as he first sat down to listen to the bare tracks of ‘Changes’ after Saki’s passing, when at various points between the elegiac phrases Sak played out on his guitar, he could hear Sak, drawing breathes in and out, unaware of the world around him, totally engrossed in his music.
Saki would later go on to expand ‘Changes’ into a stirring twelve-minute piece. What you’ll hear when you listen to it is almost entirely Sak; expressive keyboard passages, complex programmed percussion, and Sak’s exhilarating guitar parts. You can hear Sak paying homage to much of the music that got him revved up in the first place, when he was just a 15-year-old kid – Led Zeppelin, The Who, Santana, textures of Radiohead, even elements of Bob James a la ‘Angela’ (the theme music from ‘Taxi’) and of course his own damn self, burning, burning it up on his guitar.
Wisely, finding it needed little more in terms production or instrumentation, Jeff was very hands off on this piece, deciding only to fine tune the mix and bring Darren Sleno in to record actual drums. That turned out to be a smart choice indeed. According to Jeff, it gave needed emphasis to the piece and brought out the innate vitality in ‘Changes’ that the programmed drums just weren’t quite doing on their own yet. That’s not surprising, as Darren is a bang-on, seasoned drummer who amongst many other outfits, used to play alongside Sak, Robin and Jeff in Heavy Lounge. According to Jeff, Darren nailed the whole twelve-minute piece, with nuance, in something like two or three takes, solid to the click, intricate changes included. As Jeff said, “that’s no mean feat.”
For Robin, ‘Changes’ contains some of Sak’s most lyrical moments, especially the passage between 7:50-8:35. I would agree. It’s a solo that typifies Sak’s voice and the bristling acuity he had on his instrument. The solo then leads on into kick-ass, gated country licks which come arcing of his fretboard like so many dazzling currents of electricity. Like so much of his guitar playing, you suddenly feel as if you are blazing along inside the cockpit of a fighter jet, doing F**KING BARREL ROLLS!!!
And my other favourite moving and magical moment: when Saki appears in the soundscape, whistling musically away, instantly transporting us all along with him, down some stone-covered, starlit alleyway on a breezy, humid summer night.