Review: Diamanda Galás ‘Diamanda Galás In Concert’

My first encounter with Diamanda Galás was her debut album The Litanies Of Satan, one of the most harrowing listening experiences then and since. Cathedral frontman Lee Dorrian tells how they used to play excerpts from that album before shows leading to disgruntled shouts of ‘fuck the intro’ from the audience. Needless to say, she isn’t for everyone.

Diamanda Galás 'Diamanda Galás In Concert' Artwork
Diamanda Galás ‘Diamanda Galás In Concert’ Artwork

Galás was born in San Diego in 1955 and grew up playing both classical and jazz music as well as embracing the literature of Marquis de Sade, Friedrich Nietzsche, Antonin Artaud and Edgar Allen Poe. Diamanda Galás In Concert follows 2022’s acclaimed Broken Gargoyles and features a series of select recordings from performances in Chicago and Seattle in 2017 and is released on her own label Intravenal Sound Operations. Seeing as I wasn’t there, this is the next best thing.

O Prósfigas (The Refugee) was originally popularised by the Greek Gypsy singer Manolis Angelopoulos in 1977 and was positively jaunty and blandly infectious. By comparison, Galás‘ interpretation is mournful, especially seeing it’s both a paean to refugees and to the victims of the Greek Genocide of 1914-23 which, as yet, has not been recognized by Turkey. Good luck with that under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s presidency.

I’m not a fan of blues guitar ala Stevie Ray Vaughan, Mark Knopfler, Clapton, too much self-indulgent widdling around, hence I wasn’t impressed with Robbie Earl or his track A Soul That’s Been Abused. Of course, here it’s a lot more stripped down to produce a rawer sound dripping with catharsis. There’s even traces of Amy Winehouse before she departed to join the ’27 club’ in the sky, RIP.

this wonderful live set, which comes in at a spritely thirty-five minutes, proves an ideal entry point for the uninitiated…

La Llorona in Mexican folklore is the tragic tale of an abandoned woman who kills her children in a jealous rage. According to the promotional notes, it demonstrates the influence of the amanes (a genre of Greek music associated with the lamenting female voice). The track pulls no punches, and you certainly sense the abject despair and regret of the main protagonist which produces some heartbreaking results.

She was penned by Bobby Bradford, cornetist and trumpet player in the late, great Ornette Coleman’s band. The discordant nature of the music showcases a transcendental free-jazz vibe one might find on Albert Ayler’s Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe, particularly the vocals of Ayler’s partner Mary Maria Parks. An enigmatic and engaging piece. Let My People Go does an excellent job of maintaining the gravitas and dignity of the Paul Robeson original while adding a much rougher Tom Waits bluesy edge.

Dead Kennedys fans will be familiar with Johnny Paycheck due to their cover of Take This Job And Shove It. However, it looks like Biafra and co weren’t the only ones taken by Mr Paycheck’s brand of hard bitten outlaw country as evidenced by the appearance of Pardon Me, I’ve Got Someone To Kill. Country is the last thing I expected to hear in the canon of an avant-gard performer such as Galás, however the bluesier, New Orleans twist make it a more satisfying listen and proof (if needed) that this is an artist who is fearless in her musical explorations.

Finally, Ánoixe Pétra another Greek song (translates to Open, Tombstone), repeats the theme of La Llorona, the wronged, abandoned woman and bookends the album thus bringing it full circle. Despite being a fan, I can acknowledge that Diamanda Galás might not be the easiest or most accessible of artists. However, this wonderful live set, which comes in at a spritely thirty-five minutes, proves an ideal entry point for the uninitiated.

Label: Intravenal Sound Operations
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Scribed by: Reza Mills