Christos DC drops his new album Tessera the day after tomorrow, July 28. The album is on the Honest Music label. Christos DC, aka Chris Vrenios, is a Greek-American singer/songwriter and producer. He has worked and recorded with a number of renowned reggae stars: Sly & Robbie, Thievery Corporation, Akae Beka and Don Carlos, the Grammy-nominated artist. At the present juncture, Christos DC and Don Carlos are engaged in an extensive European tour, playing in a variety of venues.
Stylistically, Christos DC is reggae. He amalgamates R&B, jazz, mento and calypso influences into his sound, which is distinctive, unique and all his own. And the fact that he includes covers of prominent songs simply illuminates his confidence as an artist.
Tessera contains twelve tracks. The first track is “Speak The Fire,” produced by The Skankin Monks and featuring Zafayah. It begins with a shamanic chant and organ, followed by the groove, with a nice sidestick from the drummer. The melody is soft, riding on the guitar, with a catchy rhythm tripping along smoothly. Christos’ vocals are mellow and honeyed, complemented by stellar background vocal harmonies.
“Human Dignity” carries a strong groove, along with brass and a crisp piano that really adds to the melody, which is flowing and just a bit funky. The horns are bright but subdued so they don’t overwhelm the music. Christos’ voice is especially compelling on this tune, providing the song with a solid sonic impact. A halting R&B flavor runs through “Life,” which features a cantering melody that receives cool harmonics from drawling horns and the syncopated groove. The vocals almost sound as if filtered, but they’re not. It’s simply Christos utilizing vocal inflection to provide a unique sonic take on the song’s feeling.
“The Desperate Ones” is a solid remake of one of Nina Simone’s less well-known songs. There’s a definite R&B thread running through Christos’ version. The thread adds a melancholic feel to the melody, as does Christos’ poignant use of his voice. This is one of my favorites on the album. “Come Along” starts with a drum roll, and then settles into a steady groove and slightly tinny sounding melody, and muted vocals. The song is short, less than a minute in length, but catchy.
“Ρολόι κομπολόι (Watch Rosary)” provides listeners with a roots reggae version of a traditional Greek tune. Christos adds zest to the tune by including a flute and bright horns. The melody has a caravanserai feel to it that really makes it stand out. “Say What You Want” carries a cogent groove, along with a heavy bassline. Together the two provide the guitar-driven melody with punch. Christos’ vocals, in combination with the reduplication of the horns, exude an amicable flair.
“What Is Happening,” featuring Akae Beka, is a passionate tune with tinny sounding keyboards and occasional whooshing sound effects, all within a delightful and superb melody that kind of teeter-totters. Careful listening brings out the soft backing vocals, with their delicate “ooooohs.” “Pressure” rides on the keyboards and has a jazzy, R&B hint of zest to it. Muted horns and guitar accents add depth, while Christos’ vocals deploy resonance and intense emotion.
“Heart of Gold” is a reggae cover of Neil Young’s famous song. You wouldn’t think it would work as a reggae tune, but it does. And Christos nails it. “Communion” features Harrison Stafford and Kenyatta Hill. The melody issues forth like an anthem, lots of horn harmonics and vocals that emanate with rap-like fervor. I really like this tune.
The last track on the album, “Boots and Tie,” is an instrumental number, upon which Christos struts his virtuosity on talk box guitar, as a Sly & Robbie/Taxi Gang track plays in the background. This is an excellent tune.
Christos DC has it going on! Strong, beautiful melodies punctuate the album, along with delicious harmonies and Christos DC’s inimitable voice. Tessera is a magnificent album, one that should be heard by all reggae aficionados.
Find out more about Christos DC here.
Download Tessera here.
Stream the album here.