It’s not rock, not metal, not Indie, not EDM, not rap, not hip-hop, not alternative (to what I wonder), nor even proto-punk (whatever that might be). It was not on the year-end ‘best music’ lists that a million people compulsively churn out. Which is a pity. Martynas Levickis’s self-titled album should be heard by many, many more for its inventiveness, virtuosity and the pure joy of music it delivers. If creativity is about taking the known and metamorphosing the banal into something sublime and exalting the already great finally delivering something not experienced before, then ‘Martynas’ displays that quality in abundance.
There seems a growing number of young musicians trained in the Western Classical mode that are exploring paths different from what’s been laid down for them while still remaining passionate advocates of the Classical form. Artistes like Avi Avital who’s been doing a wonderful job of bringing the unlikely mandolin to the fore or the cellist Maya Beiser who’s got the Classical world in a furious tizzy with her interpretation of rock classics like “Back In Black”, “Kashmir”, “Black Dog” and “Lithium” (I’ve given the recently released “Uncovered” only the solitary listening thus far and so I might still be impressed after a few more but not quite yet). Martynas is a blend of the two – surprising one by placing the accordion front and centre (till I heard him, I’d put that instrument only slightly below the harmonium in my list of detested musical devices) and with his exceptional take on popular music and folk and Classical standards. He turns Katy Perry’s “Hot ’n’ Cold” into a delightfully sweet melody, smoothens Tom Waits’s raw “Temptation” to sultry seduction, cajoles you to break into dance on the folksy “Hungarian Dance No.5” composed by Brahms, compels you to pause and ponder on Verdi’s “Theme from Forza Del Destino”. Right through the album I’m astounded not just by his performance but by his immense arrangement skills. An accordion lead and a rousing orchestral treatment of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”? Works brilliantly. The supreme confidence and courage Martynas shows in his playing and surprising yet impeccable interpretation reach the pinnacle on the Winter piece “L’Inverno” from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and the Allegreto from Beethoven’s Symphony No.7. I couldn’t have imagined a Beethoven, a Bach, a Verdi, a Vivaldi, a Mozart or a Lady Gaga being brought to life on an accordion and that so spectacularly. “Martynas” is an important piece of music in that it shows how after centuries of music evolution, it can still grow by leaps and bounds. And on a more personal note, it reminded me once again after years how much I love the music of Bach heard here on the sublime – even with that naughty title – “Air On A G String“.