Greek producer Panagiotis Melidis has always known his way around a sample. As Larry Gus, he spent the first half of the decade weaving colorful, dense collages incorporating everything from Afrobeat to Greek folk. He threads these tapestries with an uncannily elastic voice (his moniker is a play on “larygas,” the Greek word for “larynx”), that whirls around the samples in a panicked orbit, like an anxious Avalanches. Subservient, Melidis’s first album since 2015, marks an evolutionary turning point in the Larry Gus saga: a tightly-wound pop LP built from scratch, with no outside samples.
From the moment “Total Diseases” tumbles in, its clattering drum beat tussling with plush, syncopated synthesizer swirls, Subservient offers pop music that’s as luxurious as it is agitated. Songs like “Taped Hands Here,” “The Sun Sections,” and the Greek pop-inflected “Classifying A Disease” expand upon this contrast even further, as Melidis establishes tense atmospheres slowly and methodically, as if putting together a jigsaw puzzle while simultaneously doling out some of his strongest hooks and vocals to date. With less samples comes more sonic space, and accordingly, more rhythmic niches for Gus to explore: on “In This Position,” and the breathless closer “Bare Concrete (Itea 97-09),” flurries of drums fill in the space typically occupied by a borrowed snippet. These are risky tradeoffs for a sample-centric artist like Gus, for sure, but Subservient is the kind of breakthrough that makes those risks worth it.