Kristi Stassinopoulou doesn't look like a Balkan ethno-trance artist. She looks
like the really nice girl who was in your chemistry class who let you borrow her
notes when you blew off class to go hang out at the 7-Eleven. You know the one?
The one who played varsity volleyball but was only second-string?
But this just goes to prove that it's hard to tell when it comes to Balkan
ethno-trance. I guess that's not surprising, considering that Stassinopoulou
made up that label for herself and there ain't anyone else working the territory.
But be not afraid; this is great stuff, even if you've never heard any other
Greek techno folk psychedelia before. Kristi, who's been kicking around the
cool Exarthia section of Athens for more than a decade refining her attack,
has found a way to remake the multi-culti nature of Greek music into some wild
stuff that might spin your holy head around.
A lot of this music uses the basic underpinning of rembetica (Greek heroin-chic
folk music); other stuff sounds like it comes from all countries and nowhere
simultaneously. But all of it features Stassinopoulou's haunting vocals and
a dense layer of sounds both electronic and live. Echotropia, which was released
to great acclaim in Europe in 1999, is finally out here, and it is pretty clearly
some of the best music of any kind that you're likely to hear if you can put
down that damned Creed disc.
Stassinopoulou and her co-conspirator Stathis Kalyviotis both have a sense
that this is a huge wild world full of lots of different cool stuff, so they
just throw it all in. Kickin' tracks like "We Are Flying," featuring
a great surprising bagpipe-sounding break at the 3:59 mark, and "Drumming
Frogs," which has a great vocal line, some smooth chanting, and an unavoidable
accordion melody over bubbling computer rhythms, definitely escape the "boring
world music" axis. And when they do the inevitable woman-whispering-text-into-one-speaker
track, at least the text is from Mikhail Bulgakov's superb novel The Master
Listen: you might not like this music, especially if you're a bad boring person
who is just taking up space on this planet. But you'll probably love it. - Matt