Friday, August 22, 2008

Kristi Stassinopoulou

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Eclecticism is big in popular music — any day now we will hear about a disc of minimalist bluegrass or Cuban-Tibetan fusion — and some of it seems like a desperate pitch to be different at all costs. But Kristi Stassinopoulu (whom I will henceforth take the liberty of calling Kristi, so as not to get writer's cramp from continually typing "Stassinopoulu") has developed an eclectic style that is original, evocative, and often very beautiful.

If you, like all sensible people, are bored to stone with long discussions of an artist's various influences, I'll just say that Kristi does electronica — but with heart. I sometimes enjoy electronica, especially the genre known as Goa trance, but it too often is numbingly repetitious: music for machines to dance to. But Kristi usually produces an exhilharating sound palette that uses psychedelic rock, synthesizers, Greek traditional music, Byzantine vocals, ambient sound effects, and the unclassifiable in varying combinations. (Well, I guess I just did list some of her influences. Hard to avoid when you're trying to describe something unusual.)

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The Secrets of the Rocks cover

I have three of her albums: Echotropia, The Secrets of the Rocks, and Ifantokosmos. I believe she has a more recent one out, which I haven't heard. The three all seem to me to display her prodigious inventiveness and soulful vocals, with excellent backing from other musicians on modern and exotic traditional instruments. Her singing sounds both contemporary and ancient at the same time, something like Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance and soundtrack fame. Echotropia and The Secrets of the Rocks have been released on an American label (I expect on a British one as well). If I had to recommend just one I think it would be Secrets, but if your tastes are anything like mine you won't go wrong with either.

I bought
Ifantokosmos when I was in Athens. It is on a Greek label, and the cover and notes are entirely in Greek. I could make out kosmos (world) in the title, but the rest was incomprehensible — you did think I was going to say "Greek to me," didn't you? A very charming young woman clerk in the CD store tried to translate it to me, but her English wasn't up to it. She could explain kosmos easily, but for the rest she fumbled, then tugged at the sleeve of her dress. The Sleeve of the World? Didn't seem likely. Later I looked it up online and found that it means "the woven world." No wonder she was at sea. You have to really know a language to be able to find the equivalent of "woven." I wouldn't even know how to say it in French.

Here is a video of one of the songs on The Secrets of the Rocks. It sounds better than it looks, and the sound is far better "shaped" when played from a CD than from the compressed audio files of a YouTube video.



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4 comments:

Sebastian said...

It's funny to read about Goa trance on such a website. One of the few shamelessly hippie-like things I did when younger (I'm in my early 30s) was attend a few rave parties in the remote countryside that featured Goa trance. It was a very liberating pagan experience - danced 'till morning with what I can only describe as sweet-if-naive hippie girls. - Thanks for the heads-up on the sheep music.

Rick Darby said...

Sebastian,

What do you mean, "on such a website"? This blogger is an old Berkeley freak (1967-1971)!

I have several remarkable CDs of Goa trance, most of which I acquired in England, where it was all the rage about 10 years ago.

Sebastian said...

I meant on a website that I first visited through a link in View from the Right on demographics!

Actually, if it's not too much trouble, could you let me know the titles of some of those CDs? I have never been a able to find the music I listened to those nights, and whenever I visit the Electronica/Dance section of a store or Amazon, I have no idea what I'm looking at save Tangerine Dream and a few others. Thanks.

Rick Darby said...

Sebastian,

I'll do better than that. I'll (shhh) copy a couple for you if you give me a mailing address. You don't need to post it here; send it to my Web-based mail account, vechzl@yahoo.com.

It might be a few weeks before I can get to it. I installed a new color ink cartridge in my printer yesterday and it didn't work. It may be some time before I can get a replacement. Some of the trance CD covers are a sight to behold and I'd want to print those for you as well.