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 and Margarita.
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.