Kristi Stassinopoulou


The Secrets of the Rocks establishes Stassinopoulou as the High Priestess and Patron Saint of the venerated tradition of island-hopping, Athens style. This is the process in which, during each summer, all Athenians leave their city to the tourists (mostly over the weekend) and go to sunbathe, swim and sun-worship on one of the hundreds of Aegean islands. There are distinct subgroups and Kristi has aligned herself with the most hardcore of those, the one which is a direct descendent of the Sixties and early Seventies, the “me, my pals, my tent and an empty beach” clan. She is so cool that she even keeps secret the names of three of the beaches that inspired her record to protect them from the unwanted.

Snobbish? Most likely, but when this value system is riding a groove so trippy and yet so distinctly related to the island culture one has to bow down and worship her (or with her).

Kristi Stassinopoulou used the incentive of moving to a new label (the rapidly expanding Hitch-Hyke) to create what is probably the most folk influenced of her four records after Ifantokosmos. This is certainly not as psychedelic or rock-influenced as Echotropia was (her previous record that had severed almost all her ties with folk and tradition).

The Secrets of the Rocks finds her and her partner, Stathis Kaliviotis in a great mood. Occasionally, (as in the triumphant “Strong Winds Blockade” and “Whirlpools” and the reflective “The Islands”) they write some of their best songs ever. It should be noted, however, that this is most of all a concept album (in the original early Seventies meaning of the term) and so every one of the songs plays a role, even though the lyrics usually refer to the same things or even use similar phrases throughout. The music is also very much similar throughout but don’t think for a minute that it becomes boring. This is helped by the inclusion of short but distinctive musical parts: a lyre here, a ney there, a traditional passage elsewhere.

As it is always the case with her, it is the arrangements and the wide use of samples that creates a soundscape that is distinctly Greek, a record that has as many links with the psychedelic Anglo-Saxon Sixties and Seventies as with the Mediterranean musical traditions. I particularly enjoy that in Stassinopoulou’s records those influences act to such a disorientating effect within the context of a Greek record, creating a unique musical result, while for an English or American rock group they would have sounded the epitome of banality. It is also a great idea, as those two musical languages (Greek tradition and psychedelia) go very well together. Even more than on Ifantokosmos, this is a record expresses a feeling and it is very successful in doing it (meaning that it scores high on the scale of visual image creation – always a sign of powerful and visionary music). If you have ever experienced the emotional and sensual environment she sings about, then the memories will instantly flow back to you. You will nod in agreement while she makes a strong statement (as in: ‘strong winds blockade / the ship’s not gonna come / let’s pray that the weather / will stay like that’) and that will create extra layers of value on this record. But if you are unfamiliar with the tradition, this record will act as a door of perception to a tantalizing alternate universe.

Nondas Kitsos