Eleni Karaindrou ‘Medea’ (ECM) 4/5

2376 XIf you have ever sampled the reflective cinema of Greek director Theo Angelopoulos, then the chances are that you will have heard on the soundtrack the music of composer and musician Eleni Karaindrou and she has been rightly championed by the ECM label over a lengthy time period. For the latest project, the album comes in tandem with a stage production by director Antonis Antypas, a collaboration which, in an earlier joint work, resulted in ‘Trojan Women’ from 2002. Thus the music was specifically created to accompany the performance of a play and is enhanced by viewing the spectacle. From a purely musical perspective, however, the small group instrumentation is pan-Mediterranean with the use of bendir and ney from the Maghreb while the lute and lyra, expertly performed by multi-instrumentalist Yiorgios Kaloudis, harks back to an earlier time. The relatively short pieces linger long in the mind and in the case of the all too brief opener, ‘Argo’s Voyage’, are quite simply haunting with the sound of the Constantinople lute supplied by Sokratis Sinopoulos. Although the music is in part instrumental, solo and collective vocals do contribute and on ‘Do not kill your children’, soloist Penelope Sergounioti delivers a melody in the first part that is reminiscent of Greek rembetika folk music. In contrast, collective voicings permeate the wonderfully joyous ‘Backwards to their sources’. It is worth pointing out that the vocal polyphonies that are so endearing on this release are inspired by musical encounters throughout the Mediterranean including Corsica where collective singing is revered. In a wider context, the music serves as an act of resistance in a time of economic and financial onslaught. With thanks to the Athenian scholar Alex Kazemias for the informative cultural background details.

Tim Stenhouse