Mixed Media: Music

01.09.2016-krististassinopoulou-590.jpg

The Greek ‘now’ – Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis.

‘They Will Kill You, If You Cry’

by Khmer Rouge Survivors (Glitterbeat Records 036 CD, LP + digital)

‘They Will Kill You, If You Cry’ is the third release in Glitterbeat’s excellent Hidden Musics series (it follows earlier volumes of music from Hanoi and Mali). It is not the first attempt by any means to salvage Cambodia’s pre-war musical culture, but it’s valuable for recording what memoires still exist while they are reachable.

Heartfelt, raw songs that live in their singers.

This recording takes its title from the experiences of the flautist, Arn Chorn Pond, who, with Thorn Seyma, is one of the album’s two musical directors. Pond survived the Khmer Rouge period by playing music to its soldiers; he was later sent into battle against the Vietnamese. They Will Kill You contains 14 songs, all presented very much within the method of Hidden Musics’ field-recording practice: these are songs that are heart-felt, raw; songs that still live in their singers. There’s a variety of music from around Cambodia, and the heavily rhythmical, percussion-centred songs by Rab Ban, Keut Ran and Mon Hai really stand out. Kong Hai’s quavering ‘Boonchnam Kamtkosal’ (‘My Grief Begins’), accompanied by a long-necked guitar, is raw, but like the vast majority of songs here, has no translation into any other language. Producer Ian Brennan has done a good job for the volume, but some background detail would fill things out.

★★★ LG

glitterbeat.com

NYN

by Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis (Riverboat Records, TUG 1093, CD + digital)

NYN is the ancient Greek word for ‘now’. For Greek musicians Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis, it’s clearly such an important word that they are using their second album to shout it out loud, in capitals. It’s a tactic that draws attention not only to the calamitous times of contemporary Greece, but also the roots of that region’s rich and ancient culture. Greece is not, they suggest, all about tragedies, whether ancient or modern.

Collaborators for many years, Stassinopoulou and Kalyviotis have long used music as a way of drawing long historical links. Folk instruments combine with digital loops, a traditional lauto (lute) with a Mellotron keyboard, rembetika with Byzantine modal melodies, to create an absorbing and richly layered texture. This past-is-present strategy is one that made the duo’s last album, Greekadelia (2012), the hit it was. NYN certainly deserves the same success.

NYN is not a cry of rage at the current climate, so much as a pliable model of historical resilience. ‘Winter Is Coming’ (Stassinopoulou sings all the songs in Greek; English translations are provided in the sleevenotes) is a sombre, slow-tempo opener. But its vocal hooks – and a keyboard channelling a very Robert Fripp kind of sound – generate a swirling warmth that carries it. ‘Mystic Rap’, all dirty electronics and chanting, summons archaic energies, while the title track itself has a hymnal quality that’s quite beautiful.

★★★★ LG

krististassinopoulou.com