News

Sounds


Reviews - Sigmatropic
 

SIGMATROPIC

 ' Dark Outside '

 (Tongue Master)

Sigmatropic began in the late 90s as a floating ensemble gathered around the Greek musician, Akis Boyatzis. Purveyors of a Hellenic-hued electronica, in 2003 they released ' 16 Haiku & Other Stories ' - settings of poems by the  Greek Nobel laureate George Seferis. A cohort of sympathetic singers was recruited to the project including Alejandro Escovedo, Robert Wyatt and Carla Torgerson, and while an acquired taste, it was fascinating. Sigmatropic now appear to have a more settled line-up and have added the earthy blues-tinged vocals of Anna Karakalou, though still employing other voices - Torgerson, Howe Gelb, Robert Fisher, and Jim Sclavunos. Together they create an intriguing melange – like a combination of Portishead, The Walkabouts and Lee Hazlewood. Vistas of heat and light, sea and sand open up. There’s a definite European art movie ambience, accentuated by the often-mellifluous lyrics of Boyatzis and Michael Willet. Bright variety is in the order of the day; Sclavunos impassioned on ‘Ours At Least’, Torgerson fragile on ‘Red Across The Sand’. Gelb and Karakalou contrast on 'White'; he speaks she sings. Boyatzis, at times, adopts a style of sing-song storytelling, straight out of the nursery, most notably on the E.E. Cummings' setting, 'Maggie And Millie And Molly And May'. It falls to Fisher to throws perhaps the biggest surprise in 'The Blue Side Of The Sun', less in the voice than the setting - an early-80s funk backdrop redolent of Pigbag or Wham or somewhere in between.

 

- NICK WEST

 

SIGMATROPIC

 

' Dark Outside '

 

(Tongue Master)

 

****

 

Sigmatropic began in the late 90s as a floating ensemble gathered around the Greek musician, Akis Boyatzis. Purveying a Hellenic-hued electronica, they released ' 16 Haiku & Other Stories ' - settings of poems by the Nobel laureate George Seferis. A cohort of sympathetic singers took part including Alejandro Escovedo, Robert Wyatt and Carla Torgerson, and while an acquired taste, it was fascinating. Sigmatropic now have a settled line-up adding the blues-tinged vocals of Anna Karakalou, though still employing other voices - Torgerson, Howe Gelb, Robert Fisher, and Jim Sclavunos. They create an intriguing melange - a combination of Portishead, The Walkabouts and Lee Hazlewood. Vistas of heat and light suggest a European art movie ambience, accentuated by the mellifluous lyrics of Boyatzis and Michael Willet. Bright variety is in the order of the day; Sclavunos impassioned, Torgerson fragile. Gelb and Karakalou contrast on 'White'; he speaks she sings. Boyatzis, at times, adopts a style of singsong storytelling,notably on the EE Cummings' setting, 'Maggie And Millie And Molly And May'. Fisher throws perhaps the biggest surprise in 'The Blue Side Of The Sun', less in the voice than the setting - an early-80s funk backdrop redolent of Pigbag or Wham.

 

- NICK WEST

 

SIGMATROPIC

 

' Dark Outside '

 

(Tongue Master)

 

***

 

Brainchild of Greek musician Akis Boyatzis,Sigmatropic’s latest album sees their flowing soundscapes enhanced by some heavy-hitting guest vocalists. Willard Grant Conspiracy’s Robert Fisher and Howe Gelb, once of Giant Sand, produce starring roles in their contributions, while Anna Karakalou is also an intoxicating vocalist, but Boyatzis’ weaker voice infuriates when he takes over and diminishes what could have been a more powerful album, melding electronica, Americana and folk.

 

 - MARCUS DUNK

 

SIGMATROPIC

 

' Dark Outside '

 

(Tongue Master)

 

***

 

Elegant moodscaping from Greek composer

What began 10 years ago as a one-man sortie into experimental music morphed into something bigger with Sigmatropic's 2003 LP, ' 16 Haiku & Other Stories '. There, Athenian composer Akis Boyatzis was joined by Cat Power, Mark Eitzel and others for a murky mix of folk and exotica. ' Dark Outside ' hugs the same space, adding grooves and the odd snapping beat to the moody ambience. This time, Boyatzis adds his own occasional vocals, though it's Howe Gelb and Willard Grant's Robert Fisher who excel, especially the latter on propulsive electro-cowboy ballad " Song In My Wallet ".

 

- ROB HUGHES

 

 

pennyblackmusic.com

SIGMATROPIC

 

' Dark Outside '

 

(Tongue Master Records)

 

Sigmatropic is the project of Greek musician and folk electro-artist, Akis Boyatzis.
While Boyatzis is also a singer, adding vocals to five of the thirteen songs on Sigmatropic's just released album 'Dark Outside', it is as a musical director and cohort that he has especially made his mark. The project's 2003 debut album, 'Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories', which set to music the haiku poems of Greek Nobel Prize-winning laureate George Seferis, found Boyatzis collaborating with such heavyweights as Robert Wyatt, Mark Eitzel, Alejandro Escovedo, Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo and Cat Power.
'Dark Outside' builds on this, like its predecessor featuring an arsenal of guest singers and pushing them in directions that they have never gone before. There are appearances from the Walkabouts' Carla Torgerson, Howe Gelb and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Grinderman drummer Jim Sclavunos, all of whom were on the last album, and also Boyatzis' latest musical accomplice, Willard Grant Conspiracy singer Robert Fisher. Contrary to its name, but as befits an album with song titles such as 'White', 'Red Across the Sand' and 'The Blue Side of the Sun', 'Dark Outside' is a gorgeous, kaleidoscopic riot of sound.Fisher has been sometimes unfairly labelled as a miserablist, but that myth is firmly dispelled with on both of his contributions here, 'A Song in My Wallet' and 'The Blue Side of the Sun'. 'A Song in My Wallet' is as upbeat as its gets and-a rapidly clambering swirling mass of thumping drum machine beats, sweeping electronic strings and orchestral sounds-has a gospel-dance flavour and tells of an across-the world love affair. 'The Blue Side of the Sun' is similarly aloft, and, a tale of adulterous love, is an 80's-style electro pop number with jangling beats.
On the swarthy-sounding 'White', brooding stabs of electronica are merged with sharp peals of trumpet as Howe Gelb, his vocals reminiscent those of Robbie Robertson on 'Somewhere Down the Crazy River', provides a growling, spoken word monologue in which he plays the part of a soon-to-be-rejected would-be suitor. Carla Torgerson draws her listener in with the whispered enthusiasm of her vocal on the piano-led folk of 'Red Across the Sun', another story of heartbreak, while Sclavunos, on a rare turn on vocals, shows that he has picked up a trick or two from working for 11 years for his day job boss with the tortured theatricalism of 'Ours at Least.'
As strong as these contributions are, the highlight of 'Dark Outside', however, comes from the vocal contributions of Anna Karakalou. The second full-time member of Sigmatropic who has joined the group since 'Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories', she is one of those rare gymnastical singers, who seems able to match her voice to any genre, giving 'A Song in My Wallet' its gospel tinge, playing the role of sexual siren on 'White', and investing soaring power ballad, 'Crack in the Back', upon which she takes the lead vocal, despite it being about the emotional meltdown of a relationship, with a boisterous wit and humour.In contrast Boyatzis' own rather reedy vocals against such a list of talents come across sadly sometimes sounding flat and forced, especially on the hazy opening number, 'Position One', and the melancholic 'Monologue', both upon which he takes the lead. He appears though on more solid ground on the trip-hop space rock of the title track which he co-sings with Karakalou.
A mish-mash of electro sounds and excellence, 'Dark Outside' nevertheless pays great testimony to both of its principal members and also its guest musicians, taking them into new and often unexpected areas. It is an album of enormous versatility and visionary quality.
 

- JOHN CLARKSON @ www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk

 

 

SIGMATROPIC

 

' Dark Outside ' (Tongue Master) 

 

7 / 10

 

Strikingly offbeat mixture of Americana and brooding electronica from Greek multi-instrumentalist Akis Boyatzis. Willard Grant Conspiracy's Robert Fisher, a gravel-voiced Howe Gelb, Walkabouts' vocalist Carla Torgerson, Bad Seeds drummer Jim Sclavunos and Boyatzis himself add a melancholy croon over lushly textured soundscapes with surprising and often exquisite results.

 

- NEIL GARDNER

 

SIGMATROPIC

‘Dark Outside ‘

(Tongue Master Records)

 ****1/2 (of 5)

QUITE possibly the coolest sounds to come out of Greece are these luminous studies in electronica, folk and rock. Sigmatropic is essentially a vehicle for the gifted Akis Boyatzis, who creates serene cinematic soundscapes to frame fascinating vocal performances. Friends helping out offering their services here include Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb, who lends his laidback drawl to the trip-hoppy ‘White’, and Willard Grant Conspiracy’s Robert Fisher, whose sturdy baritone brings power and grace to two songs. (Check out ‘The Blue Side Of The Sun’.) Add in fine vocals contributions from Akis and sultry - voiced band member Anna Karakalou and you’ve a thoroughly engaging listen.
 

- SIMON COSYNS

 

 

SIGMATROPIC

‘Dark Outside ‘

(Tongue Master Records)

Sigmatropic is the chosen moniker of musician/producer Akis Boyatzis, a man
with quite a musical history in his native Greece. The first Sigmatropic long player ‘16 Haiku and Other Stories’ featured a diverse and rather impressive line up of 18 guests including Cat Power, Robert Wyatt and Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo.This new album ‘Dark Outside’ also features a number of guest vocalists but on a slightly less ambitious scale to it’s predecessor. Robert Fisher of Willard Grant Conspiracy lends his baritone to two tracks, while Howe Gelb, Carla Torgerson of the Walkabouts and Jim Sclavunos of the Bad Seeds and Grinderman each lead up one track a piece. New addition to the core band Anna Karakalou shares vocals with Boyatzis on the remaining tracks, her breathy sensual delivery complimenting his droll, intense, semi-spoken manner. The overall mood blends breezy Mediterranean touches with atmospheric scope to create a timeless sound not unlike the Blue Nile or late period Talk Talk. The album supplies a complete world for the listener to discover as it slowly and languidly unfurls across it’s near hour long duration. A welcome release from an unlikely quarter, it’s refined, sophisticated nature will appeal to the more discerning listener.

- NICK ANNAN @ www.clashmagazine.com
 

 

 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

2001-2010 Tongue Master Records. All rights reserved