ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Monsieur Doumani ‘Pissoúrin’
(Glitterbeat Records)  10th September 2021

On a night flight to dimensions new, the celebrated Cyprus based trio of Monsieur Doumani plug in and amp up their signature Mediterranean sound on the nocturnal diorama Pissoúrin.

Regular readers of the blog may recall my review feature back in May on Antonis Antoniou’s solo album of rustic lyrically-themed kismet, Kkismettin. A founding member of the Doumani, Antoniou expressed the barrel-barrier dividing realties of his island home; split between Turkey and Greece. Favouring a more peaceable but exciting melting pot of both cultures, Antoniou musically and amorphously combined the two sides on that album, as he does now with this trio, now on to their fourth album. 

In an attempt to push the sound and themselves, they’ve approached this nocturnal themed album differently. The music is now electrified, augmented and played around with through various pedal effects and looping technology. In all, it promises to be a very different sounding record.

As I’ve mentioned, the concept – made obvious if you translate the title from its original Cypriot into English – scans the “total darkness” to build a cosmology of nighttime dwelling characters and atmospheres. Against an often mysteriously stirred backdrop of the moon, stars, planets and rivers, the allurement of both freedom and escapism lurks. This is a flux state “between sleep and dreams” that acts as a sanctuary for the non-conformists, the rebels, but also just anyone who wishes to break away from the normality’s of a depressing reality. Some of this was at least fueled by late night drinking and unburdened ideas discussed with the poet Marios Epaminondas, who wrote the words to the lunar, UFO hovered Baba Zula-like scuzzed ‘Kalikándjari’ song.    

Actually, Baba Zula crop up a lot as a reference point on this album. Their signature fuzzed and electric fez take on Anatolian psych and folklore can be heard permeating the Doumani’s switched-on sound; yet with the wah-wah like buzz and looping flange of the traditional Greek six or eight-stringed teardrop shaped ‘tzouras’ replacing the Baba’s signature saz. Also, they’ve managed to incorporate the trombone into this sound; played by the trio’s Demetris Yiasemides, who also joins in with the tongue-rolled harmonies and vocals. It works quite well as it turns out; with both shorter punctuated breaths and longer deep funnel suffusions that act as a sort of bass sound.

Making up that trio is the relative newcomer, Andys Skordis, who plays looping fuzzed and scuzzed-up guitar, percussion, and as with all his comrades, joins in on vocals, which fluctuate between folk traditions and what sounds like some stoic Russian or Slavic chorus on the electrically scratched and echoed ‘Poúlía’.

Finding connections with cultures, ideas outside their Cyprus home, in this nighttime realm the trio seem to follow sonic and rhythmic trails all the way to Arabia and North Africa. There’s even a strange hint of some desert-country twang on the bendy, rocking ‘Alavrostishitiótis’. Under a certain longing veil, a siren lends something ancient and particularly Greek to the dramatic, panted ‘Thámata’. In all the results are a psychedelic-Med whirlwind of nightly trips and peregrinations, and a opening up of the trio’s sound; a leap into the unknown that’s proved fruitfully electrifying and entertaining.  

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Antonis Antoniou ‘Kkismettin’
(Ajabu! Records) 2nd April 2021

A divided city on a divided island, Cyprus governmental capital of Nicosia forms the scenery for the Greek-Cypriot musician Antonis Antoniou’s earthy rhythmic new album, Kkismettin.

Passing through the invading hands of every Mediterranean empire since at least 2000 B.C., the atavistic city of Nicosia has faced a convoluted history of communal fighting by its shared, but demarcated, population of Greek and Turkish-Cypriots; stirred up by both Greece and Turkey, competing to ideally unify the island state under the authority. The most recent custodian to add Cyprus to its empire was Britain in the 19th century. Cyprus however, after much hostility and violence, gained independent status in the 1960s: a situation that continues today, despite a failed Turkish invasion in the 70s.

The results of failed coups and invasion however led to a harsh carving up of the island into separate Greek and Turkish communities and areas. Nowhere more so than Nicosia, home to Antoniou: a separated cityscape that literally seeps into and is used as a foundation for the beat, rhythm and motion of this amorphous Cypriot, and beyond, imbued album.  One of the most glaring images of those divided lines is with the lyric’s referenced concrete-filled barrels that Antoniou uses both as a metaphor and percussive beat making instrument on many of the toiled workers’ songs. As if these ‘green line’ demarcations aren’t bad enough and isolating, the recent pandemic lockdowns have created an increased, heightened sense of confinement and division between the uneasy communities   Attempting to let his music and unifying lyricism ride over such barriers, Antoniou channels both sides of the ‘wall’ culturally and musically. An instigator of the Cypriot trios Monsieur Doumani and Trio Tekke, he now draws on a lifetime of traditionally rearranged and more traversing experiments to create a soulfully rustic songbook of mother tongue sung lyrical “kismet”. But it’s “laughter rather than pain” that Antoniou wishes to convey and celebrate, despite the buffer zone travails. And on this magical, often bordering on psychedelic, album he navigates the hardship and earnestness to produce an exotic soundtrack.

Photo Credit: Michalis Demetriades

With so many influences on tap, songs such as the opening thumbed weary call to bury “distorted” histories by politicians in the vain hope of dancing together under the stars ‘Liváin’ (or “incense”), share an essence of the Hellenic and Turkish (a more buzzed-up electrified BaBa ZuLa springs to mind) but also conjure up evocations of a post-punk Jah Wobble on bass. Later on the album’s only instrumental ‘Angáli’ (“embrace”) made me think of a relaxed Compass Point Allstars bubbling up a languid island life jam. Though as the track moves along there’s an interstellar birdcall and permeating oscillation that sends it towards an acid psych sound finale.    

The most surprising image that popped up into my noggin however was of a Cypriot Funboy Three meets hushed mantra Dead Skeletons, on the increasingly hyperventilated voiced title-track. This is just one of many songs that also takes on a semblance of the esoteric; the spooked. Eerie but playful, haunted spirits quiver, hover and wobble across the album; the ghosts of previous generations making themselves heard, freely floating around the buffer zones. For this is an album of rich collective psychogeography, where ancestors from hidden cities and the neighbourhoods are invited to bring a divided landscape back together once more. Antoniou has created a communal struggle of poetic lyricism that’s both simultaneously steeped in histories, yet thoroughly of the present times: even on occasion otherworldly. Adroit sensibilities and rhythms and pulses, hushed and hymnal vocals and first-rate musicianship meet to articulate the sound of “kismet”: Destiny it seems sounds alive and evocative in this artist’s very capable hands. 

Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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