It is quite a rare thing to find a debut album, by a non US/UK artist, to have such an impressive array of musical guest vocalists. But that is what happened in 2003, with Sigmatropic & internationally acclaimed debut: ‘Sixteen Haiku & Other Stories’. This album had an astonishing 20 guest musicians singing the Haiku poetry of Nobel laureate George Seferis on a spellbinding musical odyssey. Diverse artists such as Robert Wyatt, Mark Eitzel, Howe Gelb, Alejandro Escovedo, Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Cat Power & Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab), to name a few, appeared on a beautiful sprawl of music created by main Sigmatropic henchman Akis Boyatzis. This haunting soundtrack-like album was exotic & far removed from the customary musical travails of the acclaimed guests. Nevertheless they all agreed in unison that they were honoured to be apart this dazzling fusion of Mediterranean folktronica with its swirly twinkly electronica. It was a challenge they enjoyed & cherished.
Armed with the international acclaim of the album Akis Boyatzis embarked on producing & writing a major part of Carla Torgerson’s (Walkabouts) solo debut ‘Saint Stranger’ (Glitterhouse). His talent is etched all over this album which has some sublime moments of Can-like tinged grooves. A twee Country Folk album it isn’t!
On the new Sigmatropic album ‘Dark Outside’, it is immediately apparent that Akis Boyatzis is in a buoyant mood & is making a mark as a great singer as well. The ‘Sixteen Haiku & Other Stories ‘is more of a themed album and as a long musical odyssey that it is, it only featured Boyatzis on several vocal tracks. On ‘Dark Outside’ Akis Boyatzis unveils a mature & compact contemporary album balanced between his own & guest artists’ vocal duties. There is an additional Sigmatropic member introduced as well, vocalistAnna Karakalou, who injects a breathy & sensual tone. There is a sterling guest cast as well with vocal participations from: Robert Fisher (Willard Grant Conspiracy), Howe Gelb, Carla Torgerson (Walkabouts) & Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds / Grinderman / Vanity Set). Mixed byIan Caple (Tindersticks, Tricky), ‘Dark Outside’ is a fluid album that combines the dreamy aspects of Electronica & Rock elements together. Robert Fisher excels in participating in 2 tracks as you have never heard him before! In ‘Song In My Wallet’ he is in a Gospel toned & commanding role singing over a majestic toe-tapping groove, as in ‘Blue Side Of The Sun‘ we find him engaged in Eighties Power Pop mode. A sternHowe Gelb is in a Trip-Hop vibe together with Anna Karakalou in ‘White’ as Jim Sclavunos delivers ‘Ours At Least’ with the aplomb reminiscent to Michael Gira’s legendary ‘mellow’ Swans phase.
But Akis Boyatzis does complement the visitors contributions with some great vocal deliveries of his own, such as on the magical & playful EE Cummings poem ‘Maggie And Milly and Molly And May’, the stark & sombre intro ‘Position One’ or the tight & spiky ‘New Life’.
It has been a 4 year wait since the excellent Sigmatropic release ‘Sixteen Haiku & Other Stories’, but ‘Dark Outside’ delivers a cracking second shot which will undoubtedly ensure Sigmatropic cement their reputation as an innovative & creative force.