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Sokratis Sinopoulos Quartet

ECM Records
Review by Tyran Grillo

Athens-based lyra virtuoso Sokratis Sinopoulos returns to the quartet that earned him deserved acclaim on 2015’s Eight Winds. With pianist Yann Keerim, bassist Dimitris Tsekouras, and drummer Dimitris Emmanouil, he once again brings the ancient and the unexpected into harmony. At the heart of Metamodal is its eponymous suite, divided into three parts: “Liquid,” “Illusions,” and “Dimensions.” From its quiet hole emerges a snake of melodic origin whose tongue flickers always in search of the next note. Behind the insistence of Sinopoulos’s playing, clay drums and bass erode a stony topography. As background and foreground intermingle, dances speak not of a celebratory present but of an unrecoverable past.

Before any of this takes shape, “Lament” opens the album proper with an arco bass drone, over which the lyra weeps, while a wave of piano caresses a distant shore, at once mournful of the footprints it destroys and hopeful of clearing the slate for new ones. Thus, Keerim lifts memories of those who once walked along those sands, their souls drifting to a land where the bodies they once inhabited were forbidden entry. Such transcendence is echoed in “Red Thread,” wherein the band paints a restrained yet dynamic canvas on which once-divisive politics now blend until their edges disappear.

If hope is to be found, it’s in “Walking” and “Dawn.” But the hope is fantasy. Still, the musicians hold fast to it like refugees their cultural identities, knowing as they do that illusions of safety are as real as one makes them out to be. And so, “Transition” is an appropriate title not only for the tune it names, but also for the aesthetic of Sinopoulos and his fellow travelers, who as a unit look two steps ahead with each remembered. As in the freely improvised “Mnemosyne,” they carry uncertainty like a treasure as they walk into the future, leaving footprints in the sand as an ephemeral record of their traversal.


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