Album Review: Chrónos – Chrónos Project [The In Sound, September 2016]

Dimitra Galani is a Greek singer whose career spans forty years. With her deep, husky voice she is a phenomenon in her own country having made over twenty popular albums and numerous film soundtracks. The Chrónos Project (CD and DVD) is her new concept: to bring ancient Greek music, art and poetry together and present them to the world in the context of new song arrangements. “A song is a very important moment in our culture because it is a musical event that dresses our language in substance – a continued connection to the past,” she states in the DVD documentary.

Galani’s chosen band is responsible for the accomplished arrangements. It looks in an Easterly direction, with the oud playing of Thomas Konstantinou alongside the more conventional jazz ensemble of piano (Spyros Manesis), bass (Petros Klampanis) and percussion/vibes (Christos Rafalides).

The idea is an interesting one, but it is difficult to relate to it. Track six, ‘Raiko’ (a traditional piece from Macedonia) is the strongest track. With its nebulous textures (a nice doubling of voice and double bass) it sounds less like a Eurovision song contender than the others, but neither does it sound particularly Greek. Galani herself has a characterful but rather one-dimensional vocal style, and all the songs have a fairly limited range, so there is not much variety in that respect. It may well be that the interpretation of the poetry is superb, but for non-Greek speakers (and no translation of the lyrics) it’s hard to get past the overwhelming over-romanticism of it all – ‘Arnisi’ and ‘Athanasia’ (a dreamy waltz in the style of 60s film music) being the prime examples of this. There is some variation in the music with tracks such as ‘Argosvinis Moni’, a march with a tango vibe that has some passionate interruptions from the oud and ‘Kegome Kegome’ with its atmospheric, avant-garde textures and big reverb on the vocals.

It’s refreshing when a recording has a live sound to it, but not when technical issues get in the way of the music as is the case here. On ‘Halasia Mou’ the whistling is distorted and there are pops on the vocals. The final track ‘Xanthoula’ is quite hissy. Audible coughing just before vocals come in and several pops on this duet make this not a pleasant listening experience.

The DVD is full of too much rather uninteresting rehearsal footage with snippets of a live concert and still images of the audience – someone trying to squeeze a lot out of not much material perhaps. The design of the whole package is singularly uninteresting, like a brochure for a new dental surgery. The musicians are obviously skilled, but this project doesn’t gel. Over all, a bit of a disappointment.

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