Sigmatropic

Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories

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On Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories, a slate of international guests help Akis Boyatzis and Sigmatropic recast their original, Greek-language interpretations of George Seferis' poetry into English, in the process bringing the Nobel laureate's evocative work to their own varied audiences. The recording's guest list is rather impressive, from an indie standpoint at least. Shoving off with no less an eccentric talent than the inimitable Robert Wyatt, Sixteen Haiku drifts soundtrack-like through 22 unnamed pieces ("Haiku Five," "Haiku Six," etc.) According to Boyatzis' liner notes, the guests involved recorded their respective vocal interpretations over Sigmatropic's existing tracks; the resulting musical threads tie together what might otherwise be a mess of tangled voices. The album percolates with electronic programming, and the grooves of what might be labeled indie electronica. Processed bits of guitar build subtle melodies over thick bass, wildly varied drum loops, faraway snatches, traditional instrumentation, and assorted blips of human laughter and muttering. Ultimately, however, Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories is about words and voices. Wyatt, Laetitia Sadier, Alejandro Escovedo, and Edith Frost dress their performances in personal nuance, but never outpace the poetry itself. (The artfully simplistic couplets are included in the accompanying booklet, along with a brief Seferis bio.) "I am raising now/A dead butterfly/With no make-up," Cat Power sings in "Haiku 10." It's brief at just over a minute. But the track's atmospheric buzz is sold by Chan Marshall's particular phrasing. This holds true throughout the album. Despite all the distinct personalities and their clever interpretations, no one piece ever really stands out. Instead, they each pour a spoonful of sparkling crystals into Sixteen Haiku and Other Stories' rejuvenating mineral spring.

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