Fos: Rock
Near The Exit

Listening to Rock, one pictures Katerina Koutouzi (aka Fos) holed up in some seaside cottage in Greece playing a rustic piano while swooning to the sounds of seagulls cawing outside. In actual fact, though Koutouzi is now based in London, she comes from Kalymnos, a small Greek island in the Aegean Sea, and spent her childhood years on the island and teenage years in Athens. The album's material is, of course, anything but rock music—perhaps the title alludes to the geographical aspect of the seaside locale that the music so often invokes. Regardless, it's a high-spirited affair that captivates through the force of its imagination and generous range of song styles, with the collection's nine tracks scattering wistful balladry, French chanson, and electro-pop instrumentals across its thirty-seven-minute running time. She sprinkles her largely homespun acoustic sound and traditional instruments (conch, piano, accordion, harmonium, glockenspiel, daouli, khaen, pebbles, chimes, cymbals, melodica) with sounds of the seaside, and unifying the material are the repeated appearance of an arpeggiated accordion theme and field recordings of seagull cries and crashing waves.

Koutouzi sounds positively possessed during “Sunset,” a rambunctious overture teeming with wistful piano and vocal melodies, drum beats, and stuttering voice effects. Waltz-time accordion playing in “Thalassa Platia” evokes Paris as much if not more than Greece; “Un Courant” likewise suggests a smoky French cafe in its pairing of accordion playing and half-whispered vocals. “Katharsi” features accordion again, but this time accompanied by crashing waves and seagulls' cries. Rock steps outside the acoustic framework for the skittering electronic burble of “With The Seagulls I,” a rather haunting instrumental setting that, frankly, doesn't need the seagull samples to make an impact. “Mnimi” is a breezy electro-pop lullaby whose gallop is mirrored by the presence of horses' hooves, and the chiming music box-like melodies of the pretty serenade “In Harmony” bring the recording to a satisfying end.

Rock is a commendable set (even if the seagull sounds are used to excess), and its non-stop flow of ideas holds one's attention. That the songs range across such a broad range of styles makes Koutouzi's Fos a challenging persona to pin down, but that's at least preferable to the music being too one-dimensional and lacking in variety.

September 2010