Balkan Express

22/07/2022Experimental Composer/Performer Tasos Stamou Embarks On A Six-Track, Synth-Led Retro-Balkan Journey

This is an express post to express our profound appreciation for London-based experimental music composer and performer, alternative electronic music instrument maker, tutor and sound technologist Tasos Stamou's current six-track album "Balkan Express", released last month on French imprint Akuphone. "Exploring the gap between ancient and contemporary transcendental music, using both traditional and advanced media," Stamou has been "developing a unique style of live electro-acoustic compositions," over the past decade. Working with a "portable electro-acoustic music studio," he composes his pieces on the go, creating singular "ritual atmosphere's," blending unique "tonal textures" with "free, improvised instrumental solos."

His latest outing is a keyboard-driven time capsule, a tip of the hat to the music he grew up with in the Balkans in the '80s and "the sound of [an] era that unintentionally shaped a whole culture."  Said era marked the arrival of "inexpensive, available-to-all electronic keyboards with synth sounds and drum machines [that eventually] replaced traditional Balkan folk music ensembles." Heavily "influenced by local traditions and the heritage of Ottoman music," Stamou's "Balkan Express" consists of six tracks, each one recorded on a different vintage electric keyboard from his own collection and combined with "oriental acoustic solos," revealing "a more obscure electro-folk approach" than the rest of his discography.

Riding a retro-synth wave, Stamou’s compositions draw on Balkan folklore, rephrasing and elaborating traditional melodies and rhythms with the clockwork regularity of a keyboard demo. The album artwork fittingly showcases what looks to be a minuscule, vibrantly adorned wind-up music box with a Madonna-esque figure at its center – another object stemming from his personal collection – bearing resemblance to those iconic roadside shrines commonly scattered across the Balkan territory. "Balkan Express" quite literally feels like being in transit aboard a train, chugging across a vast bucolic territory of rolling hills and verdant pastures that witnessed way more than meets the eye, inviting listeners on a journey that is both nostalgic and pioneering.

You can stream the full album via the player below.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom