Polishing the diamond
I first became aware of mr. petrakis through his work with ross daly, and purchased this on a whim. glad i did. the audio cut for the samples in no way does the full tracks justice. i read the phrase "polishing the diamond" in an interview with bill bruford (yes, king crimson, earthworks jazz drummer). that is the best depiction of what stelios has done with this album; all his work with multi-cultural multi-instrumentalists has been applied to this fruit (orion) to perfection. i tend to find much of greek & cretan music to be riotously festive; whirling chains of melodies to a very solid, interesting beat. two great additions on this disc is common use of bagpipes, and the use of flamenco guitar. to include all the instruments used would be insane. generally, the album includes rhythm, string, and wind instruments from greece, crete, turkey, spain, india, northern africa, iran, eastern europe, and the western classical tradition. what's striking about this album (that doesn't happen as much in the cultural music) is it's blended, symphonic sound. world artists, in collaboration, seem to like to add their musical "two cents" at all times; leading to everyone jamming out very well, but negating a project's possible breadth. in doing so, the players are very good at creating tracks with a single essence or feeling. this album has a much more premeditatively-symphonic sound; as if many different musical roads & ideas were traveled and ruminated upon before deciding the application within the tune. any given track will have parts when 'these' instruments play, but 'those' don't, for example, and vice versa. additionally, each instrumentalist's skills are highlighted, but never dominating for extended periods of time. walking through the first four tracks, it's a fantastic cretan-style album. but, tracks 5 and 6 are the exception that take it to another level. the former starting out with a most wonderful flamenco-style intro, into beautifully-sung verses, upheld by subtle guitar and slow-rolling bendir (frame drum) beat. the lyrical nature of the melody is accentuated during the chorus harmonies of lyra, cello, and flute. track 6 has guitar pioneering the way in the beginning as well, breaking into high-speed balkan-esque folk nature in no time. despite the 8 1/2 minute length of the track, it never feels repetitive, continuously moving through a series of different melody variations and choice instruments. everything i love about the mediterranean sound, coupled with other elements: flamenco, carnatic (south indian), persian, and balkan. all elements are applied with first-rate production quality, and in complete service of the music as a whole. maybe the only concerning thing for stelios petrakis is that, after making an album of this magnitude, where does one go from here?