fos – rock (Near the Exit)

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Not one to hand off tasks to an outside party, London musician Katerina Koutouzi wrote and played everything on this perhaps deceptively titled album. She also produced, mixed, and mastered it, and rendered the front cover’s self-portrait. Her instruments of choice range from accordion and various keyboards to traditional Greek and Lao instruments to makeshift oddities like pebbles and conch. The latter are ideal for an album fixated on seagulls and other ocean sounds, and when Koutouzi’s work as fos best succeeds, it decidedly merges the natural and constructed world.

There’s also a meeting of past and present when traditional influences are filtered through dense fields of loops and electronics. “Thalassa Platia” does just that, managing a melodic richness worthy of Beirut. Chattering birds and crashing tides pervade many other tracks. There are more pronounced rhythms amidst the ocean iconography of “Wire”, while “With the Seagulls II” employs an equally heady piano loop. Koutouzi sings in French and layers her vocals on “Un Courant” (“Current”), and sings in English on “In Harmony”, a track that’s considerably more pop than the rest. It caps the album with a soft spate of glockenspiel.

There’s a lot going on here, and Koutouzi juggles each bristling element with finesse. She seems preoccupied with stimuli of all sorts, and even more interested in shaping and wrangling them than your typical experimental musician.

Doug Wallen

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