Relying on a cheap pun isn't normally the best way to start a review. But given Sigmatropic's origins, as well as its strange mix of sounds, the oft-quoted expression "it's all Greek to me" somehow seems appropriate.
Taken literally, Sigmatropic refers to Greek producer/multi-instrumentalist Akis Boyatzis, who recruited several musicians to create this inspired interpretation of 16 poems by the late Greek Nobel laureate George Seferis. The saying, however, might also apply to the collective's esoteric approach, which often makes the music difficult to grasp. The otherworldly arrangements -- forged through a combination of guitars, violin, glockenspiel, cello, Celtic harp, synths and keyboards -- create a kind of cosmic brew, sometimes churning, mostly free-floating. The results accentuate the reflective qualities of Seferis' meditations, from the ethereal sounds that drift through the various haiku to the swirling melodic cacophony that ignites "The Dead Sea" and "Water Warm."
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Fortunately, the overall sense of disorientation is cushioned by an array of guest singers, including such luminaries as Cat Power, Robert Wyatt, Alejandro Escovedo, Mark Eitzel, Howe Gelb, Lee Ranaldo, Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab, and Carla Torgerson of the Walkabouts. They gently intone Seferis' words, as translated into English, making the project a bit more palatable to American ears. Softly sensual, these tone poems effectively celebrate their muse through the music.