“Lament,” the first number on Greek lyra player Sokratis Sinopoulos’ new album Metamodal, unfolds like a perfect pastoral sunrise: the warm tones of light mix with the cooler colors of the retreating night. In this context, it’s easy to call Sinopoulos a painter, one who employs an arsenal of well-honed musicians and methodically selected scales like paints and brushes. But on the majority of his second ECM release, he seems more like a weaver. In his hands, the lyra (three-stringed and played with a bow) resonates with the tonalities of instruments from China to Ireland, threading together various Eastern European, Western European, Asian, and American music traditions. It sounds fresh, but you can also hear the weight of centuries in it, if not millennia.
Although this weaving concept is embodied best by the composition “Red Thread,” it’s really at the heart of all the album’s nine tracks. The centerpiece, and highest peak, is the three-part “Metamodal” suite, an exploration of the bandleader’s interest in medieval and Mediterranean scales and modal playing. The music constantly mutates, starting with the ambient “I – Liquid,” which takes on a folk-dance energy that descends into the apocalyptic tango of “II – Illusions.” As the piece transitions to “III – Dimensions,” the group explores various configurations—duo, full band, trio—as they shift the frame of improvisation, illuminating the musicality of all the members (in addition to Sinopolous, pianist Yann Keerim, bassist Dimitris Tsekouras, and drummer Dimitris Emmanouil).
The band also engages in more contemporary improvised music—blending folk and jazz with an almost new-age sound—on tracks like “Transition” and “Walking.” It’s on these momentum-driven tracks that the rest of the group shines. Keerim, Tsekouras, and Emmanouil are ideal sidemen; they follow and anticipate Sinopoulos’ every mood and move. It is hard to resist being swept up by that current.