Sofia Kourtesis “This Is It” EP review

by Eric Evans

For musicians in general, but electronic musicians in particular, technology has leveled the playing field. What used to be possible only in the most sophisticated studios can now be accomplished with a laptop. There’s still undeniable charm in 4-track demos and less-polished DIY music, regardless of genre, but for artists looking to compete with the big guys for your ear and dance floor, advances in hardware and software provide tools as potent as any on, say, an Aphex Twin record. For the first time since music was recorded and commoditized, the difference between an established act and a brand-new artist is down to taste. If someone has access to the right tech and a desire to make music, they’ve got a tremendous advantage over previous generations of new artists.

This Is It, the new EP by Sofia Kourtesis, is a reverse-chronology time capsule documenting four years of musical development. From the time when her earliest work here, “Abue,” first intrigued listeners with its glockenspiel and organic-sound ambience, her style hasn’t so much changed but become more refined. “Fresia,” the newest (and unsurprisingly, most confident) track, will likely already be playing in the downtempo hours at your club of choice. It’s a full 80 seconds before the bass and beat fully kick in and by then you’re hooked. Kourtesis limits her vocals to breathy sampled “Aaaahs,” which complement and punctuate the plucked-string rhythm. Instrumentation feels distant, kept to a minimum, allowing the beat to live in the center of the mix. It’s a great track precisely because it’s not bombastic – it’s a mood-setter. And the use of a raindrop effect serves to bridge the gap between the oldest and newest tracks, water sounds being prominent in the calm tableau of “Abue.”

“Las Magnolias” sounds more indie film soundtrack than dance floor, though it wouldn’t be out of place on either. Atmospheric noise and manufactured hiss gently rumble beneath a solid beat while a simple melodic hook of voice loops overtop. It gradually builds to a rumbling crescendo then fades back, steps punctuated by random synthesizer beeps. While not quite as full-on foreboding as Disasterpeace’s masterful soundtrack to indie horror film It Follows, Kourtesis does build some tension here – perhaps a sign of things to come. “Timbre” is about sonic contrasts, synthy organ and chimes, bird chirps and male voices in the distance. That track and first single, “Killa,” are both perfectly listenable and accomplished, but feel slightly more straightforward than the others – hardly a criticism as both, but maybe the driving and chimey “Killa” more so, would be welcome at most any club. And will likely be heard, since Kourtesis tours aggressively as a DJ.

It’s fascinating to see a creative progression like the one on display with This Is It. Each track represents a stage of Kourtesis’s evolution as an artist, with both smart beats and a sense of melancholy as a throughline connecting all five. You could certainly do worse as a declaration of self.

Bonus: Once caught up with the EP, navigate to the Sofia Kourtesis Soundcloud page and luxuriate in the nearly 2-hour-long “Aphotique,” her DJ/collage collaboration with Angela Jenkins of LOVATRON. It’s pretty rad. She is positioning herself as both an artist and a DJ to watch.