CD: Omnitopia
Artist:  Sotiris Gougousis

OmnitopiaMaybe there is something in the Grecian waters or in the Mediterranean atmosphere, but it seems like some of the finest electronic musicians in the world, such as Vangelis, Yanni, and others come from Greece. Why this area has spawned a scintillating synthesizer subculture is a mystery, but the rest of the world is happy to enjoy the fruits of their artistic labors. One of the latest electronic artists to emerge from this corner of the globe is Sotiris Gougousis. Its not too surprising that he would be drawn to synthesizers given his background in science and technology, in which he studied physics, electronics, and telecommunications engineering and also worked in media production in Athens. His other interests include photography, graphic design, computer animation, video editing, visual effects, and multimedia presentations.


According to his bio: “Sotiris was always interested in music and electronics, but the first time he saw, heard and touched a real synthesizer he was speechless (with his mouth open). It was one of his life-changing experiences.” For some it may be difficult to understand the impact of this instrument on their creativity, but as a synthesist myself, I can certainly relate. I can also identify with some of his many influences such as Jean Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk, and the aforementioned Vangelis and Yanni. Although Sotiris has been playing and recording music for a long time, it is only recently that he has begun releasing his creations to the public. Before this he contributed to various electro-acoustic academic research and multimedia projects, taught audio- visual/ multi-media classes at technical institutes, even worked as a sound designer and synth/ MIDI consultant for a music store/distributor. In his words: “As an instrument of creative expression, the synthesizer always fascinates me, sets my imagination free and sends my soul travelling to far away places, above and beyond words. Flying above clouds, wandering through forests, diving deep into blue ocean waters, anything is possible when I close my eyes and touch the synth-keyboards.”


imagesOne of the most interesting aspects of his creative process is that Sotiris likes to create music “direct” without any overdubs or serious editing in order to capture “the feeling of the moment.” Without getting too technical, it is possible for one keyboard, using splits and layers via a digital interface (MIDI) to control other synthesizers simultaneously, producing a rich interweaving of sounds. While many electronic musicians prefer to record one track at a time to build a composition, I have to respect someone like Sotiris who is creating on the fly and going where the sounds take him. He sees his creations as “music moments,” which are recorded live, often in one pass, with only the slightest editing or fading out of a few layers here or there to try to shape the form of the piece.


Sotiris described his music as a journey and the first track, “Forest Spirits,” is certainly a good example of this. Opening with the sound of wind, tinkling harps, and ethereal choirs, the track has a feel that reminded me a bit of Enya. While the piece had a heartbeat-like pulse to it, I particularly enjoyed the little echoed percussive accents that appeared from time to time. Like the two words that make up the title, “forest” and “spirits,” the song is both earthy and airy at the same time. As mentioned, Sotiris has an interest in multi-media production and a number of his songs, including this one, serve as soundtracks for his beautiful music videos, which can be seen on his Youtube channel:


The influence of Vangelis is reflected on a track called “Dream Away,” which features lush synthesizer textures, filter sweeps, and gentle arpeggiations serving as a backdrop for his spacious piano melodies. On “Waves Of Solace,” subtle electronic percussion ebbs and flows as pizzicato string sounds add counterpoint over washes of synth pads and ocean waves. The sound of archetypal European electronic music is evoked on “Within A Dream” as percolating sequencers intertwine propelling the piece through its various movements. In fact, this nod to classic analog synth sounds is evident on much of the music by Sotiris.


Although there is a Euro-synth flavor to the album in general, I appreciate the diversity Sotiris displays within this context. “Raindrops and Memories” is an introspective piece that features some interesting liquid-like synth tones along with the sound of rain. The title of “Angels In The Mist” perfectly describes the heavenly ambience of this track that is enhanced by the delicate sound of flute. The album draws to a close with a wistful tune called “Old Photograph” that evokes nostalgia. Sotiris describes his music as: “driven by life experiences, dreams and wishes, feelings, emotions, my soul.” I definitely get a clear sense of that in listening to the tracks on Omnitopia. Sotiris has done a wonderful job of conveying these personal experiences in his music. I was impressed with his artistic use of electronic instruments and the sonic stories he was able to coax out of them. I’ll look forward to hearing more of them in the future.