01 March 2012

Katrin The Thrill: "Earth Is Calling Us"

My many thanks to Independent Music Promotions for keeping me in the loop!

There are a few female vocalists, who when I hear them sing, the sound of their voices continue to haunt me for hours. Grace Slick and Siouxsie Sioux are two of these vocalists; the one thing that they have in common is that when they sing, their vocals seem to “lift” from the songs and dominate the soundscape. In more recent years, Skin of Skunk Anansie and Marina Lambrini Dimandis of Marina and the Diamonds also have this quality to their vocals. Katerina Panopoulu, who writes and performs under the moniker Katrin The Thrill, is another female vocalist to possess this quality. Her debut EP, “Earth Is Calling Us” (20 December 2010), not only frolics in darkish, brooding music that straddles both grunge and post-punk revival, it showcases her powerful and compellingly alluring vocals.

This is one of those releases that I kick myself for not discovering or being told about earlier! The genesis of the EP harkens back to 2009, when fires swept through Greece leaving havoc and devastation in their wake. “Earth Is Calling Us” is not only a reaction to the fires, but also a means to help; part of the profits will go towards the reforestation of the burned forests. In essence, this EP is more than just aesthetics; it is the chance, the potential, of doing something meaningful that transcends music.

“Earth Is Calling Us” opens with “You Make Me Wanna Die” – musically straightforward and lyrically blunt: “Now you’ve hurt me enough, so please decide to stop. Yes you made me sad, how cruel is your love…” Do not dismiss this song as that ramblings of a jilted lover; take notice of how the atmosphere between verse and chorus shifts, when Panopoulu repeatedly sings, “You make me wanna die.” It becomes obvious that this song is about the effects of an abusive situation, an issue rarely addressed in music. And it is obvious from the start that there is conscious consideration of how music and lyrics will work in tandem. The following track, “Unreal,” is darker and more brooding than the first; the guitar playing/arrangements on the track, though not the most complex on the album, really create an amazing lulling atmosphere. “God” is a surreal, narrative track of death (maybe suicide) and a “trip to find God” in order to find love. The song is as dramatic as they come; from the verses that seem to inch slowly, building up suspense, to the grandiose, yet ambient, feel of the chorus, everything about the song is disarming in a good way, especially when she sings the line, “I am God. I am God.”

The titular track follows, sharing some of the same underpinnings of the preceding track in terms of how suspense is built in the song. What I really like about this track is how the music and vocals bounce back-and-forth from resigned to angry. The radio edit of the song closes the EP. But before reaching that point, you go through “Sorry.” The music goes poppier than before, definitely more on the grunge side, with a bit of “shoegazy” guitars for effects. The main lyrical content is the repetition of “I’m sorry.” What really gets you about the song is how the near bubbly music and the idea of contriteness in the repeated phrase are really mutually exclusive and yet work wonderfully together (definitely my favorite track). But like good lyricists, there is an air of (total) ambiguity about this song: what are you sorry about? How did it go wrong? But, at the end of it all, it doesn’t matter, because the song really captures that moment when you want to give into your remorse and ask for forgiveness, but still stubbornly holding onto the façade of being happy and upbeat.

Just as I always say about Scandinavia, Greece stands outside and relatively at a distance from the Anglo-American world; though drenched with its music, it is experienced in quite a different way than a kid in Boston or Manchester would engage it. It is that distinct perspective about music, genre, and even language that really gives some international artists something special and alluring to their music. Katrin The Thrill (though having studied prior and now living in the UK) is one of those artists that have that alluringness of being the outsider producing something familiar, but yet refreshing and distinct. “Earth Is Calling Us” is the evidence of that. It is everything about this collection (that amazing voice, the infectious rifts, knowing that your purchase helps reforest parts of Greece, and that distinct approach of familiar elements) that keeps me hitting repeat and making me wish I knew about it earlier.

Track Listing:
1. You Make Me Wanna Die
2. Unreal
3. God
4. Earth Is Calling Us
5. Sorry
6. Earth Is Calling Us, Radio Edit

Keep up with Katrin The Thrill at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is the video for “Earth Is Calling Us” from the manoouz YouTube Channel.

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