On Stroke by Stroke, the windows in Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga’s house are thrown open; you can hear the streets of Athens enlaced in her apothegmatic pieces for a radically prepared and refashioned zither. Knowing this, anyone even somewhat alert to the events in the streets of Athens from May of 2010 to the present, almost precisely the period of time bracketing the home recordings heard on Stroke by Stroke, will inevitably bend their ear for aural evidence of the crisis and conflagrations staged in the public spaces of Athens. I do not hear the explicit sounds of police brutality or the massive organization of strikes and demonstrations conveyed with heavy-handedness, say, by dint of T.V. or radio captures, or troweled on with field recordings. I do hear alarm [and alarms], pieces bearing up under tremendous tension and distress, the sounds of sheared metal, what sounds like bowed iron gates, and the unnerving shuttle of warp beams on a ghostly loom. Chatzigoga has articulated [or as the poet Michaux has it, more surgically, auscultated] the spirit of her adopted city with great subtlety, juxtaposing the mechanized and harsh strokes of some of the 21 tracks, with moments of calm, clarity and tenderness.
The title Chatzigoga chose for her solo release comes from a late collection of prose poems and ideogramatic ink drawings by the French poet Henri Michaux. Chatzigoga has chosen well, as one can easily unpack multiple apposite meanings from stroke by stroke; listen to the full- spectrum, tactile approach she takes to this oldest of folk instruments. Caresses and dandles are at play, but you would expect that with a zither – what I was not expecting are the sounds of saxophone multiphonics, granulated train whistles, inchoate radio signals, looped looms and, as baffling as anything heard across the 21 strokes sounded here, unmistakable, sustained sine tones.
Chatzigoga has reimagined her chosen instrument and remapped its territories like only a few artists I can conjure up who have produced anything remotely similar to Stroke By Stroke– Annette Krebs […]; here and there that other Berlin guitarist who practiced a rigorous, but less radical erasure of his instrument’s baggage, Hans Reichel; Andrea Neumann, whose innerklavier bears some overlapping resonances ; and to my ears, most remarkably, Arek Gulbenkoglu, the Melbourne-based guitarist whose 2005 release Points Alone, for solo acoustic guitar, owns a strikingly similar quality of subverting whatever possibilities and parameters you thought obtained in a solo work for an acoustic stringed instrument.
recorded at home in athens between june 2010 and april 2011
no electronic effects, overdubbing or processing used