TO MIKRO PSARI – Babis Papadopoulos

Original Review by Alan RogersTo Mikro Psari

To Mikro Psari (Το Μικρο Ψαρι) (literally translated as “Little Fish” but released under the title “Stratos”) is a Greek crime drama co-written and directed by Yannis Economides. With the backdrop of the economic decline and moral decay of recession-hit Greece, the film follows Stratos (Vangelis Mourikis), a bakery worker by night and hired hit man by day, as his complex life begins to unravel piece by piece. Reviews of the film have been mixed, with critics commenting that the film is too long, too slow and not particularly exciting. From what little I have seen, the film is bleak and brooding with an emphasis on a washed-out, grey colour palette. The composer of the score is guitarist, arranger and composer Babis Papadopoulos who is probably best-known for being a member of “Trypes”, an influential Greek rock band from the mid-1980s. Papadopoulos delivers an interesting guitar-only score built around a few basis chords which, though containing some catchy hooks that stay in the mind after the score has finished, has minimal emotional impact when heard separate from the film.

As mentioned, Papadopoulos’ score is built around 2-3 basic ideas/motifs which are repeated multiple times both at various points within the score but also several times within tracks. A repeating ostinato sequence in a low register on acoustic guitar, played against a faintly off-key chord in a higher register is one of the earliest motifs heard (”Ektos Ypiresias”). It suggests immediately the brooding tone of the film but also hints somehow at the moral ambiguity of the central character. The same motif re-appears later in the score (e.g., ”Ektos Edras” and “Mpogies”) thought there is little variation between tracks. There is a transformation of this initial motif to a sequence of more aggressive chords and this change is again repeated in each of these three tracks with little variation between the cues. Two additional thematic fragments do recur in To Mikro Psari, with the composer making each new motif individually memorable: one is a strong – though introspective – sequence of repeating chords (e.g., “Episkeptirio” and “Apokalipsi Sto 90”) and the other is a chord sequence that is somewhat flighty in sound (e.g., “Geitonia” and “Mpeton Arme”). It’s all very interesting but the album tends come across as a series of musical ideas that are stated but developed only minimally.

Variety within the score is enhanced in a couple of ways. Firstly, what sounds like electronic manipulation of the guitar is applied to several of the tracks (e.g., “Oloi Mazi Gia Ton Stoho”, “Litrosi”) and this echo effect adds a level of interest to the motif first heard in “Episkeptirio”. Papadopoulos creates a clever effect with the guitar (“Katarreusi”), using what sounds like a slackening of metal strings to add a “broken” feel to an accompanying descending motif. The overall feel of disrepair and decay may tie in with the scene for which this track was written: the track title translates as “Collapsing”. Although the overall sound of the score is mournful there are a couple of tracks that break away from the bleakness and add an element of active drama. A hypnotic and delicate ostinato pattern in the latter half of the penultimate track, “Mpeton Arme”, adds some late variations to the album and “Agios” features quick chord progressions and aggressive attack of the guitar strings to add pace and anger.

Papadopoulos’ guitar-led score for To Mikro Psari is an interesting listen as far as it goes. A running time of just over 20 minutes is long enough for the limited variations in the few thematic motifs used for the album not to become too repetitive – though only just. The various musical ideas are very listenable and the guitar playing and sound quality shows off the score’s ideas, particularly when the score becomes a bit more dramatic (e.g., “Agios”). Critics of the film have commented that the film is overlong, partly because of the significant number of long shots of empty streets at dawn and fog-shrouded hillsides. Papadopoulos’ downbeat score will surely add depth to what sounds to be an already atmospheric movie. A short running time and the interest of a single-instrument score makes for a worthwhile listen, though it won’t be to everyone’s taste. To Mikro Psari is available as a digital download purchase from several online stores.

Audio samples can be found HERE.

Rating: **/*****

  1. Intro (0:29)
  2. Ektos Ypiresias (0:52)
  3. Geitonia (1:16)
  4. Episkeptirio (1:49)
  5. Ektos Edras (2:37)
  6. Kai Eis Alla Me Ygeia (0:36)
  7. Mpogies (1:47)
  8. Oloi Mazi Gia Ton Stoho (1:37)
  9. Agios (2:15)
  10. Teleftaia Pinelia (1:38)
  11. Apokalipsi Sto 90 (0:50)
  12. Katarreusi (2:20)
  13. Mpeton Arme (1:51)
  14. Litrosi (1:46)

Running Time: 21:48

Feelgood Records (2014)

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