Serafim Tsotsonis – She Swims

She Swims on a blue lake dashed with pockets of grey, looking for all the world like a pair of pale eyes in its jaded colouring. Those eyes stare off into the distance, lost in a deep reverie or a deeper reminiscence. She then dives into the deep, thrusting into the unknown at a steep angle – and the lapping waters are in on her covert exploration, as no proof of her presence is left behind. Silver ripples, which are nothing more than fading echoes, are just about visible, but that’s all, folks.

She descends quickly, but at first she has to contend with a disturbed vortex of air and the poor visibility that comes with the first track, ‘Time’, which is soon lost in a murky, unpredictable cloud caused by the impact of her dive. As far as openings go, it’s quite a tense affair (and a slightly ominous minute-and-a-half, too). On remembering and reflecting on the past, the heart can submerge itself – in regret, in thought and in a possibility that never materialized – unaware of its spending too much time under the water, with the very real risk of drowning in its own self-imposed murky prison.

Serafim Tsotsonis is a Greek composer and an electronic musician. She Swims is his fourth studio album. Here, ghostly, half-remembered voices are mushed into a thick ambient lather, and a saxophone sprinkles the music, with notes like drops of cleansing rain. The relaxed musings of a loose and calm saxophone occasionally dapple the air, with broken phrases settling in the night sky, and along with the cooler trickles of a piano and the upheld dignity of the strings, it becomes a previously undisclosed yearning in the process of slowly unfurling. Its heart has a fondness for home.

Although partially recorded in Athens, Tsotsonis also travelled back to his hometown of Corinth, a small seaside village in Southern Greece. The spirit of the land is here: a tanned sax sits beside a piano, and the listener drinks them in like a cold glass of iced tea. A sliding synth more than hints at some longed-for paradise. The Balearic sound of the titular track is truly a sunset moment, but that radiant, incomparable glow of home hasn’t set yet.

The music walks along the beach, taking an evening stroll, gazing out upon the old lighthouse and the sea beyond. Dim memories are made vivid once again, a spark in an underused section of the brain’s left hemisphere, brought on by the sight of a special place and the slightly salty, sinus-clearing taste of the sea air. Some darkly romantic sounds are woven into this dream; a deep and meaningful nostalgia permeates the air like the scent of old perfume. The strings recall those tender friendships from long ago, not to mention those sweet (and sadly broken) promise with a blossoming first love. ‘A Ride With Suzie’ is a slow amble through the natural landscape, where the sound of birds, emanating from local field recordings, sing from distant, echoing trees. It’s about having a personal connection with the ground at your feet.

The lighthouse is here, its white light slowly rotating, producing a bright strobe every thirty seconds or so. Slight pitch-lilts come and go, giving everything a slightly wonky feeling, a tipsy intoxication after drinking punch, and reminding the listener that this is but a dream: a magical place that can be returned to whenever and wherever. The music is drunk on its own euphoric feelings. They aren’t physically there, but they’re still concrete things. The soft dips are like gentle fails in a brain weakened by age, sitting on a shelf in a slumbering cove of the subconscious where some of the images have subsequently warped.

And as ‘Dragonflies’ enters, its paper-thin peace fluttering in the still air, a female voice rises up and out of the rippling lake, crying out with words which perfectly express the album as a whole: ‘ I can nigh forget the feeling’. ‘1977’ is reminiscent of early Boards of Canada, with a cluttered and slightly warped sound of a remembered childhood. This isn’t necessarily a true representation of youth – only a vague glimmer of it as imagined years later – but it doesn’t have to be, and that’s part of the magic. The music is a cherished place, one which is returned to over and over. In that sense, She Swims is full to bursting with an entirely natural, innocent and complete love.

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