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About the Artists

Zafiros en el Barro

Thanos Chrysakis, Ken Slaven, James O' Sullivan, Jerry Wigens

Duration 43.12 | Released September 2013

THANOS CHRYSAKIS : laptop computer, synthesizer, radio | KEN SLAVEN : berimbau, autoharp, violin | JAMES O' SULLIVAN : guitar | JERRY WIGENS : clarinet, mandolin |


About the Artists

Thanos Chrysakis is a Greek composer, musician, producer and sound-artist. He is best known for his work in electronic and contemporary music, free improvisation, and electro-acoustic music.

With several albums to his name his work has appeared in festivals and events in numerous countries, including CYNETart Festival, Festspielhaus Hellerau - Dresden, Artus Contemporary Arts Studio – Budapest, CRUCE Gallery – Madrid, Fylkingen – Stockholm, Relative (Cross) Hearings festival – Budapest, Festival Futura – Crest - Drôme, FACT Centre – Liverpool, Association Ryoanji – Ahun - Creuse, The Center for Advanced Musical Studies at Chosen Vale — Hanover - New Hampshire, Areté Gallery — Brooklyn - New York, UC San Diego – California - San Diego, Berner Münster – Bern, Fabbrica del Vapore – Milan, Grünewaldsalen – Svensk Musikvår — Stockholm, Splendor – Amsterdam, Logos Foundation – Ghent, Palacio de Bellas Artes – Mexico City, Műcsarnok Kunsthalle – Budapest, Spektrum – Berlin, Susikirtimai X – Vilnius, Festival del Bosque GERMINAL – Mexico City, ДОМ – Moscow, Oosterkerk – Amsterdam, KLANG ! – Montpellier, Nádor Terem – Budapest, Utzon Centre – Aalborg, Center for New Music – San Francisco, Västerås Konstmuseum – Västerås, Störung festival – Barcelona, BMIC Cutting Edge concert series at The Warehouse – London.

His music was among the selected works at the International Competition de Musique et d'Art Sonore Electroacoustiques de Bourges 2005, in the category oeuvre d'art sonore électroacoustique, while received an honorary mention in 2006 at the 7th International Electroacoustic Competition Musica Viva in Lisbon (the jury was constituted by Morton Subotnick (USA), François Bayle (France), and Miguel Azguime (Portugal).


He operates the Aural Terrains record label since 2007 where he has released part of his work until now, alongside releases by Kim Cascone, Franscisco López, Tomas Phillips, Dan Warburton, Szilárd Mezei, Michael Edwards, Wade Matthews, Dganit Elyakim, Edith Alonso, Luis Tabuenca, Jeff Gburek, Philippe Petit, Steve Noble, Milo Fine and David Ryan among others.


He has written music for musicians of the Hyperion Ensemble, the Stockholm Saxophone Quartet, the Hermes Ensemble, the Nemø Ensemble, the Konus Saxophone Quartett, and the Shadanga Duo among others. Close collaborations with Tim Hodgkinson, Vincent Royer, Chris Cundy, Yoni Silver, Lori Freedman, Jason Alder, Julie Kjaer, Henriette Jensen, William Lang, Wilfrido Terrazas, Philippe Brunet, Wade Matthews, Ernesto Rodrigues, Ove Volquartz to name but a few.

Picture of Thanos Chrysakis

Ken Slaven, violinist born in Glasgow in 1947, has been playing music since he was 12 years old. Although engineer by profession, he has played a wide variety of types of music in many concerts and festivals throughout the world. In addition to violin and viola, he also plays percussion (timbila,  mbira,  glockenspiel, steel drum, berimbau) and other stringed instruments including the Erhu, Kantele, Gadulka, Ghu Zheng, Morin Huur, Bowed Psaltery, altered Autoharp and charango. Ken has been resident in Madrid for the last 8 years and has collaborated with many musicians from all over the world, performing regularly at concerts in El Cruce and Espacio Ronda.

Slaven specialises in various kinds of improvisation from experimental music to so-called world music with groups who are interested in developing fusions from various cultures. He also plays electronic music using zeta violin combined with bass pedals and an assortment of synthesisers.




Picture of Ken Slaven

Using a combination of feedback, conventional guitar techniques and instrumental preparations, London-based musician
James O' Sullivan exploits the full sonic potential of electric guitar and amplifier, relating them meaningfully to the immediate physical environment.

His interest in improvisation, recording and performance has led him to record and perform across the UK and internationally, both solo and with numerous improvised music groups. More longstanding arrangements include Found Drowned, a trio with Pete Marsh and Paul May, and his collaboration with Thanos Chrysakis on several releases on the Aural Terrains imprint. 

His debut solo album, 'feed back couple', was released in 2011. His second solo album, IL Y A,  is out now on the Linear Obsessional imprint.

Picture of James O' Sullivan

Jerry Wigens is an improviser and composer who plays guitar and clarinet. Most of his musical activity has taken place in London although he has also performed in Zurich, Geneva, Berlin and Athens. His interest in improvisation started at an early age and he attended John Stevens' workshops at the age of nineteen. Since then he has worked in various musical contexts including rock, jazz and contemporary classical and has performed with Eddie Prevost, George Lewis, Sylvia Hallett and Walter Cardew, among many others. He has also had work performed by guitarist Alan Thomas and contemporary ensemble Vamos. He has studied with Roger Redgate and participates in Eddie Prévost's workshop sessions which he has occasionally convened in Prévost's absence. He also plays guitar in prog/improv band Astrakan.

Picture of Jerry Wigens


Eyal Hareuveni — All About Jazz — 22.03.2014

Zafiros en el Barro ("Sapphires in the Mud" in Spanish) was recorded in Madrid, Spain and features founder Thanos Chrysakis on laptop and synthesizer with musicians who play acoustic instruments—Ken Slaven on assorted percussion instruments and violin, James O’Sullivan on guitar and Jerry Wigens on clarinet and guitar. All have collaborated before on other Aural Terrains releases as Instant-Cascade-Distant and Magnetic River.

The seven untitled improvisations here, surprisingly, avoid textures that do not rely on minimalist static improvisations, and each is busy and lively. All investigate and experiment patiently on the sonic options of spontaneous, yet carefully balanced group improvisation. In all exercises, the musicians apply extended techniques on the acoustic instruments that blur the boundaries between the electronic sounds and the acoustic ones to add distinct, focused character to each selection. The longer efforts, the second and the fourth, even have a subtle dramatic narrative enhanced with brief, nuanced excerpts of Spanish radio voices on the second one and exotic Brazilian berimbau percussive sounds and the gentle violin playing on the fourth. Other improvisations even set a suggestive, lyrical atmosphere. The fifth cut challenges Chrysakis to follow fast, chaotic acoustic interplay.

Jens Holmberg — Sound of Music — December 2013


Zafiros en el Barro är en övning i kollektiv improvisation, som rör sig i den snäva rågången mellan hårt och mjukt. Kvartetten på denna skiva består av musikerna Thanos Chrysakis på laptop, synt och radio, Ken Slaven på Berimbau, Autoharp, Mbira och violin, James O´Sullivan på gitarr och Jerry Wigens på klarinett och mandolin. Zafiros en el Barro spelades in i Madrid 2012 och består av sju stycken, döpta enligt enkel princip, I-VII. Musiken rör sig från det sparsmakade till det stora och yviga. Det börjar lite sökande och det är först på spår II det subtila samspelet tar form och musiken öppnas upp. Klangvärldarna byggs i ögonblicksbilder, där ljuden får tid på sig att växa fram. Eruptionen av ljud kräver ibland tålamod, men bland spruckna radioröster, statiskt blip-blop, jämrande violiner och sprättande gitarrer finns ädla valörer. Det 14 minuter långa stycket IV är kvartettens glansnummer och det böljande samspelet är vackert i sina skiftningar, där O´Sullivans flyhänta och skrovliga spel är den stora magneten. Jag tänker på Derek Bailey distinkta anslag när jag hör hans gitarr skena. Ibland balanserar styckena på gränsen till det förutsägbara, men tack var de akustiska instrumenten får musiken en egen karaktär, och tänker då tänker främst på de av mer udda slag som Berimbau och Mbira. De ger musiken större bredd och öppnar för nya tolkningar. Orkar man bara med intensiteten, som ibland blir öronbedövande, så är Zafiros en el Barro en uppfriskande upplevelse

Aurelio Cianciotta — Neural Magazine #46

Zafiros En El Barro is published by Aural Terrains, a label focusing on electroacoustics, improvisation and refined extreme sounds. The authors of this release are Thanos Chrysakis, Ken Slaven, James O’Sullivan and Jerry Wigens: all musicians used to performing intricate and fascinating freeform elaborations using laptops, percussion, guitar, clarinet and violin. If we look at the backgrounds of the musicians we unsurprisingly find some world music and abstract jazz influences. The work is so well balanced that it moves beyond familiar styles: there is a fusion of different cultures and approaches that are particularly reactive throughout all the elaborations, subtle melodies and fluttering rhythms. The authors have succeeded in not crystallizing any expression, managing to escape from the iterations and revealing some vital synthony. There are seven tracks on the album of variable length (from three to fourteen minutes) and they are characterized by changes in dynamics and atonal developments. At the same time the work presents popular influences and refined dissonances, a mixture of high and low culture: the circularity and the reciprocal interaction of the elements giving life to intense relationships. However, in spite of the inner complexity of the textures, the basic elements are well outlined. On the other side, improvisation is a clear element of the work: the sounds are sometimes more broad, sometimes presenting more restrained and immaterial caesuras that are elegant and dreamy, flitting between alluring and bashful modes.

Julien Héraud - Improv Sphere - 03.12.2012

Toujours à mi-chemin entre la musique contemporaine et l'improvisation libre, le label Aural Terrains propose aujourd'hui un quartet dans cette lignée toujours. Il s'agit ici de Thanos Chrysakis (ordinateur, synthétiseur, radio), Ken Slaven (violon surtout, mais aussi berimbau, autoharp, mbira et breadknife), James O'Sullivan (guitare) et Jerry Wigens (clarinette surtout et mandoline).

Les sept pièces présentées sur Zafiros en el Barro sont un assez bon exemple de ce vers quoi se dirige aujourd'hui l'improvisation libre en tant que mouvement esthétique. Les quatre musiciens mêlent indistinctement et jouent de la même manière ordinateur, électronique et instruments, l'improvisation non-idiomatique côtoie volontiers des phrases héritées du jazz (à la clarinette) ou aux musiques atonales (au violon), on trouve aussi des techniques étendues à la guitare, et les dynamiques varient aussi bien du très faible au très fort, avec une tension omniprésente. Ces variations entre les dynamiques toutes aussi bien maîtrisées est d'ailleurs le point fort de ce disque.

Ce n'est pas vraiment nouveau, ni rabaché, le quartet joue la musique qui lui plaît : de l'improvisation électroacoustique peut-être austère, mais pas tant que ça, qui mélange des influences issues des musiques écrites et populaires en restant autant que possible dans l'esthétique non-idiomatique. Le son global du quartet est assez frais, et les musiciens savent renouveler à chaque improvisation leur univers sonores (personnels sans être vraiment originaux). Je ne trouve pas ce disque extraordinaire mais c'est quand même un exemple réussi de l'improvisation libre actuelle.

Martin Lauer — His Voice Magazine — 18.11.13

Přestože je hudba považována za medium jen stěží uchopitelné jazykem, název právě vycházejícího alba Thanose Chrysakise Zafiros en el Barro (Safíry v bahně) na značce Aural Terrains dokládá, jak jazyk může s hudbou koexistovat a vyzdvihovat její projevy. Metafora terénu v názvu tohoto labelu založeného samotným Chrysakisem totiž asociuje nejen proměnlivost a změnu, vrcholy i propady zvukového vlnění, ale také cestu, kterou si každý musí tímto terénem proklestit. A jak již samotný název alba napovídá, pátrání po kráse je vždy ošemetnou záležitostí a to zejména v současném umění, kdy se tak často brak objevuje vedle perly a je tak snadné oba zaměnit.

Tento Řek žijící a tvořící již od roku 1998 v Londýně si získal jméno svými četnými kooperacemi s mnoha britskými muzikanty na volné improvizační scéně i mimo ni, jakožto i svou skladatelskou činností a audiovizuálními instalacemi. Od jeho posledního sólového počinu ΕΚΝΗΨΙΣ [2012] (recenzovaném v His Voice Petrem Studeným) se Zafiros en el Barroposouvá k větší zvukové plasticitě a vydává se cestou komplexnějších elektroakustických souzvuků. K dosažení těchto cílů Chrysakisovi dopomáhají tři zkušení improvizátoři. Jak už je u něho zvykem, Chyraskis ovládá laptop, syntezátor a radio a obstarává tak z velké části elektronickou náplň skladeb. Na housle a celou řadu akustických nástrojů, včetně berimbau, autoharfy a kalimby se představuje Ken Slaven, na klarinet a mandolínu hraje Jerry Wigens a na kytaru hraje James O'Sullivan.

Album tvoří sedm skladeb, čítajících dohromady třiačtyřicet minut, které jsou podle Chrysakisova osvědčeného modelu označeny jen římskými číslicemi. Zvukovou náplní každá z nich spěje k organičnosti, jednotlivé pasáže do sebe samovolně procházejí a zvukové plochy se zajímavě prolínají. Díky otevřenosti celku vůči novým podnětům a snaze nabalovat je na sebe  nabývá abstrakce stále novějších rozměrů a podob a celkový hudební projev tak málokdy ustrne. Hned v druhé skladbě se album rozevře naplno a vypustí na posluchače zuřivý roj zvuků, ze kterého lze jen částečně identifikovat brnkání na autoharfu a duté údery na kytaru, připomínající údery do železného kyblíku. Skladba se poté odebere docela odlišnou cestou, zklidní se a nabídne prostor klarinetu, který se plíživými tóny začne vynořovat zpod hávu jemné ambientní elektroniky a nakonec předá štafetu houslím, které se vibratem a glissandy střídavě probouzejí a usínají. V nejdelší, čtrnáctiminutové skladbě alba, označené IV., oba melodické nástroje představí naplno svůj potenciál. Nejdříve se mikrotonální hrou na housle Slaven snaží se zbytkem ansámblu podložit výkřiky Wiggensova klarinetu a O'Sullivanovy kytary,  posléze se však Slaven uchýlí k romantizujícím dlouhým tónům hraným vibratem, které však stále v rámci celku působí webernovsky znepokojivě.

Je to právě toto balancování na hranici klišé a odvážných výprav do neznáma, kterým Zafiros en el Barro dostává svému názvu. Zvukové rozpětí alba je skutečně impozantní a  kosmopolitně spojená formace se očividně snaží ze svých vlivů vytěžit co nejvíce. Zároveň se však formace nesnaží posluchače nasměrovat k jakémukoliv vrcholu nebo vyzdvihnout určitý motiv, a tudíž zůstává na každém, aby při této čtyřicetitříminutové výpravě objevil svůj vlastní safír.

Todd McComb — Jazz Thoughts — 26.11.13

With my earlier enjoyment of Growing Carrots in a Concrete Floor, I had the opportunity to survey some of the music originating with Wade Matthews, and on the Aural Terrains label. Although I didn't choose to highlight anything else here at that time, it was not long until the next Aural Terrains release, this one headlined on electronics by Thanos Chrysakis, the originator of the label, and a regular Matthews collaborator. Matthews is listed as the recording engineer for Zafiros en el Barro (Spanish for "Sapphires in the Mud"), but is not part of the quartet of musicians. The album consists of both wide-ranging material, especially in the wide variety of instruments used in the different tracks, as well as an exceptional focus. The latter is felt in the polished results coming from this quartet, most of whom have played together frequently (with the exception of Ken Slaven), and the sense that the differing instrumentation was not selected as a matter of exploration (which could be appealing also), but rather with very specific results in mind. There is a sophistication & precision here that belies both its origin as a group improvisation, and especially the very nonstandard character of the musical materials themselves. As an attempt to rethink Western music, the ways musical instances (notes) are constructed & combined, if indeed that's consciously what it is, Zafiros en el Barro is extremely successful. The entire production comes off naturally, from the various individual tracks to the way they form an album. Classical style has never seemed so remote (even if its 20th century sounds return at some moments), while also maintaining a similar locus of activity. Regarding the title, it doesn't make much sense to me unless we guess that a far larger volume of recorded material was distilled into what appears on Zafiros en el barro — I have no idea if this is the case or not. As is, there's really no "mud" in evidence.