Sofia Kourtesis: Madres Album Review

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    So is her growth as a singer and lyricist. Kourtesis fully broke out of that shell on Fresia Magdalena opener “La Perla,” and Madres begins with a heart-to-body sequence reminiscent of that EP’s first two songs. “Si Te Portas Bonito” flips the switch from daytime to nighttime Balearic pop bliss, laying a Top 40-style verse-chorus structure over a silky, sexy house beat. “Vas a querer escucharme” (“You’re going to want to listen to me”) is one of its first lyrics, and while she’s singing about physical intimacy, the shot-calling carries its own punch, too.

    Madres moves in some familiar dance music patterns, but also harbors a sudden tidal shift. On the icy, desolate “Moving Houses,” she briefly abandons her signature multi-layered house; the song is a tempo-less experiment in crispy static and lonely, sporadic chimes, recalling the sonic dabblings of renowned German photographer and artist Wolfgang Tillmans as well as the voice of Björk. The atmosphere is a world apart, but the individualized care remains: She cherishes each sound like her own child.

    Nothing could be more fitting, given the hardship that preceded Madres. While she toured off the acclaim of Fresia Magdalena, Kourtesis was also constantly flying home to Peru to see her mother, who had been diagnosed with cancer. In desperation, Kourtesis posted a clip of Madres’ title track on Instagram with a public plea to be introduced to the world-renowned neurosurgeon Peter Vajkoczy. He replied the next day, performed a high-risk surgery, and extended her mom’s life. She honors him on the soulful and melancholy “Vajkoczy,” which doubles as something of an extended lead-in to “How Music Makes You Feel Better,” the album’s biggest endorphin release. Together, the tracks climb to the clouds, peaking with a sky-high synth line that squiggles like an airplane banner in the wind. As a token of her gratitude, Kourtesis took Vajkoczy to the Berlin techno hub Berghain and blew a brain surgeon’s mind.

    Such is the good karma of someone who once trusted her dentist to remove a wisdom tooth a few hours after she encountered him nude in the club. Kourtesis is always seeking out new stories, whether she’s pulling strangers onstage to dance with her, or flipping traditional cumbia rhythms into a metallic, blaring album closer. It takes a special kind of force to get so many different voices in one place to coalesce. Maybe a common goal. Maybe a shared spirit. Sometimes, it’s as simple as having somebody at the center who’s willing and able to care for everyone—and who’s as magnetic as Sofia Kourtesis is here.

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