In the case of this wandering musician Sonny Touch, the term “masterpiece” ought to be analyzed and documented so that his latest work can receive the accolades it deserves.

Sonny Touch

Locally and tropically

Text: Stefanos Tsitsopoulos || Photographs: Sonny Touch's archive
Sonny Touch

From windy Vardar to the tropical forests of Vietnam, from the Russian steppes or Mississippi’s steamboats then on to Honolulu via Egnatia Road. It took him ten years following “Brain Soup” (2009) to release his masterpiece album “Leave Space for the Little Animals” in 2019, a roady and wandering work of art. Now, the word “masterpiece” is pretty loaded, especially in the social media age where the aplomb is mirrored via superlatives such as “wow”, “freaking awesome”, “eye poppin'”, “out of this world” and so forth. Having said that, in the case of this wandering musician Sonny Touch, who can be found anywhere from Paris, Thessaloniki, London and even Finland where he presently lives, the term “masterpiece” ought to be analyzed and documented so that his latest work can receive the accolades it deserves.

Right up there, on the shelf with the unsorted, open and “un-tidied” albums, distanced from the sorting process that calls or records to be classified according to genre and style: folk, blues, surf, tropicalia, voodoo, cinematic, rock and roll, africana, post punk, an incredible sound palette that doesn’t sway, not even for a second, from what is – according to its maker – the eliciting source. A love for music of the world, authentical played and orchestrated, lead to one music only, on music that embraces the precise heritage of yesteryear from Bo Didley and Tom Waits to Captain Beefheart and the Leningrad Cowboys. Yet, it’s the music of Sonny Touch that ties it all together with the freedom of funk, the hedonism of disco, the humor, the melancholy the madness and the wide spectrum of human emotions all of which, thanks to a fine needlepoint of notes and sounds, result in a, you guessed it, masterpiece! This is probably the hardest thing for a musician to achieve, and likely the most provocative and challenging achievement, given that it’s quite simple to know what it is you want, but it’s a different matter, an extremely convoluted and complex feat, to actually “produce” it. In “Leave Space for the Little Animals” he actually managed to do just that. And if Sonny wanted to narrate specific stories of a musical wandering, the resulting miracle acquires a sense of interaction for the listener: it’s a record that allows you to interpret freely and openly on your own, with your own images, since your images can easily fit next to his stories.

That’s because Sonny Touch, and this may be due to his Thessaloniki-born background as he’s from a city whose cosmopolitan nature is impossible to contain or suppress, can blend a vast variety of musical genres. Nothing is off limits for him and that means that in the grooves of this analog vinyl album, which unquestionably maximizes the listening pleasure, none of the conventional terms of the music industry is followed. And that’s exactly what makes up the beauty, the rarity and the magnificent quality of this album: Sonny Touch, in “Leave Space for the Little Animals” proves just how much you can carry and even take along the cosmopolitan Thessaloniki of yesteryear, even to Finland, his present-day dwelling. And that’s just right, given that from Takis Kanellopoulos to Aki Kaurismaki or from the Leningrad Cowboys to Nikos Papazoglou, the road is not a long one at all.

But there’s no end to miracles when it comes to Sonny Touch. The pandemic might have taken its toll on us all in so many ways, but art has fortunately found ways to take advantage of it – and the right soundtrack to embellish it. Or maybe not, because we will be walking the paths forged by Sonny Touch’s sounds for much longer.

In July 2020, “Four Colors” was released independently, on all digital platforms. It’s an utterly moving and introspective single, different from what you find on Leave Space for the Little Animals – which is why it wasn’t included in the album. It inhabits a dimension of its own, hovering in four colors.

And in comes March 2021. and Sonny Touch releases a fresh new EP, Dungeness, in digital format. It owes its name to a headland in the English county of Kent, where one finds shingle beaches, a nuclear power station, a village and a natural reserve. It is also the location of Prospect Cottage, a house that belonged to the late director Derek Jarman, who painted its exterior pitch-black and added a poem – a verse from “The Sunne Rising” by John Donne – to one of the walls in black font. The garden, which mirrors the gloomy, wind-swept landscape, is also made of shingle, driftwood, reclaimed metal and a few hardy plants.

Imagine this landscape; imagine the sounds embellishing it and listen to Sonny Touch’s instrumentals inspired by how he imagined it himself – since he too has only visited Dungeness with his imagination.Cover of the album Dungeness, Sonny Touch