For me, one of the main attractions of eastern musical styles is the lively, unpredictable, and often meandering plucked-string melodies. Timing, loudness, and note-choice are all slaves to a spontaneous spirit-of-the-moment. As a westerner constantly bombarded by music with cyclical structures, music from the east is a welcome change. Sultan captures this more adventurous approach with a 33-minute track called "Yenilik." The back of the case lists Parts I - IX, and I can hear out 9 parts, but the CD itself is actually divided into 8 parts. Part I starts us off quietly with plucked strings of a (no doubt) Turkish instrument of some kind played by Burhan Öçal. The melody is immediately engaging and channels the spirit perfectly. After about a minute or so, another layer of this melody is heard in the distant background. Eventually, Namlook's keyboards add a rich, warm backing. Part II continues the story, but now perfectly-spaced delays of some sort of drum and synthesizers take over. The tonal solos originally exhaled by the early Air projects join up with an aggressive bass texture. Until I heard this track, I never thought one simple little synth tone could contain so much character and so much feeling, and the way it fits with the drums is remarkable. But they are just getting warmed up. Part III is a short, mellow segue that leads us into the most active and electronic portion of Yenilik. Buckle up, Part IV promises to fuse 4otF rhythms, hypnotic Turkish drumming, breakbeat basslines, and both "real" and processed voices, all with a distinctive eastern flair. This is the longest of all the parts, and it goes through several phases itself, starting with an ultracinematic display of strumming and drumming skills. A stomping bass overlay at just under 11 minutes into it and I'm thinking this is one of the most distinctive and eclectic fusion projects I've ever heard. Part V basically drones us into Part VI. Öçal solo material predominates in this section. As with Part I, here we wander through eastern scales. Occasionally notes gather and settle into a cluster and then all at once jump around a bit more. Somehow, Öçal's fingers manage to keep all the submelodies coherent with the main melodic theme. Part VII: Here the drums we heard in Part II are coupled with some great plucked string action. Very exotic and very beautiful (I try to keep use of this word to a minimum). Namlook's keyboards lend a good background once again for this type of thing. The ending of this part contains a reprise of the vocals we heard in Part IV, but this time sounding very far-off and cloudy. A gong-type sound builds and builds to a deafening roar, and we return to the organic string sounds. This is the last part, and it is a perfect epilogue to the whole piece.
Track 9 is a nice 20-minute long "ambient" (?) work entitled "Gel gor beni ask neyledi." Öçal reads passages of Turkish poetry through monstrous reverbs while a steady drum gently keeps time. Occasionally, deep bass resonates. By the way, I assume the drums from this track are from the same session as those on Air III track 2 ("Oui"), only the wind tunnel effect is replaced by delays and the equalization sounds a bit different. All in all, this disc really demonstrates Namlook's excellent collaborative abilities, and when Sultan II finally comes out I will definitely be seeking that one out.
(review by [email protected])