How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The intricate matrix that is the music of Turkey is aglow with the influences of the country's Ottoman peoples; the Romani; the folk tradition of the aboriginal peoples of that region; the Sufi music of the Mevlevis and the Derwishes; and an interesting meld of Mediterranean, Greek, Balkan. Judging by the fine music on Türlü, something eerily similar to Irish music can also be heard, as well as a Swedish Stjul. Truth be told, however, the brooding, hypnotic music of multi-instrumentalist and saz master Haci Tekbilek inhabits a magical realm where all of this collides. Moreover, the Turkish musician inhabits a space where the fine arts of music and poetry, dusky romantic symbolist imagery and epic storytelling meet.
Magically, however, at the best of times, Tekbilek's music needs no words to tell its story. Tekbilek evokes the apparition of "The Beautiful Girl" traipsing past, as his dusky flute imagines her swishing by, played across Saad Al Masri's adoring violin. But then, Tekbilek and his ensemble of lutes and strings waft into the imagination, searing with the sound of the Divine as Tekbilek sings that "Death is God's Command." Both the inevitable tragedy and ultimate pathos ensue as the end comes and life, it seems, goes quietly out like a candle. This is true also of "In Memory of Kazim Sanri," where the incredible Mats Öberg makes an important appearance on harmonica. The most surprising tracks, however, are "Elika's Spice," which features the roistering, tantalizing rhythm of an Irish square dance. In "Coffee Making" the great Swedish saxophonist Jonas Knutsson interjects the proceedings with an intricately wrought solo, full of undulations and a shivering glissando that glorifies the Middle Eastern sound so completely that he sounds practically native to the music.
The word "mysterious" is frequently used for music that comes from a road less traveledin this case Turkey, which brings much of this repertoire from its original forms in the Middle Ages. But the fact remains that this music has a hypnotic effect on the olfactory receptors. Nowhere is this more obvious than on "Misty Hamam," a song about a Turkish bath. The music was, in fact, recorded in a great hall, where the resonance is just as magical as it is mysterious. Perhaps the vapors in the air made the music hang just as heavily, as it was captured by the engineers. Whatever transpired, something spiritual occurred to put a giddying spin on the track that closes out one of the most beautiful albums of 2010.
Track Listing: Death is God's Command; Candied Apples; The Beautiful Girl; In Memory of Kazim Sanri; Ellika's Spice; Coffee Making; Taksim Evc-Ara Maqam; Devran Baba's Address; The Woman Everybody Loves; Small Street; Misty Hamam.