I Do Guest Vocal On Umami By Murat Ses

Umami, meaning ‘savory’ in Japanese, is also the title of Murat Ses’s seventh solo album (Clou Records clou-008) available at www.clourecords.com and www.muratses.com.

I was asked to record some vocals for Murat at the beginning of 2007 and I admit I had to look him up. Wikipedia lists amongst Murat’s successes the Grand Prix du Disque for Danses et Rythmes de la Turquie d’hier à aujourd’hui with Mogollar, and describes Murat as the creator of the Anadolu Pop style, the name given to a highly successful and influential mix of Anatolian Music and Western elements. Anatolia, or Anadolu, is the Asian part of modern Turkey, a broad peninsula and one of the great crossroads of ancient civilizations. What is it with peninsulas? Here in the UK, the Celtic peninsulas are also great meeting places of cultures so I didn’t feel out of place in Murat’s scheme.

Murat’s music has undergone some huge cultural shifts. In 1979 he migrated to Austria. A giant step into the middle of Europe’s Germanic classical belt produced an experimental form of Anadolu Pop, a style he named Electric Levantine. Levantine, an imprecise but useful Franco-Italian Mediterranean term, refers to a wide mixture of cultures rather than a specific geographical location. According to Wikipedia, the main elements of Electric Levantine are “microtonal properties created on authentic Levantine scales, electronically produced instrument timbres and Western music”.

I recorded some vocals and in November 2007 the completed CD, called Umami, arrived. I expected Umami to sound exotic, pleasing and somehow familiar. Wikipedia lists Murat’s main influences as sixties psychedelic prog rock bands Pink Floyd and Traffic, the jazz organist Jimmy Smith, Eastern Mediterranean music, Levantine, and Central Asian cultures and music. Wikipedia describes Murat as “the most important Turkish artist still internationally active and shaping today’s independent electronic music scene”. In 2007 an advertising agency decided to use the early 70s Mogollar song Garip Çoban, composed by Murat Ses, in PlayStation 3 commercials. It’s not hard to see why. I’ve listened to Umami many times now. The relentless density of electronic music usually means I tire when I listen to a full CD. But Umami is light and refreshes constantly. Its 40:31 minutes fly by in no time. And it is terrific, with great original sounds and catchy tunes. There’s a fascinating mix throughout. I was consulting my Glossary of Folk Instruments at Hobgoblin.com straightaway. For example, as far as I can make out there is Native American chanting, medieval shawm and electric organ playing on Tamiami Trail alone. It’s hard to describe just how good it is, but when I checked out my co-collaborators I found they are all very talented people indeed with distinguished profiles.

Phil Gooch at www.macpips.com, small things that work indeed. When I saw I was credited on the opening track On Air, it took me a long time to identify that it’s my vocal from Don’t Know What I’m Doing. It works very well with the new country music sound that comes from Phil Gooch. I do like these synthesised acoustic guitar sounds with the dragged notes and rapid tempo. It is guitar playing but not as we know it. Taking the timbre of the instruments and making them play in humanly impossible ways sounds great to me.

Kawaski “KCentric” Nelson at www.kcentricity.com is a remixer, composer, artist, and multimedia aficionado, one of today’s most creative unforgettable young talents (who has remixed my song Who Am I to Disagree?). His distinctive rap can be heard on On Air, Thru the Valley (I reckon he’s doing the zoom zoom), Fern Street (with Tomas Phusion) and Seagreen. KCentric also did the hip hop version of Right or Wrong.

The artist and musician Riyu Konaka at www.myspace.com/riyuhip does great fractured vocals on Umami and Right or Wrong.

Paris Afar Off, with its interesting Eurostar ‘commuter’ rap, and Levantine Daydream are brilliant, but my favourite track is Umami itself with that faintly disturbing Riyu Konaka vocal conveying some kind of tortured urban paranoia.

My own nasal northern English vocals can be heard in On Air, Levantine Daydream, Umami and Right or Wrong under my recording name The Hexyl Circle (www.myspace.com/thehexylcircle).

It is possible to identify all the vocal snippets eventually. All licences on Umami are Creative Commons Attribution 2.5, so spread the attribution. Here’s the list of guest artists by tracks.

On Air features Colombian pop singer SilviaO (www.silviao.com), The Hexyl Circle, KCentric, Phil Gooch guitar and 4nsic (www.myspace.com/forensichiphop)

Thru the Valley features KCentric

Levantine Daydream once again Colombian pop singer SilviaO (www.silviao.com), and The Hexyl Circle

Fern Street – Tomas Phusion and KCentric

Umami – Acradian Burn (ccmixter.org/media/people/tachyon869), Riyu Konaka and The Hexyl Circle

Paris Afar Off features Tomas Phusion’s Eurostar commuter rap and that Phil Gooch guitar

Right or Wrong features Tokyo poet and artist Bun Onoe, Riyu Konaka and The Hexyl Circle

Tamiami Trail features Tomas Phusion

Seagreen features Chris Rininger, KCentric and an artist called P.

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