Compro Oro with Murat Ertel & Esma Ertel - Simurg (Album Review)
19 June 2020
Sdban Ultra Records
Album Rating 4 / 5
Live Potential 4.5 / 5
Solo Performances 4.5 / 5
Diversity in Songs 3.5 / 5
Favourite Songs Valley of Extinction, Ben, Kaf Mountain
Belgian psychedelic jazz collective Compro Oro have collaborated with Murat Ertel, co-founder and frontman of Istanbul's cult psychedelic folk band BaBa ZuLa and his singer partner Esma Ertel. The result is Simurg, an album of deep-psych spookiness.
The simurg is a benevolent, mythical bird in Iranian mythology and literature, seen in iconography in the Byzantine Empire and other regions under Persian cultural influence. The story of this album is one of attraction, existential research, purification and rebirth. In a mysterious search for fulfillment, millions of birds embark on a journey, crossing several valleys, each representing a human characteristic.
While some yield to the attractions of love, ego or grow ignorant and faithless, others remain curious and continue their expedition. Slowly but surely this murmuration of birds thins out and a selection of 30 birds reach Kaf Mountain and the nest of the Simurg. There and then they become one, they are reborn and reincarnated in an almighty and omniscient phoenix.
Following Compro Oro’s sophomore album Suburban Exotica released last year, they decided to team up with Murat Ertel after performing live with him back in 2016. Murat Ertel is best known as the king of Turkish psychedelic music as his band BaBa Zula fuse traditional Turkish rhythms and melodies with dub, electronic and psychedelic rock elements. Earlier this year, he curated a compilation of electric saz music entitled Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976-1984) to present his Turkish musical influences.
The partnership between Compro Oro and Ertel seeks a similar journey to that of the simurg described above: a spontaneous dialogue, a quest for new musical horizons, and a gathering of liberal spirits to reach for the unknown. With fellow Belgian producer and multi-instrumentalist Dijf Sanders mixing and producing Simurg, frontman Wim Segers states:
“the new music is entirely based on improvisation. [It] contrasts to Suburban Exotica, which is built more from song structures and where there was more overdubs."
The album begins with an absolute thrasher in 'Ben', a heavy mosher with an Anatolian rhythm that indicates Compro Oro's move towards the Turkish psychedelic sound as the groove swirls around like the simurg diving through the air as it flies. Particularly with the mysterious interludes that feature spoken word from the Ertel's in 'Valley of Gossip' and the vibraphone-leading 'Valley of Loneliness', the rest of the album has a sinister edge to it that really reveals itself as an intense trip travelling through these various valley's, aiming to tempt you out of this mythical expedition to reincarnation.
For Compro Oro, they forge ahead in this journey to really surrender themselves to learning and playing in the Turkish psychedelic sound and they convincingly create provoking, powerful songs from embarking on this voyage. 'Murmur' features eerie vocals that add urgency to the heavy psychedelic twang echoing through from Bart Vervaeck's guitar soliloquy. The guitar leads skilfully in 'Valley of Love', pushed on by the ride cymbal ringing out, as well as screeching out in 'Araf'.
'Ignorance Is Bliss (Valley Of Ignorance)' sees Sanders production take a lead role as he manipulates the guitar to swoosh over Murat Ertel's electric saz that offers a constant hook amongst the mystical atmospherics. The dark dub of 'Valley of Disbelief' is driven by Matthias Debusschere's bass as the vocal interchanges between Murat and Esma add to the ricocheting sounds which continue in the slower but ghostlier 'Valley of Ego'.
In 'Valley of Extinction', it's a slow burner in a Pink Floyd-style buildup as the low end grumbling and cymbal washes move out of the way for the whole band to improvise as the groove sits really well. 'Kaf Mountain' sees Segers spectacularly solo on the vibraphone whilst Falk Schrauwen and Frederik Van den Berghe on percussion and drums introduce pounding patterns to add to the pace and intensity of the song.
As Compro Oro have presented various other influences in their previous releases, such as their debut album Transatlantic as an ode to jazz vibraphonist Cal Tjader and the Bombarda EP incorporating different ethnic rhythms south and east of Cuba, it is no surprise this project seeks out another style that sits close to their psychedelic and jazz sound. They feed off Murat and Esma Ertel's energy and have become inspired to create a Turkish sound in honour of their psychedelic identity.
The strength of the Simurg as a result of its power to resurrect from its own ashes reflects the resilience of every human being. We all have the power to strengthen and improve ourselves, not in the least in our contact with others, and this is exactly what this project is about.
Buy and stream Simurg here:
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Compro Oro are: Wim Segers – vibraphone, marimba / Bart Vervaeck – guitar / Matthias Debusschere – bass / Falk Schrauwen – percussion / Frederik Van den Berghe – drums.
Special Guests: Murat Ertel – Electric Saz / Esma Ertel – vocals.