Kit Sebastian ‘Mantra Moderne’ LP/CD/Cassette (Mr Bongo) 3/5

“Mantra Moderne” is the debut album of London-based Anglo-Turkish duo, Kit Sebastian. A collaboration of Kit Martin, who plays the instruments and vocalist Merve Erdem. It is being described as fusing ‘Anatolian Psychedelia, Brazilian Tropicalia, 60’s European pop and American jazz’. Interesting!

The opening track is “Senden Başka”. Twangy guitar introduces the vocals restrained to a Gainsbourgian mumble doubled with guitar with unintrusive bass and organ support. The superb “Mantra Moderne” opens with a burst of distorted, reverberated saxophones introducing the motif, before launching into a swaggering descending melody line followed by smooth organ and chinking guitar. On “Tyranny 20”, spidery reverberated guitar crawls over the driving beat on an ambience of authentic sounding 60s guitar fuzz tones and organ. “Pangea”’s laid back samba-like percussion is the platform for the repetitive and slightly tedious melody line. However, there’s an effective instrumental passage and solo towards the end. “Kuytu” is lead by the chiming keyboard backed by fuzzy guitar which gives way to a swingy rhythm with a sparse vocal line. It’s the high point of the record and has a more confident structure than some of the other tracks here. “Yanimda Kal” successfully mixes the samba rhythm with Asian instrumentation without leaning too much into exotica. “Yürüdüm, Büyüdüm, Çürüdüm” is light and airy, apart from a proggy burst midway through, with guitar coiling around the repetitive breathy lyric. “With A Sense Of Grace” has a chiming keyboard motif and plays on the duet vocal lines reminiscent of Bardot and Gainsbourg collaborations. “Durma” closes the set with an urgent bass line which introduces jabbing horns, stroboscopic wah-wah guitar, serpentine melody lines and Erdem’s spoken word vocals.

It is clear that there has been a lot of care in creating the complex and opulent sonic textures of this music. That care has been worthwhile as it sounds beautiful and lush. You can also appreciate the ambition to merge differing styles and it is good listening. Often the sound references the 1960s without quite becoming pastiche. The album could be a soundtrack from a lost French new wave movie. Expect to hear snippets from this album on T.V. shows and trailers over the next few months or so! Some of the care towards the sound has come at a slight cost as a few of the tracks here feel a bit like fillers. Maybe it is because they are lacking that visual element which is probably intended for them. Overall though, it is an enjoyable album. An accomplished and exciting debut and promises much more to follow.

Kevin Ward