The Belgian collective, Compro Oro move further from the Latin jazz of their debut, “Transatlantic”, towards rock with their third full album “Simurg”. It’s a collaboration with Murat Ertel, frontman of legendary Turkish psych rockers, BaBa ZuLa and singer Esma Ertel, Murat’s partner. Recently the couple curated the excellent Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976-1984) compilation, which I gave a rave review of here when it was released a few months ago.
“Simurg” is a concept album, with Turkish words, telling a story; an analogy. Millions of birds travel over several valleys seeking fulfilment. Out of the millions, only thirty birds abide and complete the journey. They merge then are reborn and reincarnated as a Simurg (or Phoenix).
Foot-down wah-wah on fiery, fuzzed-out saz sparks the hard rock of “Ben” raised by heroic power chords, soaring vocals and the rippling shade of vibraphone. “Murmur” drips a trippy vibe of Esma and Murat’s spoken, often whispered words on twangy guitar and floaty ride cymbal. “Ignorance Is Bliss (Valley Of Ignorance)” engages, conveying the sense of journey with swathes of electronic noise and percussion reminiscent of Kraftwerk but with tenderness. “Valley Of Extinction” is populated with reverberated guitar and creamy synth and leaves a vague feeling of poignancy.
The sparse introduction to “Valley Of Disbelief” soon builds into a precise psychedelic dub groove. “Valley Of Loneliness” is another vocal track over distant chiming which leads to “Valley Of Ego” with Laibach-ian persistent percussion. The birds become Simurg at “Kaf Mountain” and are played out by a melodic vibes and drums duet.
I guess a concept album, particularly one that tells a story could be seen as a brave artistic (some would say foolish) venture in the 21st century. I have to admit I have a soft spot for the pioneering spirit of the original progressive rockers and I detect the same sense of adventure here. However, it’s not retro, it is a fresh mix with flavours of jazz, electronica and dub.
Though the tracks do have to convey a certain mood and tell the story, it’s surprisingly improvisational and I detect a sense of freedom to the performance. There are some good jams and beauty on this album. I think it’s an exciting, successful experiment and I’m left wondering what happens next on their adventures.