Thursday 16 March 2023

Özgür Aydın - Harvest (2023)

Country: Turkey
Style: Blues Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 17 Mar 2023
Sites: Bandcamp

This is going to seem like easy listening after ...and Oceans and the sweater Özgür Aydın's wearing on the cover doesn't help—no, I'm not judging, because I covet both those chairs—but it's perfect as a palate cleanser. It's bluesy but it feels uplifting and song titles like Joy, Harvest and Circle of Energy feel entirely appropriate. It's also entirely instrumental, because Aydın is a guitarist—not to be confused with the concert pianist of the same name—and he sees his job as conjuring moods out of his guitar. I could easily see some of these pieces being used on soundtracks.

It actually starts out lighter than it ends up, because there's a long intro to Earth Mother to set us in a calm frame of mind before Aydın's electric guitar joins in around the minute mark. From that point, we're firmly in the vibe of the album and the rest continues in much the same vein. It's soft music but it has substance and it feels delightful. For comparisons, I'd suggest Mark Knopfler with no hesitation, but there's some Dave Gilmour in there too. Like them, Aydın is economical with his notes but he plays and manipulates all the ones that need to be there to do the job at hand.

Earth Mother is a decent opener, enough to keep me listening, but I found myself enjoying this all the more as it ran on. From Earth Mother to Air and Water—if you're waiting for fire, you'll be out of luck—and a more thoughtful piece. Much of what Aydın does is introspective, but this one has a story arc like, say, Knopfler's Going Home, and the backing emphasises its build well. I should add that this isn't just solo guitar; someone, maybe Aydın himself, is playing bass and drums, often keyboards as well. I can't find credits online, only the suggestion that there isn't a standing band behind him.

What's important about the backing musicians, whoever they are, is that they rarely seek out the spotlight, content to accompany Aydın in relatively simple fashion, a clear contrast to the guitar, which has plenty to say. Also, the backing tracks don't vary much from track to track, so leaving the guitar full control to change the tone, mood or anything else. For instance, Aydın is vehement on Land, in the sense that he's more forceful with the strings rather than playing faster or heavier. I heard a lot of what Robbie Blunt did on Robert Plant's Big Log on this one.

For a while, every track seems to be better than the last, but Food plays more like an extension to Land than the next track. I like Land so much that I'm not sure I'd put anything else here above it, but Circle of Energy is exactly what it suggests and it gets me every time. It's certainly the perkiest piece on the album, with a real bounce in its step. Joy follows it well, even if it just stops when its time is up, and that leaves the title track to close out, which is oddly the shortest piece on offer.

In fact, not only is Harvest the track the shortest on Harvest the album, but the latter feels a little skimpy, only just sneaking past twenty five minutes. I don't know if it's being considered an album or just a mini-album, not that it particularly matters except that if it's advertised as the former, I would have preferred a few more tracks tacked onto the end. Aydın has a pleasant laid back style that's very easy to listen to, so he could easily get away with longer albums than many far better known guitarists who impress wildly but only in smaller doses.

Maybe that's simply a prompt to go and check out his five previous albums, which are all available on his Bandcamp page. This one isn't, for reasons of which I'm blissfully unaware. The prior three are similarly short, following the same seven song template, but the first couple seem longer, with 2018's 12th Street far more generous, boasting ten tracks, most of them in the four or five minute range. Maybe I'll pick that one up and see how he's developed in a decade and a half.

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