Double Moon 033

Breath. Life force. Pranayama. Deeper states of consciousness. Oxygen as the quintessential requirement for human life. Senior to food, love and even water. The suggestive implications are immediate. Nefes | Breath is the third album in Mercan Dede's four-part "ambient Sufi" series dedicated to the elements. It started with Nar | Fire and continued with Su | Water. On Nefes, this famous DJ/producer and Ney player continues to refine his highly organic signature style that places acoustic instruments and vocals inside subtle electronic soundspaces such that synth trickery and studio groove construction enhance the experience rather than cheapen it like so much sampled electronica.

Mercan Dede thus takes his place proudly besides fellow pioneers in this genre. Think Hector Zazou -- his memorable collaboration with Sevara Nazarkhan comes to mind -- and Cheb i Sabbah (who should need no introduction). These studio maestros all employ their particular brand of techno wizardy subservient to advanced musical sensibilities and vision. Their end results are thus more compelling and fetching than equivalent acoustic-only fare in a more classicist milieu would be. Substantiating this appproach are the often extensive listings of front-line instrumentalists and singers who collaborate on their modern ethno/ambient productions.

On Nefes, Dede once again teams up with Hugh Marsh on electronic violin and programming while solo vocals are handled by Iranian Azam Ali, the stupendous Aynur Dogan, Mevledian Kani Karaca in a call to prayer and Dede's first vocal foray himself. Each of them adorns one track. The remainder of the generously long album with its 15 numbers is purely instrumental, with clarinet, trumpet, kanun, ney, Turkish banjo, Persian guitar, oud and baglama floating above or intersecting with sinuous percussive grooves and tactile synth underpinnings. The latter expand spatial cues or suggestively add a subterranean heart beat for mystical associations. In keeping with the title, the climate of Nefes is down-tempo and introspective and of one continuous action.

Nefes, like its precdeessor Su but even more so, is a premium example of this evolving organic ambient genre. I think of it also as neo-tribal. It combines rhythms and melodies of ethnic trance music -- here distinctly Sufi flavored -- with thoroughly non-historic elements. Such hybrids bridge traditional styles with the interactive dub/club scene. They also avoid the synthetic drum-machine muck that lacks any compositional grace and substance and prefers machines over collaborative human participation. Nefes is the exact counter point to that sad state of affairs.

Simply puy, if you like Stellamara, Vas, Axiom of Choice and Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Nefes belongs into your collection. It achieves what formations like B-Tribe catering to the Ibiza trippers only dream of - transportation into a spiritualized realm open to all. Think of it as a meditative soundtrack without pictures...