Water and Other Elements

180 gramm black vinyl in gatefold sleeve with english lyrics

A bit of blues here, a bit of rock there, and maybe even a little jazzy improvisation, with numerous inspirations from the folk music of various cultures, and the never absent, albeit not always conscious Turkish modes and vaguely reminisced melodies.

A songwriter accompanied by a team of marvellous musicians who left an important imprint on the Turkish music scene since the 80s. Bülent Somay, an academic, writer, translator, political activist, educator and musician, is a former member of the Turkish Jazz-rock-fusion group Mozaik. He rolls up his sleeves and dusts off some old songs that were never published before with ‘a little help from his friends’.

Liner Notes (by Tolga Tüzün)

Bülent Somay comes up with an album in 2021, “Water and Other Elements,” a collection of songs he had written between 1993-1995. Sometimes things take time. A singer-songwriter since 1970’s, over the years he studied and probed English Language and Literature, Psychoanalysis, Cultural Studies.

He credits me for motivating him to make his own album; you cannot motivate someone ex nihilo. In his book, Song Reader, he says about poetry: “If you believe you have something to say to people, then you write.” The selection of songs here are from a man of almost-40 at the time; that man is 65 years old now. I just noticed that he believed the time has come for him to publish his songs.

Somay is an academician, writer, translator, political activist, educator and musician. So it’s no wonder that the opening song is I’m the Tower of Babylon, referring to multiplicities of tongues and selves. The folk-rock informed sound of the song is enriched by the superbly executed angular guitar solo of Emre Karabulut. The first notes of the eerie and other-worldly Water, the glowing voice of Sumru Ağıryürüyen coupled with instrumental textures sets immediately the gloomy and vulnerable tone of this introversive piece.

An old town hotel, a murder, the detectives at scene… the only thing that is missing is a sluggish jazz tune for it to be appropriate for a film-noir. However, the fantastic detective story of Plainclothes Blues is displaced —almost deconstructed— when Somay chooses to tell the story within the blues genre. Needless to say, Snow White as a murder victim shifts the story to the fantasy plane, toward a genre that Somay is a fan and an expert at the same time. Make Room Make Room returns to the introversive attitude but this time it is about relationships, about how crowded they can get.The fantastic line continues in Rain of Red Feathers wherein the thin line separating reality from fantasy is constantly and voluntarily blurred when the rain of red feathers falls down on us and leaves us soaked with the historically and morally informed image of the “wrongs of our fathers.” The Elements Affirm is a political statement that calls for radical change for a generation that is lost in redundancy.

It is easy to make comparisons when we listen to music. Especially when you hear something that doesn’t threaten your existence, something that is defined within the boundary of a musical genre that you are already familiar with, then the brain looks for clues that will initiate some similarity relations within the already established pointers. At the first encounter, the songs of Bülent Somay come across as “something familiar”; as someone approaching you from afar and you can swear you know them from somewhere. The closer you get, the more you realize they are not so familiar. Nevertheless, the ambiguity captures you: “You are you, though you look like me.” This becomes very uncanny when they start to speak to you about you, knowingly. In your life, of course you have “huddled in the houses to kill your fears”; you felt that “something was missing here, something was too much”; surely you “have roamed the shores of joy, looked eye to eye with pain”; and of course, when the “drawbridges all start to rise” you know who that hurt child is. The familiarity that these songs suggest has no object; it is hard to say “it sounds like…” and fill the blank. Bülent Somay’s songs just speak like no one.