Kit Sebastian’s music is made for the introspective hours between the last call and the break of day. The London duo specialize in a sort of cinematic funk noir whose dusty grooves both amplify and calm the flow of ego calculations that only crop up in the wee hours of the morning. By the time vocalist Merve Erdem stops to stare at the clock on “Elegy for Love,” the centerpiece of their sophomore album, Melody, they still wade up to their necks through the endless twilight that they have marked as their territory. “4:50 in the morning / Walls around me / Gloomy and wrinkled,” she remarks in a breathing monologue, lamenting her impending surrender to a lover’s call and a cold return to “a distant past that we despise both.”
Sonically, the past isn’t that far away for Kit Sebastian. The drunken backbeat, crumbling piano chords and steady dripping horns are evident, as reliable remnants of modern mantra, a slice of seductive Turkish funk that made them serious contenders to be the darlings of your favorite crate-digging producer. Melody occasionally succumbing to that impulse, sinking deep into the clouds of smoke rising from their psychedelic speakeasy and settling for bursts of pink-tinged nods of the head. But like the narrator of “Elegy for Love,” Kit Sebastian is haunted by a desire for more than nostalgia with a quick fix, and they quickly work on their record to lessen the brooding sprawl. Harnessing Erdem’s honed vocal talents and brushing away the lo-fi grit that obscured their debut, the band returns with a sleek album that can more confidently bear the weight of their retro-futuristic balancing act.
Just as fellow revivalists Khruangbin use the lyrical guitar work and quirky twists and turns of 60s Thai funk and rock records as an anchor for their global influences, Erdem and co-conspirator Kit Martin never stray too far from the Anatolian psychedelic pop of the 1960s. 70s that brought them together. But while the Texas trio can take their songwriting too far and fall into an unsatisfactory genre soup, Kit Sebastian is even more committed to exploring the depths of this primary influence on Melody. Turkish singer-songwriter Şenay’s sly, keyboard and bass-driven sound comes swinging on exuberant album opener “Yalvarma”, and the stomping, soaring exploits of rock musician Barış Manço emerge from the twisting boogie of “Affet Beni”. While Martin’s eagerness to get out of the tape hiss gives the album a little more weight, it’s Erdem who shines as Melody‘s breakthrough star. Her shifts from English to Turkish had an excellent effect on modern mantra standout “Senden Başka,” works even better here: the sudden change of verbal pacing gives the chorus of “Agitate” a particularly majestic lift that pulls it out of the track’s plodding shuffle. But she really finds her heart in the Turkish-language chant of “Yeter”, which climbs into the upper reaches of her range in a swooning, theatrical performance that would have been swallowed up in its entirety by the Manatra Modernthe effervescent mix.
While this clearing up leaves room for Kit Sebastian to bounce around within their influences, working from a stricter blueprint finds the band all too quickly exhausting all surprises within their instrumental palette; seductive in small doses, Melody sometimes plays as an extended songwriting exercise. “Inertia”, a late game highlight backed by infectiously boastful horn fanfare, can’t muster enough energy to get past the deja vu, and all the traditional Turkish instrumentation producer Martin puts into the penultimate track “Ahenk” isn’t enough to keep you going. grab your attention. When the creative dam finally bursts on the closing track “Please Don’t Take This Badly,” a winking acoustic guitar-led ballad that ends by speeding up into an electrifying jazzy whirl, you’ll wish the band had been more eager to hunt. that influences across the map.
Buying: Rough Trade
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