Painted On Water is the project of Turkish pop star Sertab Erener and guitar player Demir Demirkan, whose resume includes stints with Turkey's greatest heavy metal band, Mezarkabul, as well a number of solo albums. Also, Demirkan is the composer and lyricist of "Every Way That I Can" -- sung by Sertab Erener -- Turkey's so far first and only Eurovision Song Contest winner.
Painted On Water, however, is a venture into a totally different musical territory. It is neither pop nor rock music. Rather, the album sees the duo cohesively converging pieces of traditional Turkish folk music with modern jazz, blues, and some rock leanings. It may seem like a cliched experiment on paper, but that could not be further from the truth. Adapting these century-old Anatolian songs to a more modern musical environment without taking away their charm is an admirable feat in an of itself. Add to this an array of guests, from the amazing Al DiMeola to fusion guitarist Mike Stern and jazz drum master Dave Weckl, the album combines all these musicians' skills in a strictly defined macro-compositional framework, still allowing them to showcase their talent when the songs demand it.
On a song like "Shenaz on Shiraz", as an example, Dave Weckle and Al DiMeola offer their wicked soloing over a simple yet catchy melodic pattern while the instrumental track "Aegean Bride" involves tribal hand drums, amazing guitar work (what a tone), and an addictive jazzy piano figure. Al DiMeola also features on the album opener "Blue", which is yet another simple composition which brings together two classical guitars in which Al DiMeola leaves his indelible print with his distinctive melodic approach and nylon-string guitar playing.
The album is far from an all-star lineup, however. Actually it is Demir Demirkan's ear for arrangement and Sertab Erener's beautiful approach to melody that heightens the scope of the songs. Two personal favourites, "Nothing But to Pray" and "Before the Night", attest to the level of detail in their overall flow. The former is adapted from the very popular "Yemen Turkusu" and contains Erener's unrivaled croon and washes of piano and flickering acoustic guitar notes. Hers is a voice so pure and haunting, especially when she refrains from displaying her well-known operatic skills. This type of singing is something she would never risk on her own solo albums, chock full of vocal acrobatics and songs with lots of catchy refrains. The elegiac singing on "Before the Night" (adapted from the ultimately beautiful "Cokertme") is arguably the album's highpoint and will make anyone with a heart melt! Of course this is largely due to Demirkan's careful attention to detail in the arrangement and his reworking the main melody to a subtle jazz theme. There is also an acoustic version of "Before the Night" at the end of the album as a bonus track, and I have a hard time deciding which one is more riveting. The album version demonstrates a huge amount of dynamics, allowing the music to rise and fall while the acoustic piece is a purer, more direct execution of the song highlighting Erener's vocal skills.
For those seeking more prominent rock grooves and funky rhythms should look into "Mad Love", a more upbeat piece whose main chorus stands out right away; as well as the rock-based "1,000 Faced Man" which is the album's heavier song. It is rife with jazzy harmonies, backing vocals, pounding drum fills, and though a good exercise in its own right, I feel Sertab Erener's voice doesn't lend itself to this type of material as much as it does to more emotive pieces. This is not to say she is incapable of delivering, having studied opera and proven herself to the world. It's just that I like to hear her in a more laidback space with crystalline acoustic guitars providing a nice backdrop to her singing. It is these moments I feel she is at her expressive best as a singer.
The title track is obviously inspired by the Turkish art of Ebru where dye floats on water. This is also alluded to in the lyrics when Erener sings, "Story painted on water". Contrary to the other tracks, this song is informed by a delicate cello melody swirling around a classical piano line. Erener sings in a very Western style to complement the music without disrupting the melody of the Turkish folk song, "Ah Bir Ates Var".
The production of the album was handled by Demir Demirkan and the Grammy Award-winnging Jay Newland, and it is absolutely fabulous. The arrangements are light and transparent with plenty of space that allow the songs to flow freely. Also, Erener's vocals were supposedly recorded on a 1930s microphone in order to fully capture the timbre and essence of her voice, obviously with great results.
I'm not really a fan of either Erener or Demirkan as a solo artist, but this disc warrants everyone's, especially fans of jazz and blues as well as world music, attention.
- Love We Made
- Mad Love
- Nothing But to Pray
- Painted on Water
- 1,000 Faced Man
- Let It Go
- Before the Night
- One Shot
- Aegean Bride
- Shenaz on Shiraz
- Shut Up and Dance
- Before the Night (Acoustic Version) [Bonus Track]