Compro Oro are a Belgian psychedelic jazz collective who have collaborated with partners Murat and Esma Ertel and on Simurg. Belgian-psychedelic-jazz and collective might not be words you normally put into your sentences, and the Ertels might not be familiar names, but Murat Ertel fronts the mighty BaBa ZuLa who I saw a few years back at Under The Bridge in London and they whipped the audience into a happy, dancing lather over their dazzling 90 minute set. Compro Oro’s guitarist, Bart Vervaeck met Murat at Istanbul Express in 2016 and connected musically which led to the recording sessions which formed the basis of this album. So, if you had ever wondered what would happen if Belgian and Turkish psychedelia had a love child then wonder no more.
The album starts with the track ‘Ben’ a deliciously crunchy overture of distorted Saz that sounds like a Stylaphone in a blender or a guitar played through a transistor radio on full volume. But this opens out into the expansive, controlled turbulence of reverb drenched vocals ‘oooohs’ and blistering guitar lines. The mood drops on the album’s most jazz-influenced track ‘Murwur’ with keyboard washes behind tentative drums swells and exotic guitar tunes. ‘Valley of Gossip’ is a 54 second burst of ants crawling over skin and opens the ‘Valley’ section of the album. ‘Ignorance is Bliss (Valley of Ignorance)’ follows and has subtle rolling polyrhythms and a floating steel guitar part all of which give the other-worldly effect like an empty bazaar haunted by the ghost of BJ Cole. Another brief 44 second interlude of drums and atmospherics is followed by ‘Valley of Extinction’, ‘Valley of Love’, ‘Valley of Disbelief’, ‘Valley of Loneliness’ and ‘Valley of Ego’ all of which take us on a journey from an arid landscape of swirling ambience and fat synth sounds, through the desert blues of sparse, fuzzed guitar (reminiscent of Tinariwen or Tamikrest) and spoken word which has the feel of a Turkish ‘Je t’aime moi non plus’. ‘Araf’ is a final short buffer comprised of fuzzed delay guitar before the final track ‘Kaf Mountain’ blows in on a breeze of vibraphone and marimba, tumbling drums, doubled guitar and spoken word. It’s an understated close to an album of mood and reflection with grand bursts of excitement that hint at what could be if this was a touring band.
On the strength of this collaboration I would hope that Compro Oro and the Ertels get together and spend more time exploring the possibilities of Belgo-Turkish psych. I also think that together they would produce great leftfield Horror soundtracks if given the chance. if you like Simurg then I would encourage you to listen to Compro Oro’s 2019 album Suburban Exotica or BaBa Zula’s excellent XX (especially the outstanding bonus dub tracks).
Review by Paul F Cook