13 Feb 2021 - Ben
Where were you when you first heard something unique? Something that you had never heard before. Sure, we can all accuse any band or artist of being derivative. There are only so many notes, so many combinations and so many instruments in the world… everything we hear is bound to have been done before, right? How about taking a mixture of darkjazz, then mixing in a pinch of metal vocals and finishing it off with a healthy handful of middle eastern spice?
Sounds pretty tasty, doesn’t it? Good news. It is.
Mansur is a project that takes full advantage of the talents contained within its confines; and believe me, there is a lot of talent at work here.
Jason Köhnen, former supremo of the brilliant The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, has joined forces with metal vocalist Martina Horváth and acclaimed Oud player, Dimitry El-Demerdashi. Despite only three people being involved, the feeling conjured up is enveloping, entrancing and warm.
Each member of the trio brings with them elements of their past work, but then push themselves further to create something unique. Dutch musician, Köhnen’s work with TKDE trod a definite evolutionary path in the way each album was made and produced. Each release brought electronics more into the spotlight, but very consciously aimed to lower the artifice of the sound and make it more “organic” sounding. Dimitry El-Demerdashi is of Russian origin, but has lived all over the world – notably spending the 6 years post-Arab Spring in Egypt, learning to play the oud under master player Naseer Shamma. Martina Horváth’s vocals should be well-known to fans of Thy Catafalque, appearing as they do on the band‘s albums Naiv and Geometria.
From the opening seconds, the album wears its elements like a badge of honour. The atmospherics blend perfectly with Horváth’s ethereal vocal, while Dimitry’s middle eastern scales and runs can either burst into the room or blend in with the furniture – but they’re always perfectly-weighted.
When it comes to thematic interpretation of the track names, there seems to be a definite lean toward Stoic Philosophy – the school of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and the natural world. Stoicism teaches that the path to happiness is found in accepting the moment as it arrives, to not be swayed, or controlled, by thoughts of pleasure or pain - accepting fate, helping the plan of nature, and treating others fairly.
This makes perfect sense when listening to the album. There’s a very definite sense that each individual contribution to the tracks winds around the others, supporting and strengthening them, and helping to push the music forward, stronger and brighter. There is a real sense of being present in the moment throughout the album. Each passage of each track, each flex of its musical bicep, each twitch of its rhythmic eye, each moment captures a feeling and then moves on to stoically face the next. With Karma being Mansur’s debut album, the band members have successfully evolved each of their individual talents and woven them into an aural blanket. There appears to be no ego at work here – each musician seems to bring their talent to the kitchen and they’re mixed to perfection.