Here is a musician who surrounds himself with an intriguing collection of sound sources. These include steel drums, chimes, gongs, log drums, a harmonium (!) – and a large array of homemade ‘instruments’ including old keys, soda caps, flower pots, bamboos, bicycle bells, straw brooms, old toys, garden hoses …
And that’s before we consider all the antiquated samplers and recording machines which provide him with an ample range of unplanned hissings, hums and rumbles.
Normally when I see pictures and videos of solo musicians surrounded by this sort of stuff and the obligatory looping pedal, I fear the worst. (See my article “The pros and cons of live looping”) What you often see and hear are a seemingly random hitting and plucking of disparate instruments where there is often no obvious or discernable musical structure or purpose. But not so here.
Here, the textures are clear, the sounds combine together well and, importantly, the various loops are well crafted. Özcan is a drummer – so we might expect the usual flashy percussion pyrotechnics and cross rhythms but this, refreshingly, is not his priority with this music. Yes, rhythmically the piece is very tight and everything is in its right place, but his focus here is not with the developing melodies, harmonies and rhythms. He is concentrating much more on the sounds themselves. How best to put them together in musically satisfying textures and structures. On a first listen, nothing much seems to happen, but this simplicity and restraint belies considerable subtlety.
Listen, for instance, to the floor toms which underpin the piece and the subtle tonal variations he creates here. Listen to how the natural and processed cymbal sounds complement one another and how the various shaking and rattling devices are used sparingly to provide musical punctuations at exactly the right moments. And how we wait until almost the very end of the music before the harmonium drones make a welcome appearance.
The entire album “Mountains are Mountains” is well worth a listen and the video below gives a good idea of this fine Turkish musician at work.