It’s not often that you find trained earthquake engineers delivering songs capable of causing tremors all on their own, but Mircan Kaya’s Kül & Ashes has a seismic presence that pulverizes lesser singers.
Turkey has had an infamously problematic relationship with its indigenous musics – which is possibly why Mircan, coming from a Georgian family relocated to the Black Sea area, is barely known to the wider world. This should change. Although Kül & Ashes – the two nouns are Turkish and English translations of each other – has taken two years to get an international release, it is a stunning work, and one that straddles the ancient and the modern with ease. Most of the nine tracks are interpretations of traditional songs, but are orchestrated in such a way as to reach beyond time. Accompanied by a compact band dominated by the heavy resonances of Emin Igüs’ baglama (a small saz or lute) and coloured by some Harold Budd-like trumpet from Roger Mills, Mircan’s voice has a sinuous presence. The brooding quality of a spare ‘Sad Olup Gülmedin’ (I Was Never Happy or Smiled) whistles around mountain eyries, while the droning beauty of ‘Osman’um’ (My Osman) is frankly terrifying – like Diamanda Galas set loose on the Caucasus.