Dogan Mehmet is a young man bursting with ideas. Combining and experimenting with Turkish and British folk traditions, he has come up with a dynamic and inventive second album.
Given its Anglo-Turkish nature, it’s not a surprise to discover that Lord Bateman is one of Mehmet’s favourite songs. His “Anglo Ottoman Funk” take on it is fresh and vibrant, mixing tangy, funky bass with Mehmet’s Brighton-boy accent. In all the excitement, some of the narrative gets lost, but interestingly, Mehmet is already planning some different versions of it in the future.
Mehmet seems to take pleasure in introducing Turkish songs to a new audience. The ska-inflected Domates Biber Patlican, written by Baris Manco, is a story of unrequited love set in a grocery market. A witty rap (in English) from Freddie ’Drop Dead Fred’ Phethean adds drama to the tale.
It’s a credit to Mehmet, and his extended band Boombox Karavan, that the transition between cultures seems so natural and accessible. A joyous Roaming Journeyman is a neat metaphor for this musical approach. Sung energetically and charismatically with backing from James Fagan, it takes a trip of its own when, with the assistance of Jem Muharrem on fiddle, it segues into playful Cypriot dance tune Sarhos Zeybek. It’s rather a surprise when the melodeon comes back and the song returns to mention Newcastle, but it somehow makes perfect sense.
An a capella Miles Weatherhill shows off Mehmet’s expressive and characterful voice well. It’s a rare quiet moment in a densely layered album, and it’s all the more effective for it.
Mehmet’s full-on approach doesn’t always pay off - a gospel-influenced and slightly shouty Bonny Boy tries to pack in a few too many ideas and overshadows the song, rather than complementing it. A more successful grandiose arrangement is to be found on the thoughtful, self-assured Rakish Young Fellow, which is introduced by some lovely guitar and mandolin before building to a mighty, percussive ending.
Other highlights include superb dance pieces Azziye and Susta, which feature some groovy darabouka drumming, and the dancey and fun Young Edwin, complete with Foo Fighters (ish) intro and widdly guitar solo. Again, not satisfied with one interpretation, Mehmet is planning to record more versions of this in the future.
Outlandish’s mixture of British and Turkish traditions is exciting, but crucially it is well arranged and brilliantly played, too. Mehmet is a natural storyteller, and his enthusiasm and ideas come through in his lengthy liner notes, as well as in his music. It would take a hard heart not to be swept along.