Words by Ton Maas
Arifa’s second CD may not sweep you off your feet like an avalanche but, like the Pied Piper, these four musicians from places as varied as Turkey, Romania, Germany and the Netherlands, will irresistibly lure you into their magical world. This time around that world has a less obvious Middle Eastern flavour than before, mainly because Osama Abdulrasol’s qanun has been replaced by Franz von Chossy’s grand piano. But his thoughtful and sparing use of the keyboard helps keep the music transparent and open. It also has a dreamy quality, conjuring up lush soundscapes that are rich in detail, and subtle shifts in mood and pace. Anatolian Alchemy easily surpasses the level of Beyond Babylon, their debut album [reviewed in #74], which earned them praise around the globe.
Despite its classical feel, this music was never meant to be purist in any sense of the word. Yes, it’s predominantly acoustic, with clarinet, oud (lute), piano and percussion, but both von Chossy and clarinet player Alex Simu add subtle layers of electronic effects to their playing. These musicians have grown far beyond the need to impress with a display of their chops. Instead, every note played is subservient to the whole. True mastery shines through in the seemingly casual precision with which even the most complex arrangements are executed. But what makes the album really shine is Simu’s honey-sweet and lyrical clarinet-playing on instruments custom-built to his own design. There’s also the sheer beauty of the compositions, most of them penned by Simu but honed to perfection by the quartet. This is music that can make you shiver with delight.
Track to try: Maktub