Deniz Kurtel: Music Watching Over Me
Crosstown Rebels

Having begun formally producing tracks only two years ago (inspired by her friends Wolf + Lamb), Deniz Kurtel's a relatively new member of the electronic music community, yet her debut artist album Music Watching Over Me shows her to be more than a quick study. She established (and still identifies) herself as an audio-visual artist whose work has appeared in numerous art festivals and exhibitions and has been the centerpiece of multiple Wolf + Lamb parties in Brooklyn. But this so-called interactive sculptor shows herself to be no lightweight as a house music producer, as her twelve-track album so clearly demonstrates. It's a solid addition to Crosstown Rebels' already distinguished catalogue.

The title cut eases unassumingly into position with jittering percussion and sub-bass cross-patterns that seem rather untethered to one another until a jacking beat pulls everything into focus and Leza Boyland's rapturous vocal intensifies the track's soulfulness. The opener works its magic insidiously, catching the listener by surprise with that abrupt opening shift, and bodes well for the journey ahead. The best cuts require no argument on their behalf. The jacking swing that powers the old-school deep house cut “Best Of” is impossible to deny, and the soulful exhortations of Mykle Anthony only make the tune's delirious vibe all the more infectious. The equally soulful “The L Word” likewise positions itself in the album's upper tier due to Jada's entranced vocalizing and the tune's slinky electro-house rhythms and seductive synth arpeggios. “Trust” plays like some modern-day upgrade of Kraftwerk, Detroit techno, and Chicago house all folded into one sleek electro-fied package, while the chugging low-end pulse and vocal filigrees of “My Heart” help make it stand out too. Kurtel's affinity for old-school house and electro likewise carries over into trippy workouts like “Make Me Feel” and “Yeah (Version).”

It's a wide-ranging album filled with occasional left turns and directional shifts. The downtempo percussion-and-synth interplay of “Makyaj,” for instance, is curiously countered by a delicate, folk-tinged vocal by Queenie that sounds airlifted in from a Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention album. A few tracks feel more like meandering jams than full-fledged compositions, including “My Ass,” a mildly diverting bit of robotic electro-funk replete with android vocal musings (e.g., “Heaven is music”), and “Equilibrium” and “One Chance At Happiness,” both of which impress on production grounds but nevertheless feel a tad static or directionless, respectively. Though the refrain is a familiar one by now, it must be said that the usual weaknesses are present, namely tracks that go on longer than necessary and an album length that's consequently excessive too. Kurtel would have been wiser to have selected the strongest nine or ten tracks from the featured twelve and issued a fifty-five-minute set rather than one weighing in at seventy-six.

March 2011