‘Mantra Moderne’ by Kit Sebastian is a contemporary masterpiece that fuses Anatolian psychedelia and Brazilian Tropicalia with 60’s European pop and American jazz. The duo is formed of Kit Martin, who lives between London and France and plays all instruments on the album, and Merve Erdem, vocalist and multi-disciplinary artist from Istanbul, now based in London.
It was the 19th December 2018; the day after the Mr Bongo Christmas party. A grey, quiet and jaded office. Graham stumbled across an enticing email entitled “Anatolian-Lo-fi-Samba”: It said: “Hello, I’m a frequent buyer from your shop so just want to thank you and say what inspiration the music you have put out/sold has inspired me. I was wondering as a purveyor of great music if you could advise me on some labels/give me advice on where to go. I have an album, a music video, a live session to go in the style of Turkish Brazilian funk recorded all with analogue equipment. I would be most grateful if you gave it a listen and a watch and if there was anyone I could contact. Thanks, Kit”.
Cue Graham clicking on the link and being totally blown away and sending it everyone at Mr Bongo and immediately contacting Kit on all social media channels. No one actually gets signed from an ‘unsolicited’ demo, right? It might have taken 30 years to happen at Mr Bongo, but it did happen, and for a very good reason.
The album explores universal themes such as love, loss, decay, language and ideology, mixing three different languages: English, Turkish and French. It sounds like a vintage fusion of Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Os Mutantes, Cortex, Khruangbin, Air, Arthur Verocai, Goat, Stereolab: everybody hears something different in this record.
Written and recorded by the duo - Kit composed all the songs and Merve wrote the lyrics - in rural France during 2018, each song was completed within a 12-hour window, pawning contemplation for spontaneity. Dubbed by Kit and Merve as ‘lo-fi-hi-fi’ in reference to the high-end tube equipment that helped it find itsway to 8-track cassette tape. The style owes its sound to narrow tape width, valve distortion, spring reverb, the mixture of high end gear with lo-fi equipment as well as a disregard to the norms of hi-fi studio techniques. All instruments were analogue and no samples were used. The instruments that are used range from tablas to darbukas, balalaikas to ouds, MS20 synths to Farfisa organs and a lot of cuica. The mixing techniques were done on the fly, tracking immediately to tape: compression, EQ, delay and reverb; meaning mixing could not be revisited.