- I did a naughty thing. I made a playlist, one that might make Prosumer and Murat Tepeli uncomfortable. It’s called ‘Amnesia vs. Serenity’, and I leave it on shuffle for hours at a time. I wouldn’t have made it under most circumstances—or with nearly any other combination of albums—but in this case, the meeting seemed not so much a tentative experiment as an exhilarating tryst. It’s no light thing to say that Serenity is an ideal counterpoint, a perfect partner for a musico-romantic involvement (across the space of decades) with Larry Heard’s classic productions as Mr. Fingers. And it’s no mean feat that the duo (with help from Elif Biçer’s voice and the prestige of Ostgut behind them) have managed to produce a collection of tracks and songs that not only echo but amplify and renew the passion that they draw their form and voice from. Serenity calls to the classic house trax of mid ‘80s Chicago in the same way that CW Stoneking calls to Robert Johnson and the delta blues; the way that Amy Winehouse (poor thing) calls to Arethra Franklin and Billie Holiday; the way that Jamie Lidell calls to Otis Redding. Maybe, to draw this release into a broader current in music, the loving capture of old spirits presents us with a perfect encapsulation of what it means to be contemporary in the mid ‘00s.
It should be obvious then (following the analog) that Serenity is hardly about the search for new formulas, or even their accidental discovery. ‘Steeped’ in the classics might be a word for it. ‘Staunchly’ house might be another. Within the sound called house, the music of Prosumer, Murat Tepeli and Elif Biçer on Serenity also parallels the neo-classicist productions of Jamal Moss (Hieroglyphic Being), but there are key differences in approach and outcome. Moss’ emphasis is always on ‘the box’, the way he uses it as a tool for exploring a groove that is continually discovering itself. In contrast, Serenity’s strength is in the sparse precision of polished arrangements and the looseness of their movement. Prosumer and Tepeli use their style to rediscover something that was already there, a preset, but a personal one that the machine will only bring forth if you seduce it.
A few highlights: the album’s opener, ‘Serenity’, for the clarity and warmth of Prosumer’s vocal, and the lyrics. ‘Butterfly’, for the ‘beauty and the beast’ contrast between the elevating sweetness of Biçer’s soprano and the sinister growl of the bassline below it. ‘Devotion’, for the sighs of the synth washes and the slow acid line that weaves it all together. ‘Latenight Theme’ for the deliciously brief (eleven seconds) window on the larger melodic theme that contains shades of Isolée’s Rest—also thereby hinting at a possible avenue of musical development for their forthcoming works… guys?
Hinting at such possibilities also brings us to the limits of Serenity as a work of musical creation, as ‘new’ music. Amy Winehouse apparently missed out on the 2007 Mercury Prize because some thought Back to Black was a ‘retro record’ (the guy from the Klaxons said as much). I wonder whether this is a relevant or interesting criticism in 2008. Whether or not this is a problem for you depends on your conception of what ‘new’ music should be. It should be obvious by now that Serenity is not an album of surprises, but of tried and true sounds. You might even call it ‘traditional’; it certainly could just as accurately have been called Fidelity. Personally, such a perfectly faithful articulation of the golden formulas escapes the kinds of caveats that might pursue it. For the many new fans who (hopefully) discover ‘the feeling’ through this album, this also means that Serenity presents an entry into the jacking yesteryear of the Warehouse (via the back door). Either way, Serenity is the golden age recast as the gleaming spirit of the now, and it soars.
02 I Go Mad
03 Drama Baby (feat. Elif Biçer)
04 Lov (feat. Elif Biçer, recorded live at Panorama Bar)
05 Turn Around (feat. Elif Biçer)
06 The Craze (recorded live at Panorama Bar)
07 Go Silla
08 Makes Me Wanna Dance
09 Give And Take
10 Butterfly (feat. Elif Biçer)
11 Believe (Instrumental Mix)
13 Latenight Theme
14 Noone Else
15 Solid Mind
17 Serenity Reprise