The word ‘unique’ is overused in the music industry, but believe me: what Mustafa Khetty has produced here with The Morpheus Project is 100% unique and well worth listening to.
As listeners (and reviewers) we love to pigeon-hole bands and often it is quite easy to do so. But, in the case of The Morpheus Project it is a bit akin to trying to grasp hold of a slippery eel. In a superficial way Mozaick could be called a progressive rock album but this is progressive music imbued with a myriad of other influences. To understand those influences, it is worth considering the background of Mustafa Khetty who is the man behind The Morpheus Project. Khetty is sometimes described as a composer because of his ventures in the realm of classical music. Those influences can be heard here, but whereas the 70s prog bands were influenced by well-known classical music from the 17th to 20th centuries, Khetty’s classical influences are contemporary with elements of Glass, Richter and Einaudi in his music. Khetty is also well travelled, having been born in Sri Lanka and having lived in the Middle and Far East as well as the UK and Ireland, so the sounds of those regions of the world creep into his music too.
By throwing all these musical styles and influences into the mixer, Khetty does risk producing a horrible hotch-potch but he skillfully heads that off by avoiding mixing too many styles within any one track. So, for example, the first part of the album (four out of nine tracks) is purely instrumental and mostly freeform while the introduction of vocals in the second part is based on more structured and familiar rock formats. There is also strong variety in the sounds and textures amongst those first four tracks. Opener Cry For Freedom is the closest to what could be described as a classical piece on the album. It’s built on piano and cello, with support from synths and vocalising, and it has a magical effect – that I’ve only heard elsewhere in the music of Max Richter – of being both achingly beautiful and deeply sad at the same time. The oddly titled Dancing With Elves has an ambient introduction and middle section but is mostly a prog piece with fine guitar playing – somewhere between Latimer and Gilmour in sound – that builds up twice to impressive climaxes. Istanbul Swing has as you might guess an Eastern feel to it but at its core is a jazz fusion piece with the guitar sound this time sounding closer to Santana. The group of four instrumental tracks close with the title track Mozaick which at almost nine minutes is a remarkable tour de force that draws on a multitude of percussion instruments, pan pipes, and just about everything but the kitchen sink. Khetty again uses the guitar to striking effect, both in some gorgeous acoustic touches and in more prog-oriented electric guitar flourishes. This is perhaps the one song where the hotch-potch label could have reared its ugly head but it’s so magnificently put together that it remains perfectly coherent; or, one could say it’s a perfect mosaic….
The second ‘side’ opens with Night To Remember which after the title track is as different as chalk and cheese. It opens with a chugging 4/4 rock rhythm on guitars and drums (it’s only at this point that you realise that drums were mostly absent in the first part). There’s a nice hook and you could describe it as a good but pretty standard melodic rock song. Vocals are supplied by Onur Çobanoğlu and I suspect his voice may divide listeners. He certainly has a powerful rock-oriented voice – a bit like Peter Hammill at his angst-filled best – but after being seduced by the beauty of the first part of the album, the contrast created by his somewhat harsh vocal delivery jarred a bit for me. The following two songs are more prog focused with the highlight of Shrill being the atmospheric middle section with the phrase ‘don’t touch’ being repeatedly spoken, and the introduction of Tomorrow Never Comes which has some quite remarkably fast percussion playing. The album closes with Waiting, a short three-minute track that starts as a bluesy ballad but builds into an impassioned climax thanks to the intense vocal delivery by Çobanoğlu.
The word ‘unique’ is overused in the music industry, but believe me: what Mustafa Khetty has produced here with The Morpheus Project is 100% unique and well worth listening to. For prog fans looking for something new and fresh, this will be a treat!
Mozaick will be released on March 19th.