From the end of March the Japanese city Of Hakone, in view of Mount Fuji, comes alive for four weeks as the annual cherry blossom festival takes hold. Visitors in their thousands, enamoured by their national flower, flock to the prefecture to casually stroll through regal gardens and along pristine riverbanks, awed by the pastel hued flowers that sway and flutter in the wind, often carpeting the ground beneath their feet.
It’s a moment of fleeting beauty for as quickly as the flowers bloom, they begin to form pink and white clouds scattering downwards. That feeling of tranquil serenity and impending fatality is wonderfully conjured on Flaneurs In Hakone, one of many highlights from composer’s Deniz Cuylan‘s blissfully stimulating new album.
The video that accompanies the track, directed by fellow Turk Idil Ergün, displays a series of Victorian portraits, the figures contained within obscured via digital means. The backgrounds for the images shift in time with Cuylan’s playing, rotating like kaleidoscopes, from dark tones through to sumptuous greens and fleshy pinks, before succumbing to the darkness once more.
Cuylan’s preparations, though rooted in free folk, are warmer and prettier than say Basho or Fahey, the dexterous use of classical guitar arpeggios deftly evoking the multilayered Electric Counterpoint by minimalist composer Steve Reich and the avian themed Do Impossible Things by Jens Lekman. A sound designer by trade, Cuylan first studied the instrument at Istanbul’s Lycée Saint-Joseph, after being entranced as a child by Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Finally purchasing a costly Santos model by renowned Parisian luthier Thomas Norwood sometime around 2015 in his new home of Los Angeles, Cuylan initially struggled; trying to adapt it into worlds it was not made for.
Having a made a name for himself within the jazz, electronica hip-hop and soundtrack worlds with his projects Maya, Portecho and Bright & Guilty, Cuylan found the traditional instrument resisted adaptation into modern genres and thwarted collaboration. Eventually he succumbed to giving it pride of place, and so No Such Thing As Free Will is six instrumental tracks with merely the haziest hint of piano and electronics to supplement the profoundly moving fingerpicking. And much as the album title attests, this transformative album of idealistic non-western arrangements is destined to result in a stream of listeners, awed by its cyclical romantic brilliance.