Album Review: God is God – Metamorphoses: shape shifting electronic music and song.

The Breakdown

God is God - invention, emotional range and the sound of electronic music reaching out.
Bureau B 8.6

Put two forward thinking musicians together like guitarist producer Etkin Cekin and multi-instrumental chanteuse Galina Ozeran and your unlikely to get stuck in reverse. Meeting in Berlin in 2015, the pair grew a musical relationship through long improvisational sessions, letting their combined narrative lead the way. Cekin’s imaginings, rooted in Istanbul’s indie-experimental scene then swelled by Germany’s engulfing electronica, found an uncanny connection with Ozeran’s expansive keyboard dreamscapes and from that synergy came God is God.

Their first cassette only release ‘Good is Good’ came in 2018 on Cekin’s own influential Kinship label. Tentative, scratchy and determinedly low-fi, the tape hinted at the possibilities of what was to come with its fragments of delicate avant-pop and daring electronics. Now here is ‘Metamorphoses’, available via Bureau B from 18th February, a further transformation in the God is God life-form to something more confident, focused and mysteriously powerful. Experimentalism is still at the core of their world but delivered with more awareness of musical impact and a will to reach out.

For an introduction ‘Metamorphoses’ uncurls atmospherically with the elegaic ‘Behind the Heroes’ gliding in slowly on the drifts of Cekin’s resonant guitar and Ozeran’s distinctive shivering vocal. It’s a shrouded beginning which God is God peel away with ‘Song Part 1’, the smack and hiss of the track’s industrial beat pumped forcefully by some precision bass-synth locomotion. Ozeran’s melodic flourish adds the colour here, going beyond any casual synth washes with some triumphal sci-fi moog incisions, bold, playful and gloriously 80’s.

Because God Is God returned to improvisational sessions to assemble ‘Metamorphoses’, recurring themes become an inherent and necessary part of the music. Consequently ‘Song Part 2’ recovers the rhythmic intention of its fore-runner then spins it through a different cycle. There is a softer, trip-hop take on the motorised bassline alongside swishing beats, woozy distant keys and snippets of electronic debris. Most definitive of all in this re-visioning is the introduction of Ozeran’s deep sultry voice, easing between eerie mumble, gothic melodramatics and restrained soulfulness without losing the tune’s satisfying flow. It’s like the music that Moby could have made if he had stopped and listened to himself.

The Ozeran/Cekin partnership’s modus operandi also delivers less subtle variations in the two interpretations of the title track. ‘Metamorphoses Part 1’ is a wired bass pad sound off, high on the bouncing thud with frenetic synths trilling around that solid beat foundation. The mid-rhythm break again finds Ozeran’s vocals holding the attention. A scatological mix of Russian, English and non-semantics it is literally singing in another language, out-there on the fringes of torch song meets dream pop with the affectation and impact of Grace Jones at her brilliant biting best. As a follow on ‘Metamorphoses Part 2’ doesn’t disappoint it just diverges, deconstructing the components of ‘Part 1’ and recoding extracts to transform the track’s identity despite its origin. The clue is in the title I guess.

Elsewhere on the album God is God take a less abrupt approach to abstraction and show an inventive grasp on the more fluid side of their music. ‘Liquid Space’ bubbles with the fizz of retro techno and post punk electronica. With the bass rumbling in a nearby tunnel and the tribal rhythms hurtling towards you, there’s a swift cut to Ozeran’s angry vocal growl – confirmation that God is God bring you a different kind of new ageism. To restore some equilibrium ‘Marsha Marie’ takes the contemplative calm of an ambient drone and expands it with a swelling lower register synth pattern of booming cloistered majesty. Framed by glacial strings that reference Ozeran’s Belarusian heritage, it’s a track that begs immersion in the outer perimeters of the ‘Metamorphoses’ soundscape.

As a coda, and possibly to provide some anchorage, God is God venture onto hallowed ground to cover Tim Buckley’s ‘Song of the Siren’. A tune with almost divine status, a dream pop touchstone thanks to This Mortal Coil, it’s a choice that could have be seen as brave or foolish but Cekin and Ozeran take a respectful and honest approach that ultimately works. Stripped back to Soft Cell simplicity with vocals part whispered, part narrated Nico style, it’s an affectionate DIY cover that somehow reclaims the icon and makes it loveable again.

That relatability is at the heart of ‘Metamorphoses’. Electronic music can often get obtuse and detach itself but God is God know how to mediate invention and keep proceedings in emotional range. The signs are that the Ozeran/Cekin partnership will keep on reaching out and it makes sense to be there.

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