Mode XL – Mevzu Makamı

4 out of 5

Label: Sony Music

Produced by: VEYasin

When listening to music of a language not my own and that I do not understand – hip-hop duo Mode XL are Turkish – there’s always the question of how much ground I would give the recording if I could understand it, and perhaps found the lyrics questionable. It’s an interesting exercise that asks for the separation of music and its “content”, as it doubles back on all the stuff I’ve heard in my native language (that in which I’m writing, English, and I know, shocking that I would claim this snaggle of words as being my primary method of communication) and makes me wonder if I should be trying to enforce that separation more regularly. Am I locking myself off from a whole bunch of great tunes without doing so?

But: while I do know that some things tend to get overlooked by me for being too much of one genre or another, I have had a fair share of music in my collection that I enjoy more for how it sounds than for any deeper meaning in its sing-songy words. Should I get ahold of a translation of Mevzu Makamı and it proves to be especially offensive, then that could make me change gears on my opinion, but otherwise: Mode XL’s lyrical flow atop their organic bass and guitar beats makes for an instantly head-bobbing, grabbing combination, whipped up into a 13-track set of singles that stick in one’s head, so immediately ear-wormy as to encourage mouthing along without (for me) having any clue as to the exact words or their meaning.

Our dual MCs complement each other especially well, maintaining a rhythmic mic-passing that’s reminiscent of classic alternative hip-hop, with each lyricist having a slightly different cadence and tone so that there’s some different aural elements at work atop the music. Music which sounds mostly organic: a very grooving bass generally standing out as the driving line, some pretty wicked guitar licks and turntablism assisting with keeping the beat. This does start to feel somewhat formulaic close to album’s end, especially when the group starts bringing out some staid templates, like a ragga-ish standby on Yagmur Adam, but the chemistry of our leads still makes this material work, at the very least keeping our toe tapping.