Usually it takes me several months to figure out how to write coherently about a new album, but after a week of listening to Öz Ürügülü’s Fashion and Welfare (2016) incessantly, I’m ready to sing its praises. An obscure, six-piece band from Switzerland, these guys may be the most exciting musical find for me since Panzerballett.
Consisting of eight robust tracks, Fashion and Welfare is a bracing compilation of virtuosic instrumentals that deftly blends a variety of styles, including rock, jazz, funk, metal, Middle-Eastern, prog, and classical. The easiest way to describe this group is to compare them to their most obvious ancestor: Frank Zappa, whose influence permeates the entire album. This is especially evident in the opening track, “Tarkatan Rush,” an inventive, upbeat tune that lurches through several impressive contortions, including comical rockabilly. But Öz Ürügülü also possesses distinct traces of Estradasphere, Mr. Bungle, and Secret Chiefs 3 in its DNA. The quirky rhythms of “Odd Waltz” and the Middle Eastern metal blends of “I Am the Fungus” and “Garlic Venus,” in particular, seem like clear descendants of the Secret Chiefs. They counter the dark dissonance of these tracks with cheerful sense of humor in goofier numbers like “Android Mustache,” “Rabbit,” and “Rda.” At times, the band doesn’t quite know when to rein in its ideas, leading to overlong lead-ins and outros that occasionally trip up the momentum. But overall, it’s an inventive, funny, and complex album full of impressive musicianship, which rewards close, repeated listening. An outstanding album.