Turkish top-selling artist and Eurovision song winner Sertab Erener and compatriot composer/producer/ex-heavy metal hero Demir Demirkan's latest collaboration (they've worked together for a decade) is an entrancing journey through the Turkish hinterland. Painted on Water is a fascinating project, with all the numbers based on Anatolian folk songs, but thoroughly reimagined for a Western audience. Only the dizzying "Habudiyar" proudly displays its folk dance origins, while providing an exhilarating, wordless vocal work-out for Erener. Demirkan stirs a hip-hop break into the song's rhythmic mix, an astonishing element that works perfectly in context. But as the album's title suggests, elsewhere the artist uses a much more subtle palette. At its core, Water is a jazz fusion album, as the fingerpoppin' instrumental "Shenaz on Shiraz" well illustrates, but it's a jazz styling beholden to R&B, as the steamy "Mad Love" makes evident. That number has a decided funky undertone, while "Shut Up and Dance" is unadulterated funk, with Demirkan's rock guitar licks taking the song into P-Funk territory.
"Before the Night" returns the former Pentagram star to the arena, an emotive number that continually morphs in and out of classic rock. The supple "1000 Faced Man" is Demirkan at his most subtle, as he swirls together rock, R&B, and jazz into the most delectable of songs. Arguably, however, the album's apotheosis is "Aegean Bride," an instrumental that tightly interweaves tablas and rock guitar, Arabesque and jazz, conjuring up an epic musical journey worthy of Marco Polo. Even so, the soul of the set lies in the haunting simplicity of the title track and the evocative opening instrumental "Blue," the latter a showcase for guesting guitarist Al Di Meola. Demirkan's own superb guitar skills are displayed across the set, and the musicianship throughout is extraordinary, as is Erener, whose vocals give every track just a whiff of exotica, and make this album a true Turkish delight.