Formed in Istanbul in the late 1960s, Moğollar were at the vanguard of the Anatolian Rock movement, a fusion of Western hard rock and indigenous folk musics and instrumentation. The group fizzled out in the late 70s but by then, most of the greatest singers of the time had been members or collaborators (albeit briefly for some), particularly Cem Karaka but also Bariş Manço, Selda and Ersin. Back by popular demand, the band reformed in the early 90s and since then tour frequently and have released a few albums with a changing line-up but always the ever-present Cahit Berkay on cura.
“Anatolian Sun” is their first release for over a decade and revisits tunes from their colossal back-catalogue. It is a single download release but for vinyl, it is separated into two parts; the red one is Part 1 and the blue one, Part 2. Like all the releases on the Night Dreamer’s excellent Direct-to-Disc series, it’s all single-take live performances at Artone Studio in the Netherlands cut straight to acetate using vintage equipment. It’s produced by compatriot, the ubiquitous Murat Ertel of psych-rockers, BaBa ZuLa, whose own Night Dreamer release was a highlight of 2020.
The sweet, delicate tone of Barkay’s cura introduces “Selvi Boylum Al Yazmalım”, a gentle but lush ballad, the opening track of Part 1. Despite quirky time signatures, there’s almost a bluegrass feel to “7/8 9/8”. Cem Karaca famously recorded “Gel Gel” with Moğollar back in the day and here it is sung with authority by his son Emrah, who captures some of the drama of dad’s performance. Bowed strings, twinkling electric piano and drum fuse on the slower-paced “Gam Yükü / Nilüfer”. “Dinleyiverin Gari” is spiky, truculent hard rock from the band’s second incarnation while the fuzzy wah-wah guitar-laden funk of “Çığrık” is classic Moğollar. A muscular rendition of “Düm Tek” follows with twin harmony lead lines reminiscent of Thin Lizzy in their prime! “Haliç’te Güneşin Batışı” is a great psychedelic jam with luxuriant organ.
On to Part 2: “Keşişleme” is a folky work-out and followed by the up-tempo boogie of “Bi’ Şey Yapmalı” with swathes of creamy organ and shouty choruses. “Buzlar Çözülmeden” is crystalline folk balladry. The up-tempo folk-prog rock of “Toprak Ana” replete with synth solo closes the first side. It’s an exciting and amazing mix of folk and movie soundtrack funk on “Iklığ”. The bands folk roots emerge in “Berkay Oyun Havası” followed by the heavy rock leviathan that is “Ölüler Altın Takar Mı”. The cello-like timbre of the bowed strings dominates the brooding and beautiful “Alageyik Destanı”.
There’s renewed international interest in Anatolian rock with acts like Altin Gün openly acknowledging and referencing the pioneers and originators of the genre. “Anatolian Sun” is the perfect time and place to put Moğollar at the forefront of this attention with a new shiny, harder edge to their classic material. For most listeners, this release will serve as an excellent introduction to their music and as they move towards their sixth decade, it suggests there’s more great music to follow. The performance and production maintains the high standards now expected from all releases in Night Dreamer’s Direct-to-Disc series. As for the vinyl version actually being two releases: unfortunately for my pocket (but fortunately for my ears), I couldn’t choose a favourite so I guess I need to buy them both!