While it could be argued that it is a truism to say Turkey is where the East meets the West, it is certainly true of her rock music heritage. In the early 1970s, Turkish musicians emerged from their early careers copying contemporary popular western rock styles to found a new progressive music incorporating native folk songs, now commonly known as Anatolian Rock.
Altin Gün, a group whose music harks back to those pioneers, is actually based in Amsterdam, some 2000-odd miles west of Istanbul and only one member is actually Turkish born. But like those early rockers, Altin Gün add an exciting rocky, funky spin on traditional Turkish tunes. Gece, their second album, is mainly adapted from folk material, particularly songs by the late national icon, Neşet Ertaş. As well as the usual rock instrumentation, an electric saz is in the mix, a stringed instrument similar to a lute.
The opener ‘Yolcu’, kicks off with a fuzzy guitar riff, before the serpentine bass line underscores a smooth sub-funk verse. Listeners, like me, who go digging for those old records by Bariş Manço and Erkin Koray (mostly in vain) will be instantly gratified! ‘Vay Dünya’ is slightly mellower incorporating a disco rhythm. The notable part of this track is an enjoyable interplay between the synth and the wah wah guitar in the middle section. ‘Leyla’ bursts into life with tumbling heavy psychedelic phased guitar and bass which gives way to a fine vocal performance. ‘Anlatmam Derdimi’ is slows the pace with swaggering verses and smooth rolling choruses. ‘Şoför Bey’ is apparently the only self-penned track and is reminiscent of Flash and the Pan’s ‘Waiting On A Train’. Turning on to the second side, the guitar is generally less prominent and the songs are more danceable. Both singers are excellent but especially Merve Daşdemir’s beautiful rendition of ‘Derdimi Dökersem’. The highpoint of this album. Next, ’Kolbasti’ picks up the pace with a driving bass lines and has a little more groove than the fuzz heavy earlier tracks. ’Ervah-ı Ezelde’ is spacious with light staccato bursts of guitar and keys, a showcase for Erdinç Ecevit’s impressive vocals. Gesi Bağları is brief but blissful with just keyboards and voice. The album concludes with the early 1980s sounding ‘Süpürgesi Yoncadan’, an all synth bonanza, including retro synth-pads and easily my least favourite on the album. Though throughout the whole release, the performances are good and the band is very tight.
When a group mentions artists such as Bariş Manço, Selda Bağcan and Erkin Koray in their bio, you may expect juicy chunks of fuzzy wah guitar, squiggly mono synth lines and heroic reverberation. This album most definitely delivers on that. However, there are some songs where these trademark Anatolian rock traits are a little too heavy handed and there is a danger that the whole project could come across as a pastiche. It may be nitpicking though as the other songs are just about strong enough to avoid this and allow you to overlook the weaker tracks. As the group was only formed two years ago, I believe, in time, they can fully develop their own identity while retaining the essence of their influences as some other recent psych artists have managed to achieve.
UK live debut: 8 May @ London’s Jazz Cafe – tickets here