BaBa Zula ‘Derin Derin’ LP/CD (Glitterbeat) 5/5

Legendary Istanbul band, BaBa ZuLa has been producing its own brand of folk, psychedelia and dub (and belly dancing!) for over twenty years. Its sound comes from traditional Turkish instruments augmented by electronic instruments and effects and is primarily led by Osman Murat Ertel’s electric saz. “Derin Derin” has a more direct approach than previous releases, harder but also more electronic.

“Haller Yollar” begins with unaccompanied, clean saz, after a while a wah effect is slowly introduced as a hint of things to come. Clicking spoons and prosaic vocals soon join in. As the song progresses electronic sounds and effects increasingly distort and reshape the tune. An eye-opening and exciting introduction to the set. The jangling of bells bring in the brief, instrumental and dubby “Şahin Iksiri”, a simple melody line with swooping theremin and synth percussion. The harder-edged “Kızıl Gözlüm” follows, distorted saz kicks it off followed by bludgeon cymbal attack and forms into a deranged electronic fuzzed out boogie. “Rüzgarın Akışı”, The Flow Of The Wind, is less structured. A percussive, saz jam interspersed with bursts of ululation.

Next, the high point of this record, “Salıncaksın” (“U Are The Swing”) – the pace is slower, more reflective. Echoed fuzzed saz and voice introduce the motif, the slow build gives the track an epic feel despite being only just over four minutes long. It’s just so beautiful. “Kervan Yolda”’s grinding insistent repetitive rhythm with spoken word vocals is propelled by the stop-start chugging percussion. The heavily percussive collage of “Port Pass” follows, its soaring fuzzy sounds and vocals laden with generous delay effects. The electronic rhythm pounds over simple repetitive lines and the voice is reminiscent, to me at least, of Mark E Smith! The peaceful “Kosmogoni” is slow build electronica, its simple saz lines over the smooth wash of synthesiser and light percussive sounds. The introduction to “Kurt Kapma” is a menacing ambience of screams and howls and electronic effects abruptly hitting a fierce rhythm, a coming together of space rock, the bleak electronica of Suicide and a movie chase sequence. “Transendance” closes the set. The first half of the track leans on the good side of the ambience stuff that incorporated elements of so-called “world” and dub in the 1990s. But, suddenly the beat kicks in and bursts into fast direct galloping rhythmic repetition which just as suddenly falls away the meditative quiet of heavy delay affected saz.

While this release is clearly a fusion of different styles it feels completely natural and organic. Baba ZuLa have reined in their previous sporadic reggae experiments and the emphasis is on their psychedelic rock pedigree. The tracks are shorter too and the album clocks in at only just over 33 minutes long. The production is sharp with electronic instruments and effects pushed to the fore. In the present political climate, this is an amazing and inspirational example of grace under pressure. A success; a truly great album.

Kevin Ward

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Baba Zula ‘XX’ 2CD/2LP (Glitterbeat) 3/5