Friday 31 March 2023

Altın Gün - Aşk (2023)

Country: The Netherlands
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 31 Mar 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Wikipedia | YouTube

I fell in love with this as soon as it started. If I'm understanding correctly, the core of Altın Gün is a pair of musicians who are Turkish by heritage but born in the Netherlands. That's Merve Daşdemir and Erdinç Ecevit Yıldız. Both sing lead but divvy up the songs between them, so that some are led by Merve's enticing female voice but others by Erdinç's deeper male voice. Both play keyboards as well, with Erdinç adding the saz or bağlama, which is an Anatolian lute. Between all this, Altin Gün sound exquisitely Turkish, to the point where this is world music at heart.

However, behind them are four Dutch musicians playing traditional rock instruments—guitar, bass and drums—and between them, they channel this world music through a psychedelic filter so that it comes out as an exquisite merger of east and west. The opener, Badi Sabah Olmadan, is a strong track, clearly psychedelic rock with a Hawkwind drive to it. It's not alone here in rocking it up, but the album often aims lighter with songs that could be seen as psychedelic pop or even a keyboard driven prog.

One of the key components to define which is the bass of Jasper Verhulst. On Badi Sabah Olmadan, he's a rock musician and he adds fuzz on Rakıya Su Katamam to shift from psychedelic rock over an easy border into stoner rock. However, starting on Su Sızıyor, he reminds me of a reggae bassist in that he relies on the guitar and drums to work a groove so that he can provide a riff to underpin a song. However, we can't just label songs based on what Verhulst is doing, because he goes with the reggae approach on Canım Oy, which is clearly psychedelic rock, even if it adds in plenty of Turkish disco at points.

The keyboards help shape genre too. Çıt Çıt Çedene throws Mike Oldfield style keyboards over the reggae bass, as if he'd set up a salon at his house and some Turkish musicians joined him to jam. It comes back on the closer, Doktor Civanım, which is the most western piece here with an electronic beat and the least overt Turkish vocals. I felt like I wanted to pull Crises off the shelf after this one, which is progressive pop through and through. However, other songs use the keyboards to take us on a wild cosmic trip, especially during instrumental stretches in the second half of songs like Dere Geliyor, and Çıt Çıt Çedene. Güzelliğin On Para Etmez feels like a Turkish folk song set against Pink Floyd keyboards.

For the most part, my favourite songs are the rockier ones like Badi Sabah Olmadan and Rakıya Su Katamam, but that's not always the case. When Dere Geliyor isn't taking us on a cosmic journey, it plays very minimalist indeed. We get Daşdemir's haunting voice but accompanied only by a sparse echoing guitar and keyboard swirls. It only leaps into action a couple of minutes in as hand drums provide the engines beneath an organic vessel of keyboards. And then there's Kalk Gidelim, which arrives out of the blue eight tracks in with a thoroughly different approach.

This is an exquisitely sassy song that sashays up to us with a serious purpose, bells shimmering in a sultry haze of sensuality. The melody is a delight and the beat even better. It never quits teasing us and we find ourselves effortlessly lost inside it, as if we dived in but never surfaced. Daşdemir has the lead again but, while she's as sweet as ever, she layers on seduction as if it's going out of style. It's hard not to read sexual metaphor into the point almost three minutes in when everything gets instrumentally frantic.

Generally speaking, there's a light heart at work here. There's sadness to be found in some songs, like Güzelliğin On Para Etmez, but precious little darkness. The most obvious is probably a theme that shows up after each instance of the title being sung on Leylim Ley, like it's call and response. Even there, it's a delicious darkness that teases us rather than threatens. Every time I listened to this album, which I did under different moods over a few days, it seemed clear that I left it happier than I found it. And with that thought, I threw the band's name into Google Translate to find that it means Golden Day. That makes sense, as does Aşk meaning Love.

They've been around for seven years, though I was surprised to find that Verhulst was the founder, seeking Turkish musicians rather than the other way around. This is their fifth album, suggesting a prolific work ethic. However, two of those albums came together, Yol and Âlem in 2021. At this rate, we ought to expect another one from them in 2025 and I'm already looking forward to it.

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