Amsterdam-based Turkish psych pop act and JOVM mainstays Altin Gün — founding member founding member Jasper Verhulst (bass) with Ben Rider (guitar), Erdinç Ecevit Yildiz (keys, saz, vocals), Gino Groneveld (percussion), Merve Dasdemir (vocals) and Nic Mauskovic (drums) — can trace their origins to Japser Verhulst’s repeated tour stops to Istanbul with a previous band and a deep and abiding passion for ’60s and ’70s Turkish psych pop and folk, fueled by music discoveries Verhulst couldn’t find in his native Holland.
But as the story goes, Verhulst wasn’t just content to listen as an ardent fan, he had a vision of where he could potentially take the sound he loved. “We do have a weak spot for the music of the late ’60s and ’70s,” Verhulst admitted in press notes. “With all the instruments and effects that arrived then, it was an exciting time. Everything was new, and it still feels fresh. We’re not trying to copy it, but these are the sounds we like and we’re trying to make them our own.”
Altin Gün’s sophomore album, last year’s Grammy Award-nominated, critically applauded Gece further established the band’s reputation for re-imagining traditional Turkish folk through the lens of psych rock and pop. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of months, you may recall that the Dutch JOVM mainstays’ highly-anticipated, soon-to-be released third album Yol will be teh third album from the band in three years. And much like its predecessors, the album continues their long-held reputation for drawing from the rich and diverse traditions of Turkish and Anatolian folk. But because of pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, the members of Altin Gün were forced to write music in a new way for them: virtually — through trading demos and ideas built around Omnichord, 808 and other elements, including field recordings and New Age-like ideas by email.
“We were basically stuck at home for three months making home demos, with everybody adding their parts,” Altin Gün’s Merve Dasdemir says in press notes. “The transnational feeling maybe comes from that process of swapping demos over the internet, some of the music we did in the studio, but lockdown meant we had to follow a different approach.” As a result of the new approach, which featured Ommichord and 808 driven arrangements, the album finds the band crafting material that’s a bold, new sonic direction: sleek, synth-based, retro-futuristic Europop with a dreamy quality, seemingly informed by the enforced period of reflection. Additionally, the album finds the Dutch act working with Ghent, Belgium-based production duo Asa Moto — Oliver Geerts and Gilles Noë — to co-produce and mix the album, marking the first time that the band has collaborated with outsiders.
I’ve written about two of Yol‘s released singles:
- “Ordunun Dereleri,” a mesmerizing re-imagining of an old folk standard and a fitting example of the act’s new sound: glistening synth arpeggios, four-on-the-floor and motorik groove. While the song finds the acclaimed Dutch act taking their sound to the dance floor, there’s an underlying brooding and dreamy introspection to the song.
- “Yüce Dağ Başında,” a coquettish, dance floor friendly strut featuring Nile Rodgers-like guitar, glistening synths, a sinuous bass line, bursts of mellotron, copious cowbell and percussive polyrhythm centered around lead vocals from frontwoman Merve Dasdemir. Sonically, the infectious new single — to my ears, at least — reminds me of Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “I’m In Love” and “Love Come Down,” and Patrice Rushen‘s “Forget Me Nots.”
Yol’s third and latest single “Kara Toprak” is a sleek reworking of a classic folk song by Turkey’s legendary and beloved, blind poet and musician Âşık Veysel featuring wah wah-pedaled funk guitar, sinuous disco-influenced bass lines, shimmering and atmospheric synth arpeggios, copious amount of cowbell service as a lush bed over which Merve Dasdemir’s gorgeous and sultry lead vocals, ethereally float over. Much like its predecessors, the song is swooning and coquettish seduction — a gentle tug of the sleeve from a new, potential lover/a new situationship that says “Come on, let’s dance already! Show me what you’ve got!”
Interestingly enough, the song’s title translates into English as “black soil” and the song is about life’s transience and the inevitability of death. And as a result, the Altin Gün take manages to be sensual and rapturous. And in a world, in which every one of our actions is seemingly imbued with death, it’s a hauntingly gorgeous reminder of the fact that our mortality is inescapable.