Deriving their name from the Turkish phase for “Golden Day,” the acclaimed Amsterdam-based Turkish psych pop act Altin Gün — 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 his deep and abiding passion for ’60s and ’70s Turkish psych pop and folk, fueled by 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, 2020’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. Last year’s critically applauded Yol was the band’s third album in three years. And while the album found the band continuing to draw about the rich and diverse traditions of Turkish and Anatolian folk, pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns forced the Dutch outfit to write music in a completely 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 songwriting approach and arrangements prominently featuring Omnichord and 808, the album saw the band crafting material that was 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 members of the acclaimed Dutch act, enlisted 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.
The JOVM mainstays spent much of this year on the road, including a two-night run at Music Hall of Williamsburg earlier this year. (I was there for the first night of their two night run.) Just before they hit the road, the acclaimed Turkish psych outfit released a two song digital single “Badu Sabah Olmadan”/”Cips Kola Kilit.” Both songs originally appeared in some fashion or another on last summer’s Bandcamp-only album Âlem.
“Badu Sabah Olmadon” may arguably be one of the harder rocking songs the Dutch JOVM mainstays have released in some time, featuring a relentless motorik groove, some scorching guitar work, glistening synths and yearning vocals.
“‘Badİ Sabah Olmadan’ is a traditional love song from the town of Kırşehir, where the poet begs his lover to come to him before the night ends,” the band explains in press notes. “We recorded an electronic version for our charity album Âlem, and then started to play it live with the band. We liked it so much that we decided to record a live band version. Happy to play it for our fans this spring!”
“Clips Kola Kilit” is a dance floor friendly, decidedly 80s synth bop centered around 808-like beats, glistening synth washes and wobbling bass synth paired with a coquettish and sultrily delivered spoken word/rap-like vocal. For those children of the 80s — like me — “Clips Kola Kilit” brings back memories of acts like Whodini, The Human League, Nu Shooz, Cherelle, and others. And interestingly enough, it sounds as though it could have been on Yol but was cut from the album.
Altin Gün’s latest single “Leylim Ley” is a classic song of lost love and exile that features music composed by renowned Turkish musician, author, poet and politician Zülfü Livaneli and lyrics written by the late Turkish novelist, short-story writer, poet, and journalist Sabahattin Ali (1907–1948). Although Ali’s life was cut tragically and brutally short, Ali occupies an important spot in modern Turkish work with his limited body of work frequently reimagined through music, theater and more.
Taken from Ali’s 1937 short story “Ses,” “Leylim Ley” was joined by music composed by Livaneli back in 1975 and has since been embraced as one of the most well-known and beloved songs among Turkish people across the globe. Understandably, it’s been covered countless times over — and in a wild variety of styles.
Altin Gün’s rendition of the classic song is far more stripped down than some more recent renditions and sees the band pulling out the hypnotic and dazzling instrumentation to the forefront, emphasizing a woozy, heartsick longing — for home and for loved ones. The recording manages to capture the propulsive energy of their live show, while heralding the arrival of the band’s highly-anticipated fourth album, which is slated for release sometime next year.