Amsterdam’s Altin Gün have built a strong reputation for fusing past and present to make brilliantly catchy, upbeat pop music, as seen with their Grammy-nominated second album, Gece. Yol, their third album in as many years, continues that trend; while unveiling a number of sonic surprises.
It should be no surprise to learn that the band again draws from the rich and incredibly diverse traditions of Anatolian and Turkish folk music. But however familiar the story, Yol is not just a record that reframes traditional sounds for a contemporary audience. The album, which often presents a strongly international, poppy sound, also signals a very different approach in making and recording for the band. Singer Merve Dasdemir takes up the story: “We were basically stuck at home for three months making home demos, with everybody adding their parts. 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.”
Yol displays a noticeable dreaminess, maybe born from this enforced time to reflect. And select elements of late 1970s or early 1980s “Euro” synth pop also shine through. This new musical landscape was nurtured by certain instrument choices; namely the Omnichord, heard on ‘Arda Boylari’, ‘Kara Toprak’ and ‘Sevda Olmasaydi’, and the drum-machine, an instrument that is key to the gorgeous closing number, ‘Esmerim Güzelim’. Dasdemir once more: “ bassplayer Jasper Verhulst loved the song. He said, ‘it doesn’t sound like Altın Gün, this sounds like a Turkish kindergarten music teacher from the 1980s using an 808!’
As ever, the tracks are the result of a true group effort, with ideas on Omnichord, 808 and other elements – such as field recordings and new age-esque ideas – continually kicked about between the six band members. At a safe distance of course.
The record also owes something to a new approach to recording, with the band working with Asa Moto (the Ghent-based producer-crew, Oliver Geerts and Gilles Noë) who mixed the record. Before this the band always recorded on tape with their own sound engineer.
It would be wrong to say that what made Altın Gün such a loved and successful band has been left to one side. The pressure-cooker workouts, ‘Sevda Olmasaydı’ and ‘Maçka Yolları’ are classic cuts from the band. And their signature employment of a dizzying array of ideas and approaches can be heard with the marked Brazilian feel of ‘Kara Toprak’ and ‘Yekte’. Cosmic reggae filters through the grooves of ‘Yüce Dağ Başında’, and there is a steaming version of ‘Hey Nari’ which gives the traditional composition by Ali Ekber Çiçek a kick onto the dancefloor. And whisper it, but ‘Bulunur Mu’ nods to ‘Pa’ by Doe Maar…
But with Yol, Altın Gün have maybe patented their own magical process of reimagining and sonic path-finding, one probably not heard since the late 1960s and early 1970s British folk-rock boom. Less of a reworking than a seduction, their recordings transport the listener to a world where the original songs never previously inhabited. Merve Dasdemir again: “After we worked on them, they got a whole new life of their own. Maybe we went a little bit too far (laughs).”
ALTIN GUNTuesday February 8 2022