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Altın Gün
YOL Richie Troughton , March 18th, 2021 09:05

They may be locked down, but Altın Gün are always a transportive listen, finds Richie Troughton

For groups abandoning plans to hit the road over the last year, new ways of maintaining creativity have become essential. To the credit of Amsterdam-based Altın Gün they have spent this strange period productively, working from isolation during lockdown and exchanging ideas collectively for songs online.

The effect of these remote working methods on this release – their third album – has led to electronic percussion, synths, and drum machines making a more prominent appearance. The effect prepares their versions of traditional Turkish songs for the dancefloor and a more disco-inspired sound, while not losing any of their Anatolian psychedelic intensity of previous recordings.

Performing popular Turkish folk songs and refreshing them with a modern production spin is nothing new. Take for example Selda, who made her name as an actress, but later launched a pop career, with Andalou psych musicians providing the back-up for new versions of songs she had grown up listening to. Similar to the professed methods Altın Gün work around today, the musicians took the source material arrangements and blasted them through a filter of contemporary western rock ‘n roll by beat groups on the radio, like The Animals and The Rolling Stones.

Selda performed songs by the likes of Erkin Koray and Neset Ertas, and it is these same sources that continue to provide inspiration for Altın Gün. A track by Ertas, ‘Bulunur Mu’ is among the songs on new album Yol. Their pop arrangement bursts to life with an electronic reinvention recalling Jean-Michel Jarre. However, upon listening to the deep arrangements of the original, the song is more faithful than may first appear. The complex multi-layered melodies already existed – just never sounding like this. Later on the album, ‘Sevda Olmasaydi’ is another Ertas song weaving hypnotic, fuzzed up saz riffs.

Elsewhere, the group look to traditional songs of unknown sources that have hitherto remained untapped in popular music. The way these ancient songs are given a contemporary arrangement is, more often than not, surprising to hear. See ‘Ordunun Dereleri’, which could as well be a theme for a Middle Eastern spy TV show composed by Jan Hammer. Except here it’s given a full makeover in Altın Gün’s inimitable style, while losing none of the original arrangement features.

Sharing vocal duties equally throughout, the female and male singers Merve Dasdemir and Erdinç Ecevit have Turkish heritage, lending not just authenticity but expertise to a project otherwise springing incongruously from the Netherlands. For subject matter, the carefully selected songs avoid a dip into potentially murky political waters. Instead, the group prefer to focus on love and its myriad forms - secret, hopeless, lost, and almost always mysterious – a recurring theme throughout that only helps add to the timeless mystique of their sound.

With a live show described as the “best thing since sliced bazlama” on these pages we will not be the only ones holding out for an opportunity to witness this set in a live setting before too much longer. The album title, Yol, translates roughly to ‘road’ and if the group are not on tour physically at present, for the time being, exploring their influences opens further pathways of discovery for anyone intrigued by these sounds and songs.

There is nothing quite like the concoction presented by Altın Gün, a band that seem now more focused than ever. The group offers a dose of nostalgia for an era that never quite existed in this form previously in any case. Either way, this is medicine that you can imagine lighting up the most varied of settings. Yol is a transportive listen, offering portals to environments few could have ever envisaged.