Album Review: A​ş​k by Altin Gün

I’ve never claimed to be a super-cultured person. Sure, I’ve read my fair share of Dostoyevsky and Camus, I’ve got a liberal arts degree, and I’ve always been rather bookish. But I’ve rarely traveled outside the United States, don’t speak multiple languages, and eat as much fast food as any other American.

That’s why when I first played Altın Gün’s new album, A​ş​k, I was blown away by the exotic sounds and intimidated by the prospect of writing about such a profoundly foreign sonic delight as this record. Surely, someone out there must know much more about Turkish psychedelic rock than me, right?

Alas, I’ve set out to describe this new Altın Gün record. While it may not be the most sophisticated breakdown of what these wizards of Turkish psychedelia have achieved, I can assure you this: it’s damn good music.

About Altın Gün

Altın Gün is a Turkish psych-rock band based out of Amsterdam. They started in 2016 when bassist Jasper Verhulst posted a Facebook ad looking for musicians to jam with. Their music is also known as Anatolian rock, which, if you don’t know, is a fusion of Turkish folk music and rock that emerged in Turkey in the mid-1960s. Altın Gün’s name translates from Turkish to mean “Golden Day.”

The band’s style has been described as a “dirty blend of funk rhythms, wah-wah guitars, and analog organs,” along with being psychedelic, of course. Both of the band’s leading vocalists, Merve Daşdemir and Erdinç Ecevit Yıldız, are of Turkish origin, while the other bandmembers are Dutch.

Altın Gün has released much critically acclaimed and great music since their debut album, On, was dropped in 2018. Their 2019 album Gece was nominated for a Grammy in the Best World Music Album category. It made them the first Turkish-language band ever to be nominated for a Grammy. And the band first toured America in 2019. Aşk is the band’s fifth full-length album since 2018, and it was released on Bandcamp on March 31, 2023.

The Songs

One of the first things you’ll notice about this album is that it bursts with energy. Altın Gün’s previous two albums, Âlem and Yol, were created at home during the pandemic and relied more on synthesizer and electronic sounds. With Aşk, the band returns to the Seventies-style Anatolian folk-rock sound evident in their first two albums, On and Gece.

There’s a reason this new album sounds different, too. The band went back to recording everything live on tape, which captures the feel and vitality of their electrifying live performances. “It’s definitely connecting more with a live sound – almost like a live album,” bassist Jasper Verhulst said on their Bandcamp page. “We, as a band, just going into a rehearsal space together and creating music together instead of demoing at home.”

All ten tracks on Aşk are also new renderings of traditional Turkish folk songs, which the band called “ancient.” Turkish artists have often covered the songs, but not in psychedelic pop/rock versions.

Since the tracklist is lengthy, I won’t go into detail on each one. Instead, let me tell you about the highlights, my favorites, and the ones that have been most popular among fans so far (on Spotify, at least). 

Badi Sabah Olmadan opens the album like a bat out of hell. It already has about 1.16 million Spotify plays, showing this band’s popularity. The song is almost like a space rock rendering of Turkish folk, which I found to be a very potent and delightful mixture.

Leylim Ley has some beautiful, exotic instrumentation and a catchy hook that I can only describe as addictive. It could also be described as psychedelic groove pop, and the stringed instruments being played seem beyond what we’d typically find in the Western world.

Rakıya Su Katamam has more wicked, effects-laden guitar playing to start things off and features female vocals. Like all the songs on the record, they are rooted in antiquity but sound super-fresh. As the band says, these songs want to take you places, and “all you have to do is strap yourself in.”

Final Thoughts

Altın Gün is a band playing world music in a truly authentic way. The songs on Aşk are infectiously groovy and full of feet-stomping energy. I have heard their sound described as psychedelic pop, sci-fi disco, and dreamy acid folk, but that only touches the surface of what this Amsterdam-based six-piece act offers us.

Since the lyrics are in Turkish, you likely won’t understand a word being sung, but the groove is universal. Digging into this album may interest you in hearing more Turkish psychedelic rock because it’s pretty apparent they do it in the best way possible. Some bands to look up to add to the Turkish psych-rock playlist are Selda Bağca, Cem Karaca, and Barış Manço, but there are many others. Take a dive down the rabbit hole, and enjoy!

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