[23 April 2013]
I was so-so about Erkin Koray months ago when I listened to an album of his outtakes and rarities, but now that I’ve heard a 24-track set of his less-rare singles on Arap Saçı I have seen the light, and Elektronik Türküler seals it: the man was a stunner. The involvement with musicians from Bunalim clarifies itself—that garage spit and kick, the incorporation of Turkish traditional music into the rip of electric guitar/saz as if the combination is absolutely unconscious, natural, and necessary. There’s a reminder of the nation’s physical closeness to Greece in the circle dance of “Şişkin”, and in the authoritative melancholy that in the other country produces rebetika. Reminders of Led Zeppelin too; the borderland of blues rock, a mooning hum. They shared an era. But a gentler vibe in Koray, a love of crooning (“Hop Hop Gelsin”). Elektronik Türküler was the moment when he finally managed to get off singles and onto his own LP, whereupon he conceived something long, patient, coherent, loosed from those brash solitary songs though still working with the same ideas, the instruments echoing and sirening until they slip like waves into the nine-minute “Türkü”, his drugged vocals moaning while the sharp reed kicks and tortures him, the lyrics devolving with agitation until he’s quipping dementedly, “Lah! lah! lah!” and the old dance twists like knotted rope.