Altın Gün
Photo: Rona Lane / Courtesy of ATO Records

Altın Gün Shift Toward Contemporary Synthpop Sounds on ‘Yol’

Yol proves Altın Gün’s versatility, reassuring listeners that the group can walk down many paths and still take us on a fabulous trip.

Altın Gün
ATO Records
26 February 2021

Amsterdam-based Altın Gün have garnered a global fanbase since their Grammy-nominated sophomore release Gece in 2019. The group made up of members from Turkey, the Netherlands, and Indonesia return with just as entrancing a follow-up in Yol. Packed with more covers of Anatolian folk and rock songs, the album sees the group expand their repertoire of stylized classics even in quarantine. As always, every track is tight, chic, and psychedelic, and while the group shifts forward into more contemporary synthpop sounds, Yol sees the band continue to lean on the vintage sounds they make so well.

From the start, things are different. A sparse and brief rendition of “Bahçada Yeşil Çinar” serves as a delicate introduction. As it dissipates, it makes way for “Ordunun Dereleri”, a slow-burning track with retro synthwave heat. Heavy electronics and the sounds of the road transport the listener into a night-driving fantasy. Sung by vocalists Merve Daşdemir and Erdinç Ecevit Yıldız, respectively, these two opening tracks open the album with a poignant longing. Balladry will return later in the album when Daşdemir croons her way through “Arda Boyları”, a song that overflows with the kind of emotion that Daşdemir delivers with deep-rooted power. Altın Gün perform it with minimal instrumentation, backing Daşdemir’s voice with subtle chimes and keyboard accents in the group’s most tender arrangement to date.

More often than not, though, Altın Gün are still ready to have a good time. The staccato pep of songs like “Bulunur Mu” and “Hey Nari” falls in line with previous albums, electrifying the intercontinental flows at the heart of classic 1960s and 1970s Anatolian rock. Guitarist Ben Rider and bassist Jasper Verhulst continue to do pitch-perfect work on tracks like these, which directly channel decades past. Both vocalists, meanwhile, spend time at the keyboards, which have never been as crucial to Altın Gün’s work as on Yol. “Yüce Dağ Başında”, the album’s second single, is exemplary in its smearing of decades and styles, reimagining the song with elements of 1980s Eurodisco and 1990s dance-pop and throwing in a little echoing melodica for good measure.

Funk starts to rise in the throb of Verhulst’s bass on “Kesik Çayir” and the cool interplay between keys and guitar on “Kara Toprak”; it comes to a peak in the warbling keys of “Maçka Yollari”, to which vocalist Yıldız also adds swirls of microtonal bağlama. “Sevda Olmasaydi” and “Yekte” play the Anatolian rock conceit straighter, making room for Yıldız’s passionate melismas, as well as showcasing the reliably dynamic work of drummer Daniel Smienk and percussionist Gino Groeneveld. The album ends on vaguely dubby “Esmerim Güzelim”, a relaxed piece that leans on the synths one last time to a soothing end.

The foundational concepts behind Altın Gün’s music are ones that need little by way of adjustment. Their interpretations of Turkish classics are well-informed by a sense of style: what to keep, what to change, and how to put it all together for a 21st-century audience. On Yol, the group continue to make good creative decisions in that regard by foregrounding synthpop sounds on a strong backdrop of intricate and instantly recognizable Anatolian modal motifs. It raises questions of future sounds, as any album does when observed in the whole of a band’s catalog: will subsequent works see the group move even further into retrowave or funk? Will vintage psychedelia disappear? The good news is that Yol proves Altın Gün’s versatility, reassuring listeners that the group can walk down many paths and still take us on a fabulous trip.

RATING 8 / 10