Music

Turkish Synthpop's Jakuzi Keeps It Gloomy on New Darkwave Album 'Hata Payı'

Photo: Aylin Gungor

On Hata Payı, Jakuzi tackles inward shadows: heartbreak, depression, nihilism. It's bleak. It's indulgent. It's good, solid, crowd-pleasing misery, and who doesn't want a hit of that from time to time?

Hata Payı
Jakuzi

City Slang

5 April 2019

Whatever your image is of modern Turkish music - the catchy, Eurodance-infused beats of Sezen Aksu and Tarkan, the space-age psychedelia of Gaye Su Akyol and Baba ZuLa, the vintage vibes of Umut Adan and Altin Gün - it probably isn't centered around the gloomy sounds of 1980s England's darkwave scene. That's not you being narrow-minded; that's the fact that such introverted melancholy is a rare thing to find in Turkish music, especially among male artists.

In that regard, Istanbul-based band Jakuzi is here to make waves. Fronted by Kutay Soyocak, this is a sensitive group that deals in darkness. On new album Hata Payı, Jakuzi tackles inward shadows: heartbreak, depression, nihilism. It's bleak. It's indulgent. It's good, solid, crowd-pleasing misery, and who doesn't want a hit of that from time to time?

Setting the scene is the ocean of synths and bass that open "Sana Göre Bir Şey Yok", a track whose name translates roughly to "According to You, There Is Nothing" and whose lyrics find Soyocak feeling detached from the madding crowd and pondering the futility of solving one problem when so many new ones rush in to take its place. His voice drips with luscious strife, shades of goth-rock stretching it out, languorous.

The tension rises on Bowie-esque "Şüphe", followed by the release of brighter, more percussive "Yangın". "Gördüğüm Rüya" begins with sharp minimalism, a shining guitar line leading into the dreamy lyrical exploration of, as Soyocak puts it, "running away from the realities of life by not getting out of bed." (A topic well worth some angst.)

"Kalbim Köprü Gibi" presents an emotional love triangle with the same style of spacious, vaguely beachy melodies that took the Cure from post-punk to the cutting edge of mainstream pop - not a bad thing, by any means, even if it is a little less than groundbreaking in 2019.

Soyocak directly cites the Cure as inspiration for "Kendine Rağmen", and while the retro influence is clear, this is a track that sounds more modern, a contemporary synthpop gem. The vocals are less taut, and the whole track is a cool break that leads well into "İstemezdim", a peppy tune - or perhaps a frantic one? - bemoaning reality and ending in a death by suicide.

"Toz" and "Bir Şey Olur" open with dramatic keyboard introductions, almost early Rammstein-esque, before accelerating into solid night driving cuts. "Ne Teselli Ne Avuntu" may be the best track on the album, Soyocak's voice going low, pulling the music into a sunken end.

It's easy to spend a lot of Hata Payı trying to figure out what it reminds you of. The Smiths? A little. Bauhaus? Sometimes. Depeche Mode? Definitely. Understanding where this music fits into a modern soundscape is a little more difficult. It would have fit a thriving global scene in the 1980s or early 1990s. It would have ridden a prime revival wave in the early 2000s. Now, as mainstream as synthpop is, taking music back to a place of simple, self-absorbed darkness puts Jakuzi in a smaller niche, especially in Turkey. From a broader perspective, this is almost a tribute to decades past rather than an attempt to add something new to the darkwave repertoire, but looking at it as an individual recording allows us to see a band courageous in its willingness to show vulnerability.

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