Altin Gün’s sound bends genres

Turkish psychedelic folk music breaks genre boundaries through synth and soul


Altin Gün’s latest album, Yol, features inspiration from 80s synth pop.

Eric Omorogieva, Staff Writer

Turkish psychedelic folk music isn’t always the first thought behind the composition of modern music. However, for Dutch band Altin Gün, it is not only an inspiration but the driving force that leads them through each project. Coming off of their Grammy-nominated second album Gece, the band looked for more ways to evolve as they faced a growing fanbase and acclaim from all corners of the world. Their evolution follows the navigation of Anatolian music from the late 60s on their debut album On and had led them to 80s synth-pop on their recently released album Yol. The six members of Altin Gün constructed this album during the pandemic, trading demos with each other remotely. Yol released last Friday under ATO Records.

Yol is sonically split into two halves. The first half has some carry-over of influence from the early 80s synthpop. These early songs are new ground for the band, and the mastery present in them highlights their overwhelming talent as musicians. “Ordunun Dereleri” and “Bulunur Mu” show this off on tracks 2 and 3, each allowing lead singers Merse Desdemir and Erdinç Ecevit Yıldız to shine. These tracks are vibrant and the perfect mix of old school and futurism. Even as Altin Gün looks to past decades of Turkish music for the inspiration of their modern music, the result is progressive and hard to place in time.

Another highlight in this half is their single “Yüce Dağ Başında,” a dance track that fuses a funky bass, claps, synths and the attractive vocals of Desdemir into a catchy tune that you might sing along to, even if you don’t understand the Turkish language.

The first half, although amazing and refreshing, is perfectly matched by the latter portion. Here, the band drops off a bit of the synthpop and does what they do best: jam out. There are no limits to the funk that Altin Gün injects into these songs. Tracks 9 through 11 are the best example of this. “Sevda Olmasaydı,” is addicting because of its free-flowing instrumental, highlighted by a catchy whistle melody and its bassline. Yıldız’s vocals make the track great, but he knows his limits and avoids being overbearing, letting the band shine. At this point in the album, the band is just showing off, competing only with themselves. But, what separates these songs from those of any other band requires further elaboration as to Altin Gün’s signature style.

The group’s sound works so well due to the work each band member puts in, enhancing the band’s combined chemistry and balance. The band never sounds off the mark, even their live performances of the tracks sound exactly like the recordings. Central to their sound is the Anatolian musical background that influenced all of their songs. Turkey and the Middle East have a traditional sound that is unmistakable to the ear, but once Altin Gün adds their spice on top, it sounds like something separate from the entire musical landscape. The introduction of traditional instruments like the bağlama (played by Yıldız) provides a layer to the music that listeners don’t immediately recognize. Still, we are drawn in because of the music’s beauty.

Although the band’s unique position in genre allows them to steer away from the traditional reliance on lead and bass guitar, Jasper Vulhurst (bass) and Ben Rider (lead guitar) do a fantastic job at giving these songs an added bonus. Another impressive component is that these songs are, for the most part, repurposed. The band takes old Turkish tracks and gives them a modern vibe, while still preserving their essence.

Yol — a fantastic album that deserves a listen — is a standout release of early 2021. All that’s left to ponder is where Altin Gün will go next. They have really set the bar high and challenged themselves with this record, so seeing their attempt at topping it, is sure to be exciting.