Perhaps there was no timestamped tipping point, but in the past few years, we leaned into the gossamer of 1970s and ’80s Europop imports, or off-continent paeans to its bombast and shine. The Mamma Mia! sequel reinvigorated the thirst for ABBA; the Bee Gees got their own HBO documentary. And while Anatolian psych-rockers Altin Gün made their name playing sprawling Turkish rock, their new album Âlem inches towards disco decadence, a melange of influences that makes a heady argument for joy.
Hailing from Turkey, Indonesia, and the Netherlands, the members of Altin Gün build something novel from a barrage of composite parts. Still, the facets bear identifying: In slow burner “Çarşambay Sel Aldı,” you could tease out Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” pedal steel, and the plaintive wail of a tanbur. The mix is smooth as a drag of Gauloise, syrupy and unselfconsciously cool. That’s the general assessment of every track on Âlem, no matter how far-flung or ambitious. Album opener “Yali Yali,” a traditional song famously recorded by Neşe Karaböcek, could have fit onto the soundtrack to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, brooding and propulsive in spite (or because of) its aerobic ’80s synth. With few exceptions, Âlem sustains an atmosphere as fantastic as it is decadent. During certain bridges and ecstatic builds, it is a rebuke of ennui, a soundtrack for the main character in the movie of your life.
The album’s most winsome moments happen at the intersection of raw and refined. You can imagine the acrobatic vocals on “Malatya” or “Oğlan” sounding arresting even when unadorned, but the 808s and embellishments take what’s beautiful and render it prismatic. Where a track could be driving or lovely, it’s both; every earworm comes with a side of ambition. The band has pledged album revenue to the ecological charity Earth Today, and in combination, these sounds and their context evoke a global consciousness. Among the many translations of Âlem: “realm,” “universe,” and “orgy.”
A few imperfections dull the high shine. “Üzüm Üzüme Baka Baka,” a collaboration with Belgian duo Asa Moto, has its brighter moments but sometimes feels more like an extended jam session. The reggae-lite “Kisasa Kisas” pauses for breath just when it’s getting good, decelerating before the raucous “Badi Sabah Olmadan” races back uphill.
Is Âlem a record for the club or the planet? Is it more revealing to think of Altin Gün’s songwriting process as a form of scholarly exploration, a deep dive in the archives, or is it something more instinctual—a ode to the relevance and possibilities of Anatolian rock, Europop, synth rock, disco, and beyond? Studied or off the cuff, on the dancefloor or in the world at large, the result is the same: adventurous bangers without borders.
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Read More: Altin Gün: Âlem Album Review