Review: Gaye Su Akyol’s Hologram Imparatorluğu ‘the freshest sound out of Turkey this year’

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Gaye Su Akyol’s second album takes you to places that no current Turkish artist has done before. It’s not just the diversity of sounds that you find on Hologram İmparatorluğu that makes it so unique, but how she has beautifully melded Turkish classical music, Anadolu pop, surf music, dub, punk and psychedelic rock on individual tracks to create something entirely new.

As you journey across Gaye’s unconventional musical universe, you feel the mood change, from playful to passionate, as well as urgent and defiant. Her clever, enigmatic lyrics capture the zeitgeist of Turkey and the wider world.

The album opens with Hologram. Frenzied Oriental strings open this uplifting song about falling head over heels in love, changing pace throughout, first eager and then hesitant, the singer conscious of the pain of failed relationships.

Kendimin Efendisiyim Ben (‘I am my own master’) is slow and deliberate. At a time when the Turkish government tries to dictate all, Gaye firmly pushes back: she is her own master, ‘free to choose to make love or fight, to win or lose or share…’

Fantastiktir Bahti Yarimin (‘My lucky lover is fantastic’) starts with dark, brooding rock guitars. These cease as soon as the vocals kick in to deliver a warm and familiar slice of Turkish classical music – think Zeki Müren and Müzeyyen Senar – interspersed with psychedelic guitar riffs in the middle.

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One of the album’s standout tracks is Dünya Kaleska (‘World calash’). Reverb-drenched electric guitar and hypnotic drum beats throb in the background as Gaye sings this modern Türkü (folk song). Calash is an old world for an open-top carriage, the metaphor befitting a song about how we perceive those different to ourselves. Slice us open and we are all the same: “I am Roma, I am Armenian, Turkish, Kurdish, Ah does it matter? I am a blue apple, What would it matter?” 

Surf music comes to the fore in Eski Tüfek (‘An Old Hand’), a romantic, upbeat ditty that opens with a gong. Its Western-meets Anadolu rockabilly vibe is the perfect foil for spacechick Gaye’s sultry vocals.

There is never a dull moment on this strange and blissfully original album. Gaye calls it “Turkish art rock”. It is, for sure, the freshest sound to come out of Turkey this year.

Hologram Imparatorluğu is out now in the UK on Glitterbeat Records.