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Live From Brussels: Turkish Psychedelic Nite, Charlemagne Palestine & Anna Von Hausswolff

Martin Longley By

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Selda Bağcan & Boom Pam/Derya Yildirim & Grup Şimşek/Gaye Su Akyol
Ancienne Belgique
May 24, 2018

Situated close to the Grand Place, Ancienne Belgique is a key Brussels venue, with an adventurous approach to programming. Its main stage boasts a precisely-delivering sound system, where clarity becomes power, and all instruments are equal. There's a new old movement in Turkish psychedelia, partly digging up its golden era of the late-1960s and 1970s, but also continuing with newer artists and hybrid, modernised song-forms. Several of the venue's stage-spaces were utilised during this entire evening of Turkish psychedelic music, beginning upstairs in the AB Salon with a 6pm presentation by Daniel Spicer, a writer for Jazzwise and The Wire. He's recently had published The Turkish Psychedelic Explosion: Anadolu Psych 1965-1980, dedicated to the music's heyday, and then entering into a poppier late-1970s manifestation.

Spicer's talk was interspersed with music cuts and visual footage, enlightening the curious audience by revealing perhaps unfamiliar artists, and peppering his informative narrative with humorous asides. Not all of this music is hardcore psychedelia: as with British and American genre examples, some songs veer towards pop or straight rock, with acid-dropping reduced to a light drip. It's the same with the two bands presented later on the main stage, as the music bore hallmarks of those earlier decades, but revolved around a milder rock-pop sound, with liberal touches of folkloric influence. Even though not flooded with fuzz guitar outbursts, or shimmering mists of flute or sitar (or even saz), the evening's artists still managed to look backwards and forwards at the same time.

Singer Derya Yildirim opened the night, with Grup Şimşek, whose line-up featured drums, bass, retro-organ keyboards and lead guitar. Yildirim herself concentrated on the lead soloing three-stringed electric saz, frequently setting up a dialogue with the 'conventional' guitar. Whilst being rock and pop influenced, this crew's songbook has an overriding folkloric feel, with a recurring singalong feel, like a Turkish-styled variant on the Fairport Convention relationship with roots.

Headlining on the main stage, another singer, Selda Bağcan, drew in an audience that seemed very familiar with her decades-long repertoire, presumably a crowd of Turkish or Turkish-descended hardcore fans, as they sang along with many of the song-words. A veteran 70-year-old star, with a reputation as a protest singer, Bağcan actually looked more like a cuddlesome grandmother figure rather than a psychedelic rebel. Despite any gentle visual aspect, her voice remains a powerful conduit for emotive crowd-prompting, this gig possessing an unusually communal vibration. So communal, in fact, that real security problems grew, as several audience members displayed a persistent desire to clamber up on stage and hug her, or just as often, pose for social media documentation. The security staff tried to be relaxed, but such stage incursions clearly had to be stopped.

The Boom Pam line-up (they are Israeli rather than Turkish) features electric lead saz, guitar, keyboards, bass, tuba and drums, once again highlighting a bouncy, folkloric swaying motion, well-suited to near-constant crowd clap-alongs. The atmosphere was charged. Sometimes, Selda would simply let the audience finish a verse, or even handle an entire chorus. Cellphones were brandished with plague-force.

To end the night, upstairs in the smaller AB Club, the fast-rising Turkish singer Gaye Su Akyol seemed to just about cram in most of the crowd from downstairs, stage visibility being made problematic. As the gig progressed, your scribe broke through the numbers, gaining a fuller view, shocked to see that, under Akyol's diaphanously spangled cape she was clad in black hot pants and thigh-high black leather stiletto boots. This matched well with her and her (masked) band's surprisingly surf-goth-garage-rock attack, coming on way more aggressively than the contents of Akyol's recent album (Hologram Empire) on the mighty Glitterbeat label, which promised songs that were much more reclined in mood. Akyol's deeply resonant voice rose powerfully above the twanging guitar riffs and sweeping organ sounds, numbers alternating between atmospheric and rocking. Ultimately, this was a very substantial evening of Turkish folk-rock in several of its possible guises.

Charlemagne Palestine
Kanal-Centre Pompidou
May 25, 2018

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