Once it hit big in the late-’60s, bands from all over the world began embracing psychedelia, creating weird local permutations of the sounds from the latest Beatles, Hendrix, Doors and Floyd records. Turkey has always been one of my favorite breeding grounds for psychedelic rock, probably because acts from there didn’t try to sound exactly like Western bands, and maintained a strong sense of “Turkishness”, using distinctly local melodies and instruments like the Baglama and Zurna. It’s these elements that give the music an exotic quality that transports you to someplace different, which was kind of the point of psychedelic rock in the first place. Anyway, Pharaway Sounds recently reissued albums by two of the best performers of Turkish psych-rock, Cem Karaca and Edip Akbayram, complete with remastered sound and in-depth liner notes.
Cem Karaca’s album, Nem Kaldi, is a grab-bag of singles from the ’60s and ’70s and, as you might expect, it’s all over the map. Besides Karaca’s booming Scott Walker-esque voice and melodramatic delivery, there aren’t many constants from song to song, running the gamut from highly-orchestrated Curtis Mayfield-styled funk (“Oy Bobo”) to soft-psych balladry (“Baba”) to crazed funk-prog (“Namas Balasi”). By constantly shifting styles (and sound quality) from song to song Nem Kaldi is somewhat tiring, though the highs are strong enough to make it all worthwhile. The highest of those highs is “Unutamadigim”, a surprisingly heavy rocker with manic double bass drums and swooping synth squiggles pushing the song further and further out into the stratosphere with each passing second.
Edip Akbayram’s Nedir Ne Degildir gets the nod here as the better of the two albums. It has the advantage of being an actual album, rather than a singles compilation, so the sound quality and backing band (Dostlar) are the same from song to song. The album dates from 1977, long after this type of psychedelic rock had faded in most parts of the world, but Akbayram still gets a lot of mileage from the sounds of the previous decade, mixing hard rock histrionics, with proggy keyboards, funky beats and lots of those great sounding Turkish instruments that you don’t get to hear very often in the Western World. Favorites include “Arabam Kaldi Yolda” with its instrumental section sped up from manipulated tapes (like “War Pigs”), and “Adam Olmak Dile Kolay” which features an amazingly in-the-pocket instrumental section that pretty much rules. In addition to psych-heads, cratediggers should check this out too, as there’s wealth of funky beats here waiting to be turned into hip-hop tracks.