Cem Karaca – Nem Kaldi & Edip Akbayram – Nedir Ne Degildir (Pharaway Sounds)

While bands from all over the world embraced psychedelia in the late-’60s, Turkey is one of my favorite psych breeding grounds, probably because acts there maintained a strong sense of “Turkishness”, using distinctly local melodies and instruments like the Baglama and Zurna. These elements give the music an exotic quality that transports you to someplace different, which is kind of the point of psychedelic rock in the first place. Anyway, Pharaway Sounds recently reissued albums by two of the best Turkish psych-rockers, 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  Curtis Mayfield-styled orchestral funk (“Oy Bobo”) to soft-psych balladry (“Baba”) to crazed funk-prog (“Namas Balasi”). By constantly shifting styles (and sound quality)  Nem Kaldi is somewhat tiring, though the highs make it worthwhile. The highest of those highs is “Unutamadigim,” a heavy rocker with manic double-bass drums and swooping synth squiggles pushing the song further into the stratosphere with each passing second.

Edip Akbayram’s Nedir Ne Degildir is the better of the two. It has the advantage of being an actual album, rather than a singles compilation, so the sound quality and backing band (Dostlar) are consistent throughout. The album dates from 1977, long after psychedelic rock had faded, but Akbayram still uses the sounds of the previous decade, mixing hard rock histrionics with proggy keyboards, funky beats and those great Turkish instruments you don’t hear often in the Western World. Favorites include “Arabam Kaldi Yolda” with its sped up tape manipulations (like “War Pigs”), and “Adam Olmak Dile Kolay” which features an in-the-pocket instrumental section that pretty much rules. In addition to psych-heads, crate-diggers should check this out too for a wealth of funky beats just waiting to be turned into hip-hop tracks.

Edip Akbayram – Edip Akbayram (Shadok’s Music)

Fire up the hookah and grab some hummus: it’s time for two discs of obscure 1970’s Turkish psychedelic rock! Sure, that’s way too much to take in one sitting, but I swear there’s some really cool stuff in this collection, which gathers two previously unreleased albums Edip Akbayram made with his band Dostlar in the early-‘70s. The music is an exotic mix of familiar psychedelic, funk and progressive rock influences coupled with traditional Turkish instruments and melodies. Although the Turkish elements make comparisons hard, they sort of sound like a Turkish version of Man Who Sold The World-era Bowie with a bit of Zeppelin thrown in. At the center of the music is Akbayram’s voice which is full of emotion and depth, despite the fact that I have no clue what he’s saying (some of the song titles are translated to English and they’re odd, like “My Arm, Where Do You Get The Bracelet From” and “Because Of Your Black Eyebrows”). A good listen for those looking to stretch their musical horizons a little bit further.