Words by:

Listening to Altın Gün’s latest album Gece, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s been pulled from an old record store in Istanbul. The Dutch five-piece, whose name translates to ‘golden day’, might have started their journey into Turkish psych-rock in Amsterdam, but their sound is deeply loyal to the genre’s Anatolian roots, which is characterised by its unique take on Western psychedelic rock – think the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin – and traditional Turkish folk scales.

Founded by Dutch native Jasper Verhulst in 2016 after a trip to Istanbul, the band models itself on 70s and 80s musicians such as Barış Manço, Erkin Koray and Selda Bağcan, legends of the genre whose impact is still felt across the region’s cultural zeitgeist today. But the music itself is Turkish too, with songs taken from across the Turkish folk canon, and the inclusion of classics like Leyla and Cemalim. Undoubtedly, Altın Gün cleave closely to their Anatolian influences, with reverberant minor-key guitar riffs, electric solos and a declamatory vocal style. But, according to Verhulst, that’s the entire point.

“I was fascinated by the combination of Turkish folk music and the psychedelic sounds of the 70s: the synthesisers, the flangers, the fuzz guitars,” he tells us over the phone. “I visited Istanbul with my previous band, Jacco Gardner, and that sparked more of an interest in Turkish music in general. We decided to stop playing [as Jacco Gardner] live, but I wanted to keep gigging because it’s my favourite thing to do. I thought, ‘Why not play this music live, because no one seems to be doing that [here] yet?’”

While a Dutch musician starting an Anatolian band with little cultural connection to the genre could raise some initial red flags, Verhulst was careful to involve Turkish musicians in the project. On his return from Istanbul he immediately began posting callouts on Facebook, and soon enough, Merve Daşdemir and Erdinç Ecevit Yildiz were selected as its two vocalists.

"I was fascinated by the combination of Turkish folk music and psychedelic sounds of the 70s: the synthesisers, flangers, fuzz guitars"

“They were the first two people who came into my rehearsal space. We instantly felt like this could work. We had chemistry from the start,” says Verhulst. Yildiz is a traditional Turkish folk singer and saz player, who chooses most of the songs. “Erdinç is the musical genius,” explains Verhulst. “He started playing Turkish weddings with his dad when he was 12. This music is in his blood.”

Still, Verhulst maintains that “music is a universal language,” and it’s when performing live that this becomes most apparent. “We didn’t even plan to make albums at all, it was just a live project. But after a few shows, we noticed that people really wanted to buy this music and take it home with them,” he laughs, “so we became a recording band too.”

Closing our conversation, I ask how he feels Altın Gün has been received. “We didn’t expect anything from this. We thought we’d do some shows, maybe some festivals, but no one expected us to go full-time. It’s great to know we can bring people together.”

Sounds like: Baroque psychedelia for the 21st century

Soundtrack for: Car rides with the top down

File next to: Barış Manço, Ahmed Fakroun

Our favourite song: Cemalım

Where to find them: altingunband.bandcamp.com

Gece is out now via Glitterbeat Records