AMN Reviews: Various Artists – An Anthology of Turkish Experimental Music 1961-2014 [SubRosa SR390CD]

srv390This welcome survey of electronic and other experimental music by Turkish artists covers a five-decade period and encompasses a range of diverse sounds.

The first disc is devoted to electronic music, beginning with Bülent Arel’s 1961 Postlude from Music for a Sacred Service. Arel, along with Ilhan Mimaroğlu, was involved in some of the pioneering postwar experiments in electronic music. Both were connected to the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in the 1960s, and both worked on electronic composition with Edgard Varèse. Arel’s Postlude sounds of its time but is still fresh, its undulating bursts of characteristically electronic timbres making for a richly textural work. Mimaroğlu is represented by Istanbul Fog, a program work from 1996 that leverages overlapping tones to convey the discordant harmonies of multiple fog horns sounding in a harbor.

The other works on the first disc are largely within the classic electronic tradition of timbral exploration. Some, like Cenk Ergün’s Forge (2008) or Erdem Helvacıoğlu’s Resonating Universe Part I (2010), manipulate samples of acoustic instruments, while others, like Mehmet Can Öser’s sparse, skittering Plug-Out: Balzklar II (2007), Batuhan Bozkurt’s Kun (2012) or Sair Sinan Kestelli’s Earthworks (2007) sculpt inharmonic sounds into elegantly dynamic forms.

The pieces on Disc 2 move away from the predominantly formal experiments of Disc 1 and instead represent an eclectic set of mostly very recent work based variously on field recordings, loops, drones and glitches, post-rock and socio-political commentary. As such, it’s a fine introduction to the many varieties of contemporary Turkish experimentalism.

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Daniel Barbiero