Band on the Wall presents sounds from the Istanbul underground, courtesy of powerhouse Turkish trio Lalalar.
Riding a wave of fierce energy and acclaim generated by their show-stopping festival performances at Le Guess Who and Trans Musicales, they now unleash their hotly-anticipated debut album, Bi Cinnete Bakar. The brainchild of three of Turkey’s most active and innovative alternative artists – Ali Güçlü Şimşek, Barlas Tan Özemek and Kaan Düzarat – the album is a thrilling mix of punk energy, dark electronics and Turkish instrumentation and samples.
You can learn a lot from the names bands give themselves – and Lalalar is no exception. Principle songwriter, Ali Güçlü Şimşek, explains: “Lala is the wise man, the teacher of sultans in Ottoman history. And at the same time, in slang, the one who doesn’t know what he is talking about.” Make it plural by adding ‘lar,’ and you’ve got a moniker that might translate as “the wise guys,” delivered with a punkish sneer. That’s the kind of streetwise, confrontational attitude that crackles through Lalalar’s first, uncompromising full-length offering.
For listeners whose knowledge of Turkish music extends only as far as 70s Anatolian rock, Lalalar might come as a surprise. Though Şimşek suggests that those psychedelic classics are “in the veins” of all three members, Lalalar are much more than just another retro outfit. Instead, they weave subtle samples of timeless Turkish folk music into their electronic stews. Listen to how “Abla Deme Lazim Olur” begins with a flash of Arabesque strings before hunkering into a lumbering industrial-funk groove. Or the way a plaintive whine of Middle Eastern strings starts “Abla Deme Lazim Olur,” quickly giving way to a sultry theme with tense, spaghetti-western guitar.
In fact, the sounds of the 80s are a much more important point of reference for Lalalar – and for an underground Istanbul scene that for Şimşek says is currently fixated on “dark wave and dance.” You can hear it in tracks like “Isyanlar,” which revs up a turbo-charged electro-funk with echoes of the Night Rider theme, powered by hypnotic bass, a killer guitar hook, hand- claps and Şimşek’s somnolent, serious vocals. If pressed, Lalalar will admit to being influenced by the likes of Secret Chiefs 3, Rage Against The Machine, Neşet Ertaş, Pantera and Portishead. But, on tracks like “Sol Şeritte,” you can also hear traces of the gothic glamour David Sylvian brought to New Wave pioneers, Japan. “It’s deep waters, sometimes dangerous ones,” Şimşek explains. “It’s mostly fragile. There’s always something extra human even with all the robotic stuff we bang.” Turkish-speakers will also sense a certain intensity in Şimşek’s lyrics, which he describes as “sarcastic, dark humoured, political and heavily metaphorical.”
A standing show. On sale 10am 3rd March.