Amsterdam’s Altın Gün brought their kaleidoscopic Turkish psych-folk fusion to XOYO on September 11th; we caught their impressive sold-out debut UK show.

After their twenty-minute KEXP performance went viral across Europe and the US, Amsterdam’s best-loved Anatolian rock outfit Altın Gün have spent the last year carving their reputation as a formidable live band in their native country, in Turkey and in France, where their energetic live show has seen them quickly sell out clubs and ascend festival bills. Tonight’s performance at a sold-out XOYO is their first show on British soil before heading back to France for a few dates to warm up for a tour across the US with Tame Impala. Two thoroughly enjoyable albums into their career and Altın Gün are a firmly established working rock act.

Photo by Ilka Schlockermann

Taking the stage at 8.45 PM they instantly settle into the tight grooves of Gece album opener ‘Yolcu’. Former Jacco Gardner bandmates Jasper Verhulst (bass) and Ben Rider (guitar) provide the rhythm work with Daniel Smienk (drums) and Gino Groeneveld (percussion), whilst Turkish musicians Erdinc Yildiz Ecevit (vocals, keys, saz) and Merve Dasdemir (vocals and keys) provide the lead. From their confidence onstage tonight it is evident how much their sound has been sharpened through practice on demanding continental stages and in rehearsal studios. While clearly a special moment for the band and their British fans, the show is also business as usual for them. A wave of applause surges through the crowd at the first solo break as Ben peels out his wah-drenched licks to a bouncing crowd.

The period of Turkish music that Altıin Gün mines for direct inspiration is the Anatolian rock of the seventies when artists like Barıs Manço, Selda Bagcan and Erkin Koray sought to merge the rock music of western Europe and America with their Turkish musical backgrounds. None of the songs Altın Gün play tonight are originals, but to call them a covers band would be to misunderstand the culture they are emulating. Just as the pre-Beatles music world was filled with bands updating older standards to secure recording contracts, so too was it common practice for Anatolian rock artists. Tonight’s set features well-travelled updates of folk saz player Neşet Ertaş’s ‘Tatlı Dile Güler Yüze’, ‘Kirsehirin Guller’, and ‘Şad Olep Gülmedim’. The pared-down mysticism of the latter segues seamlessly into a heavy lysergic take on Erkin Koray’s classic ’Cemalim’. It’s a set that maintains a consistently high standard from the outset. At one point Merve tries to teach the crowd a dance that “all the Turkish people will already know. It’s simple” she smiles, “just put your hands up and snap your fingers.” They proceed to launch into their well-loved On deep cut ‘Çiçekler Ekiliyor’ which somehow blows the roof off.

For all their virtuosic pyrotechnics, what really shines through about Altın Gün is their personality. It’s manifested through their unpretentious sound and stagecraft – a blissed-out meeting of musical cultures as they bring Byzantine melodies into a genre which, in recent trends, lacks both melody and musicianship. Altın Gün offers an introduction to a towering musical culture; a refreshing frame of reference outside of our own. From the uninterrupted screams that follow in their wake when they come offstage, it’s evidently one that has already been accepted. In their encore, they surprise even their staunchest YouTube followers with the Turkish classic ‘Yali Yali / Çayelinden Öteye’, a song by Neşe Karaböcek (and one of my first recommendations for anyone willing to try Anatolian rock). Seeing this moment and the rapt reaction from the crowd feels significant. It feels like Altın Gün offers more than just an introduction to Turkish rock. They offer a way forward for our own.

Photo by Ilka Schlockermann