Album Review: Gaye Su Akyol – Anadolu Ejderi (Dunganga Records, Glitterbeat Records)

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Album Reviews, Blog

Gaye Su Akyol’s 2022 album, Anadolu Ejderi, is an audacious work that reflects her position in the Turkish music scene. This album, translating to “Anatolian Dragon,” is her fourth release and primarily explores politics in her home country. In doing so, it creates anthems of dissidence that echo the spirit of her persecuted predecessors like Selda Bağcan. Throughout, Akyol’s observations reflect a duality of nostalgia and pain. As a result, Anadolu Ejderi is a roller-coaster of emotions, with each song in a distinct psychological state. It’s an artistic response to a nation’s cultural erosion, its beauty fraying in political and economic turmoil. Experience this emotion on Thursday, February 15th, as Gaye Su Akyol returns to Romania with her first Control Club appearance.

Anadolu Ejderi harks back to Gaye Su Akyol’s earlier work, reminiscent of her 2016 international release, Hologram İmparatorluğu. This return to a more traditional instrumental foundation is a significant shift from the grunge-heavy approach of her 2018 album İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir. In Anadolu Ejderi, instruments such as the violin, oud, electric baglama, cümbüş, and sazbüş create a rich cultural soundscape. It is one that subtly merges with various other styles and genres, from Anatolian folk and pop to African and Middle Eastern sounds, soul, disco, and the rock of various cultures. 

The album’s intricacy and allure are further heightened by Akyol’s seductive voice, which delivers a mix of heartbreak and love with dark dissident anthems. The album is packed with sounds and melodies that are exotic, complex, and cinematic in their scope. Simultaneously, Akyol’s lyrics delve into her personal experiences and observations, particularly in a climate where a woman’s commitment to passion, love, and sexual identity largely remain seen as revolutionary.

Anadolu Ejderi’s eponymous opener stands as its emblematic core. Combining elements of disco and funk with traditional music, it immediately represents the album’s protean nature. Starting with minor-key guitar runs and unconventional drumming that transitions into disco-leaning segments, it is a mehter march to challenge the Orwellian Big Brother. It’s an anthem of awakening, the mythical dragon rising from its slumber with lyrical insinuation that true power lies with the collective.

Biz Ne Zaman Düşman Olduk? (Since When Did We Become Enemies?) further delves into this surreal narrative. The fusion of traditional Turkish instruments like cümbüş, woozy bağlama, and saz with hip-hop, underlined by low bass notes, evokes malfunctioning machinery reminiscent of the backalleys of Cyberpunk 2077. The lyrics in this track and others, like Bu Izdırabın Panzehiri (Antidote For This Pain), express personal pain and unrequited love in a raw and poignant manner. “I’m an Olympic swimmer in a razorblade pool … I’m in love with you forever,” Akyol professes.

Vurgunum Ama Acelesi Yok offers a brighter, poppier sound, with electronic beats and synthesizer drum sounds interwoven with flurries of oud and a chiming bell. This track contrasts with the grunge-influenced Yaram Derin Derin Kanar (My Wound Bleeds Deep & Deep), which builds from a Nirvana-esque acoustic opening to a crescendo of power chords. (Also listen to Gaye Su Akyol’s recent cover of Love Buzz from Dutch Psych band Shocking Blue and popularized by the Seattle trio).

Anadolu Ejderi rounds out with a synth-pop-styled cover of Neşet Ertaş’s famous Gel Yanima Gel (Come By My Side). Such folk-heavy songs allow Akyol’s voice to become a character in its own right. The song is followed by album closer Içinde Uyanıyoruz Hakikatin (We Are Waking Up in Reality), where Akyol acknowledges her kinship with influential musical figures like Syd Barrett and Brian Jones. This final track is also a journey through Turkey’s history, particularly reflecting on the events of the 1980 coup d’état, with Dilan Balkay’s ghostly trumpet adding a haunting layer to the temporal journey.

In Anadolu Ejderi, Gaye Su Akyol weaves stories, challenges norms, and invites listeners into a realm where music and meaning coalesce into something transcendent– a rich, dynamic exploration of sound, story, and emotion.

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