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Gaye Su Akyol - İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir Music Album Reviews

On an album whose title translates as “Consistent Fantasy Is Reality,” the Turkish singer pursues distant dreams of freedom in a fusion of contemporary rock and Turkish folk.

“Consistent fantasy is reality/There is death and this is a dream/Let my woes pour into yours/Hey shake it, life is rock ‘n’ roll.” So purrs the Turkish singer Gaye Su Akyol on the title track of her latest album, her voice honeyed and weary. Nurturing rock ‘n’ roll fantasies in her home country is a fraught proposition; the Eurasian nation dominates headlines more for its geopolitical standing and dismal human-rights record than its rock output, which makes Su Akyol’s music feel all the more vital. Over the past four years, she has positioned herself as one of the scene’s luminaries, alongside acts like Ayyuka and Büyük Ev Ablukada. Her visually arresting presence elicits comparison to Björk, and her approach lies in melding her home’s musical heritage to a wide array of rock stylings.

Her third album in five years, İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir crackles with a live energy that stems from the 18 months of touring following its predecessor, 2016’s Hologram Ĭmparatorluğu. Producing the album with longtime guitarist Ali Güçlü Şimşek, Su Akyol is in firm command of her powers, adding a few more electronic textures to push to new heights. The opening title track begins with the kind of vintage squelching electronics that led Andy Votel, the Gaslamp Killer and, most famously, J Dilla to plunder similarly sumptuous Turkish grooves. It then bursts into a percussion-heavy stomp full of synth blats and heavily phased guitar that serve as opulent backdrop for the singer. Her voice is a mesmerizing thing, deep and plummy enough to shake trees and stir hearts.

Earmarks of Su Akyol’s previous albums remain present. There are folk instruments like the oud, bağlama, and cümbüş that situate acoustic songs like “Bağrımızda Taş” and “Boşluk Ve Sonsuzluk” in Turkey’s past. Şimşek’s whizz-bang Dick Dale shredding on rollicking numbers like “Laziko” beams in like surf music from a distant star. Against the synth bass on the slinky “Bir Yaralı Kuştum,” his double-time picking and wah pedal work deepen the song’s pliant groove. But then there’s the flare of flamenco that gives a dramatic kick to “Şahmeran.”

Even when the album slows things down to a crawl, Su Akyol and band cast a spell. A syrupy and dubbed-out drum machine kick on the brooding and sluggish “Gölgenle Bir Başıma” gives it all the dread of a Massive Attack production. The song (which translates as “All Alone With Your Shadow”) paints a portrait of drought, heartbreak, and grief in poetic lyrics poetic that elude facile understanding.

Su Akyol’s previous album translated as “Hologram Empire,” and İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir offers another such surreal edict: “Consistent Fantasy Is Reality.” Working in a country where the oppression of free expression is standard operating procedure, Su Akyol’s music seems like a post-1984 coping mechanism, where only in fantasy can freedom be truly felt. Or, as her artist statement puts it: “We need to create a counter reality in order to challenge organized evil and the horrible reality it creates, and the strongest option here is ‘consistent dreaming.’” The album deploys cagey metaphors to mask greater critiques, but a powerful line from “Halimiz İtten Beter” shifts from the language of hope and dreams and instead gives voice to those too-real moments of desolation: “I gave up on existence and held on to absence.”

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