Pop counter-culture comes in many guises. In the case of Istanbul singer Gaye Su Akyol it sometimes seems enough that she exists, a glittering, poetic presence amid the repressive atmosphere of today’s Turkey. Now 37, she brings with her an elegant, sonorous voice and a highly eclectic mix of Turkish folk and western rock amid which are sprinkled popular anthems of dissidence – the celebrated Write Journalist Write by the persecuted singer Selda Bağcan is a case in point.
Her own songs are more oblique and personal. Those on this fourth album are mostly love calls, often laced with fanciful imagery – “I’m an Olympic swimmer in a razorblade pool” – though when she laments “I’m in love with you forever” on Kör Biçaklarin Ucunda, it’s her home city she’s addressing. Istanbul, its former glories or current decay, is always close. The musical hybrid is as wild as ever. Anatolian folk tunes remain a well spring, and there are traditional instruments in the mix, but it’s largely a blend of rowdy psych-rock (Kurt Cobain is among her heroes) and Turkish pop. It’s all precision played, led by her long-time guitarist Ali Güçlü Şimşek, who fuses surf guitar with Middle-Eastern flavours. As its title translates, an Anatolian dragon.