Those fine sound selectors at Bongo Joe have really been ripping up the new post punk envelope recently. We’ve had Tout Bleu’s dark-folk electronica, Amami’s earnest Rai inventions and most recently Societe Etrange caused a stir with their free form, dub informed workouts. Now the label is delivering direct from Istanbul, Lalalar’s debut album ‘Bi Cinnete Bakar’ (available from May 6th).
It would be easy to jump in with those ‘Ah Anatolian rock’ presumptions but Lalalar seem to suck on other energy sources, tapping into the subterranean and lurking in the shadows. Sure there are nods to BaBa Zula’s spiralling psyche and Gaye Su Akyol’s avant-art vision but Lalalar draw on their own refinements of heavy funk, techno pulses and industrial crunch. The samples they use might be from traditional music, there may be a slice of those twisting eastern scales cutting through occasionally but the band’s sound has the engineered tension of DAF or even Sisters of Mercy careering through the mixer.
If you are into Bongo Joe’s formidable release schedule you might have noticed that Lalalar have been spinning out a stream of furious seven inch singles on the label since 2019. ‘Bi Cinnete Bakar’ collects this heavy duty, full-on body of work together, remixing, extending and refreshing the songs for even fuller effect. The result may lack a bit of economy for the sake of completion as it sprawls over seventy minutes but what is impressive is the sustained drive and unwavering attitude that Lalalar manage to keep alive across the four sides.
Opener ‘Isyanlar’ may lure you in with the waft of pastoral guitar picking and sighing cymbals, but before long whoosh…a low- slung bass riff, machine drumming and those ominous high priest vocals take you somewhere more nocturnal. It may seem dark but this is not dark wave. As the track stomps on the band inject some levitation as they lean into a rush of searing electro funk topped with Prince-like synth guitar scything. It’s a winning transition that Lalalar often explore on the album and which rarely fails to excite. Take ‘Mecnun dan Beter Haldeyim’ with its merge of sub bass propulsion, hints of euro disco swirl and a deadpan ‘la-la’ singalong amongst the disciplined beats. Or maybe the chunky motorised funk of ‘Alba Deme Lazim Olur’ where sampled Eastern string dramatics and a hook with agit-pop credentials provides proof that Lalalar’s music maybe heavy duty but it’s looking for some serious gyration to go with it.
In other places ‘Bi Cinnete Bakar’ reveals other intentions and inclinations, living up to the band’s suggestion that despite surface appearances, their Turkish rock heritage is very much ‘in their viens’. ‘Yam Yam’ bumps along to a distinctly Anatolian swagger with tingling almost kitsch synth sprinkles, tumbling trad percussion and hints of saz-twanging to inject a rootsy edge. It could soundtrack a dusty spy caper, set in the sun-baked mountains, all battered Cadillacs and tinny Trabants. That retro-psyche melodramatic feel gets revisited in ‘Ceketini Al Yoluna Bak’, a slow seething noire ballad shoved into the present by industrial muscle riffing and on the punchy rapped intensity of ‘Kilavuz Karga’ that trips and rips over slouching Morricone guitar lines.
Although their name translated sneeringly refers to those tiresome, egotistical ‘Wise Guys’ we all avoid, it’s doubly ironic that the trio are obviously brimful of sus. You only have to listen to the seamless connectivity of ‘Kotuye Bisey Olmaz’ as it switches from sub skank to cranked up tension or ‘Hala Benim Gobek Adim’ striding out on an intrepid Arabic-funk to techno quest, to recognise that Lalalar are musically so savvy. At times the compiled nature of the whole record necessitates fades that leave you hanging but there’s a sense that Lalalar just needed to get everything out there on one mighty slab. Perhaps this politically astute, uncompromising unit just wanted to draw a line, take it or leave it. Whatever the motive, ‘Bi Cinnete Bakar’ isn’t a record to pass over lightly. Lalalar aren’t for being ignored either now or in the future and you sense from this record there really is much more to come.
Pick up a copy of Bi Cinnete Bakar by Lalalar from your local record store or direct from: https://lalalar.bandcamp.com/