Album Review : Lalalar – ‘En Kötü Iyi Olur’ : Crunching agit-electro dynamism from Istanbul

The Breakdown

This is risk taking in full flow that marks the band stepping out confidently beyond their original template. Lalalar are on the move between the then, the now and the future.
Bongo Joe Records 8.9

Attention, the agit-electro Istanbul trio Lalalar are crashing back through the airwaves with new album ‘En Kötü Iyi Olur’ on Bongo Joe and it’s no soft landing. This is a band geared up for impact, kicking up a fuss and pressing for a reaction with their rebooted Anatolian anarchism powered through electronic-rock, synth funk and heavy-duty industrial machinery. Lalalar mine this course through a spikey collusion of Gaye Su Akyol’s avant-artistry and Altin Gün disco-slam, taking a darker turn down an eighties goth dance alley for added bite.

Their sprawling 2022 debut ‘Bi Cinnete Bakar’ made a deep impression with its propulsive bass driven, drum machined stomp. A collection of previous EPs and singles remixed and re-imagined, it exploded with political as well as physical energy, exposing core members Ali Güçlü Şimşek, Barlas Tan Özemek and Alican İpek’s street activist connections. Now a year on from this outspoken, outlandishly dynamic introduction, ‘En Kötü Iyi Olur’ looks to push on but for this free-spirited bunch that doesn’t mean doing more of what’s expected.

Opener Avucunu Yaliyor or ‘Whistle For It’ is characteristic of Lalalar’s plain speaking urgency, an exposure of social divides where ‘some are born under a lucky star while others whistle for it’. The slurring irony and vocal edge leaves no doubt which side of the line this band champion although their rage is delivered with a different kind of tension. A ticking electro rhythm, snaking saz patterns, a soaring hook and a manic neo-Prodigy drop show the group grasping the power of the short, sharp memorable shock. Then there’s Sekerleme, the band’s own sarcastic take on a ‘Shot By Both Sides’ status quo, which shatters the prog posturing intro with a muscley disco-shuffle, crushing chords and dervish nu-metal soloing. This is risk taking in full flow that marks Lalalar stepping out confidently beyond their original template.

Closing track Serüven 101 underlines such sonic expansion to the max. A dub- electro bass-bin shaker that slouches along mid-tempo, spiked with Arabic cross rhythms and kosmische psychedelia. The purpose is to serve the song, to up the melodrama cloaked around the earnest vocal and steep the mystery further. Such dynamism is needed because ‘En Kötü Iyi Olur’ is an album that looks inwards as well as commentates. The alt-rocking industrialism of Grejuva seethes through a dark gothic love tryst, all ‘vixens’, ‘straps’ and ‘leashes’ reeling with whiplash percussion in a frenzied clash between Sisters Of Mercy and Baba Zula. Tracing similar emotional stresses Hem evimsin hem cehennemim blends classic Turkish pop with hot stepping disco-funk while Ayni bokun mavisi confronts with more aggression, distaste and a suitably nasty bump n’ grind.

Amongst all this left-fielding Yaşamaya bahane ver (Give me an excuse to live) feels like the most profound and pronounced extension of Lalalar’s modus so far. As staccato strings skip around the booming riffola this could be the band’s lounge ballad moment. Keeping the right side of kitsch, oppressive trip hop meets swooning vocals in a song that crackles with Anatolian flair and Nick Cave honesty. Maybe Lalalar’s future music is being shaped in this impressive four minutes.

That said it would be wrong to assume that En Kötü Iyi Olur’s strengths rest solely in this more widescreen direction. When the band tap back into their agit-post-punk roots that immediate rush of excitement remains in fine Consolidated/ Beatnigs tradition. The freedom fighting Yarin yokmuş gibi has it all, gouging riffs, scouring baselines and an overlay of hyperactive techno to power its fist pumping unity. Even harder on the throttle, the incendiary Göt (or Ass to spell it out) takes a clipped proto-rap and spiralling Anatolian guitar shapes to a chunky new wave conclusion, taking down ‘tyrants and hypocrisy’along the way. Proof then that this band can channel those Rage Against The Machine and Asian Dub Foundation references and make their very own valid noise.

In many ways En Kötü Iyi Olur highlights that Lalalar are a significant band who are on the move between the then, the now and the future. It’s a record that has an immediate effect, energetic, assertive and influential but which also signposts something even greater coming in the future.

Get Your copy of En Kötü Iyi Olur by Lalalar from your local record store or direct from Bongo Joe HERE

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