Altin Gün's Grooves Mesmerized Vancouver Rickshaw Theatre, April 12
Published Apr 13, 2022The switch has been flipped. Concerts are back in a big way, to the point of saturation. As of the time of writing, the calendar for the Rickshaw is packed for the foreseeable future, and many of those events are already sold out. Due to popular demand, Cancer Bats have added a second date later in the month. For their first trip to Vancouver, Altin Gün sold out the 600-capacity venue on a Tuesday, for an early show.
Altin Gün are an international effort. The Amsterdam-based sextet, whose name is Turkish for "golden day," perform covers of Turkish folk standards, reinterpreted through the experimental lens of popular '70s artists like Selda Bağcan, Baris Manço and Erkin Koray. The band began as the brainchild of bassist Jasper Verhulst who, after touring Turkey as part of Jacco Gardner's backing band in 2015, stayed behind to crate dig. A Facebook ad led him to meet Merve Dasdemir and Erdinç Ecevit, who now front Altin Gün as vocalists and keyboardists (Ecevit also adds heavy doses of electric saz or bağlama, a plucked string instrument similar to a lute or oud that is popular in Balkan countries). The band are rounded out by guitarist Thijs Elzinga, percussionist Chris Bruining and drummer Daniel Smienk.
Their recordings have become increasingly complex as they've moved from the more traditional psychedelic Turkish funk and Anatolian folk of their first couple albums — their 2018 debut On and 2019's Grammy-nominated Gece — towards the slicker production of '80s disco and synth-pop on Yol and Âlem, both from 2021.
Joining Altin Gün for a few dates as they work their way to Coachella is Pachyman, a.k.a. Los Angeles-based musician Pachy García, who developed a taste for reggae while growing up in Puerto Rico, listening to the likes of Augustus Pablo and King Tubby. Like the headliner, ATO Records released his third studio album in 2021, titled The Return of Pachyman.
With a wood-paneled mixer tilted so the crowd could see him working its sliders and knobs, Pachyman delivered a set of strictly instrumental dub sure to please any lover of Scientist or Lee "Scratch" Perry. There was a bit of a hiccup about halfway through his set, where he had to dig as some wiring until a loud pop seemed to signal the problem was resolved, but he wouldn't allow anything like that to mess with the chill vibe.
After getting on the mic to announce he was the selector, the producer and the musician, García walked the walk as he talked us through his set-up. He had four separate audio channels on his mixer dedicated to drums, bass, melodies and rhythm tracks like pianos, keyboards and guitars. He had previously recorded all of the instruments that he was mixing himself. Added a little synth and melodica as well as liberal effects like delay when he assembled his tracks live, he lost himself in his music, and seemed sincere when he thanked the crowd for allowing him to do it.
Altin Gün got a huge welcome as soon as they hit the stage, and they earned it. Even if they looked a little stiff at first, their opening rendition of "Rakıya Su Katamam" admirably sounding more like Goat than Riza Silahlipoda, and they loosened up by their next track. Selected from Gece, "Vay Dunya" received a big woot of recognition when that song kicked off, with its wicked breakbeat and a spaced-out keyboard solo from Ecevit.
Their third track, Âlem cut "Clips Kola Kilit," showed off their range Jamming hard '80s vibes like Falco or Rockwell, Ecevit proved himself such a synth wizard that it's surprising he hasn't grown a cape yet. The funky disco spaceship definitely took off for "Maçka Yolları" from Yol, stewing the pit into a hot mess. Even the balcony was dancing. Dasdemir fist-pumped as the crowd sang "Kolbastı," which flowed fluidly into "Leyla," the latter of which boasted one of her most captivating vocal hooks as well as one of their gnarliest psych rock riffs. Dasdemir goaded the audience into raising their arms and snapping their fingers for "Çiçekler Ekiliyor" from On, but it was percussionist Chris Bruining doing his best Tito Puente impression that stole that song.
After acting out the ritual of a fake encore, they transformed "Yali Yali" from Âlem. Its lockdown studio recording has a Cybotron-esque electro polish, but they morphed it live into a progressive funk bomb improvisation that provided almost everyone a chance to shine brightly, particularly the nimble fretwork of guitarist Elzinga. If the response was any indication, the next time Altin Gün play Vancouver, they will likely need to add a second date.