The bass-led sludge trio Feza dimmed the halls of Babylon, where local fans turned out in spare packs to line the floor with a taste for fresh beer and hard rock. The group named themselves after an old Turkish loan word from the Arabic and Persian for outer space. Double-billed with Balina, they jointly inflamed the dead of winter on the night of January 24 with heavy strains rising as from the fires of hell. Arda Söyletir powers into the aural field riding on the waves of his four-stringed low rumble filling out the hot distorted noise as a singer of the metalhead persuasion. Şakir Kış backed him with spiraling wavelengths engorged from the body and through the neck of his shredded electronic guitar. And all were slammed down with thunderstruck rushes into the pulsing subterranean core under the thick drums and bell bronze of Mehmet Demirdelen.
Blasting forth with the blinding rage of pure, escapist reverberation, they sounded off new stoner anthems from Kobro, the debut album they released only days prior to the Babylon show. Opening the album is a muscular demonstration titled ‘Torf’. Its harsh sonic vibes range far afield into the reaches of a surreal wilderness. Roughly crooned lyrics soar, “Look at the goat / Wandering around the mountaintop / Cranky, sour / Looking for its kid...”. Second on the album, ‘Hayret Sofrası’ (Feast of Astonishment), the rhythm is set with a descending chordal slide, fathoming the neo-folk high of Six Organs of Admittance, only to light the metal fuse echoing the lighter drive of its inception. Magnetic to the ears, ‘Isabella’ has a tangible resonance shattering successive panes of glass, destroying every last inhibition of ego resistance from eardrum to brain. For its listeners it frees the sources of inner movement from the shackles of the world, causing listeners to bang heads, some harder than others.
Kış designed the concert poster with lettering by Can Dağlı to radiate with the ambiance of a lunar tide in full effect, gravitating upwards from the cold, white stares of mustachioed and somber countrymen, flat-nosed and high-cheeked, burly workers from the darkest corners of the silent subconscious. Lost in the moonlit clouds that swarm below sharp constellations, they are the remote of the mythical East, of the unknown village, of the raw land. They are the they and the “them”. They are the other, and so “we” are to them. They starve for culture. They thirst for the sound of another. And together they are like one single individual among the urban-dwellers who descend from the smoke billowing densely and bearing down from above, pressing all to the fore demanding entry into what they call “our world”. The accompanying script complements the grey-green, dichromatic visuals as a wood carving, etched and separated into roots of words crafted under a skilled pen. Kış goes by Moklich at Big Baboli, the print house who produced and sold the poster at Babylon. They specialize in serigraphy gravure and are based in Kadıköy as local makers of collectible indie band merchandise inspired by nostalgic cheap tack from the 80s and 90s.
Drum kit virtuoso Burçin Esin of Balina, the masterful swing metal duo closing the “Double Release” (Duble Lansman) at Babylon, filmed the proudly independent Karavan Sessions with Feza early last year in the shadow of a cliff in a gully strewn with rocks. Totally powered by solar out of a brown and beige van painted in the earthy hues of the razor-edged mineral background, they entice audiences to listen far out beyond the pale of the ordinary, while setting the foundation of sheer, physical and truly creative freedom. Only a month before Feza’s debut release, Balina released the 4-track EP “Mythology of Losing” (Kaybetmenin Mitolojisi) in December of 2017, with a special edition vinyl.
From Izmir, the drum-guitar duo harmonizes through deaths and rebirths of rock under megalithic sound of Alican Öyke who leads psychedelic melodies over long and deep reverberations that vibe on prog and thrash styles. Despite hawking a 25-minute record four years after releasing the first, self-titled album, Balina wailed and chugged onstage at Babylon for over an hour, never failing even time and time again to rouse the audience through twists and turns of masterfully arranged instrumental tunes. For the last song on the latest EP titled “Sorry” (Üzgünüm) singer Lara Di Lara stood onstage for a live collaboration muffled by warped engineering, though she showed up and stole the air with some mad, transcendent energy.
Balina is proudly photographed by the New York-based Turkish photographer Ebru Yıldız, whose work on the DIY underground Brooklyn music scene recently came out as a highly praised book, We’ve Come So Far: The Last Days Of Death By Audio, noted by the likes of The New Yorker and Pitchfork. Her black-and-white shot of the pair cast in faded, angular shadows against a bare concrete wall, Alican thoughtful and Burçin stony, is only one of many reasons why Balina is casting itself a place on the pantheon of new rock, not only in Turkey, but in the enlightened ears of young and proud listeners the world over. Along the way, they worked with the musicians they idolized growing up in the Turkish scene during the production of “Mythology of Losing” (Kaybetmenin Mitolojisi) namely with names from the 1990s, Barkın Engin, formerly of Replikas and currently Pitohui and more, as well as drummer Burak Gülpınar. They’re music is addicting, like a good beer at the old factory.