Reviewed on this page:
Elbette - Melek - Aman Doktor - Kırık Kalpler Durağinda - Aranjman 2011
Turkish singer/songwriter Candan Erçetin also squeezes in careers as a TV host and university lecturer, and much of her work in all three areas has focused on bringing a variety of foreign musical forms - from traditional Greek folk to French pop tunes - to mainstream Turkish audiences.
A worthy undertaking to be sure, but I'm more impressed by her flair for composition and production that's fresh and contemporary while also heartfelt and rooted in tradition. Accordingly, I suggest that you start with her straightforward pop albums like Melek and Kırık Kalpler Durağinda rather than her tradition-specific and dance remix projects.
Though Erçetin had represented Turkey in the Eurovision song contest back in 1986, she didn't release her own album until nearly ten years later; I couldn't tell you why that is. (DBW)
Like her first two, Erçetin's third album (not counting remix projects) was largely written with Mete Özgencil, who cooks up a sophisticated electronic pop sound but uses it mostly to deliver ho-hum midtempo love songs ("Dayan"; "Arada Bir"). And when the pace picks up, the melodies are routine "Dünya Durma"). "Annem" is the best of the slow numbers, though it reveals Erçetin's weakness: her voice, though strong and clear, lacks emotional impact or distinctive features, apart from heavy vibrato.
That leaves only one killer track: "Aklım Almıyor," a sinuous blend of electrofunk and belt-to-the-rafters emotion. Start with one of her later efforts, which not only draw in more folk and site-specific influences, but also have more impressive tunes.
At this point, Özgencil was out, and Erçetin wrote most of the material, often with Aylin Atalay ("Gamsız Hayat") or Sinan ("Bensiz").
Chante Hier Pour Aujourd'hui (2003)
As you might infer, songs in French ("La Vie En Rose"; "Ne Me Quitte Pas"). (DBW)
Again, Erçetin in a pop vein, comprising ballads ("Sitem"), stirring dance tracks (the insanely hook-filled "Bir Yangının Külünü") and lots in between (title track), all of which feature traditional instruments and percussion in addition to Western-style synths and rhythm section. While it's far from iconoclastic, there are adventurous moments: when rapper Ceza pops up, it's on the somber, piano-heavy "Şehir" rather than the club banger you'd anticipate; the slow weeper "Meger" has a strong rhythmic underpinning and cool industrial noises. The record's peaks are remarkable (the dramatically sweeping "Sitem"); the valleys include some unengaging tunes ("Cani Sagolsun") and tacky moments (the 50s rocker "Agliyor Musun").
Throughout, the Anatolian melodic and harmonic grammar are fascinating to someone like me: for the metalheads out there, Turkish makams often include the flatted second that Metallica so loves, sounding much like Phrygian Dominant mode. Self-produced.
Aman Doktor (2005)
Erçetin wanted to bridge Turkish and Greek folk music, and did so by rendering both with the same - mostly traditional - instrumental palette livened up with a horn section ("Kadifeden Kesesi") and singing in both languages indiscriminately. It takes some getting used to, and even then it's a bit one-note ("Telgrafın Tellerine Kuşlar Mı Konar").
The best moments are exhilarating, though ("Bir Dalda İki Kiraz Sallasana Sallasana"), and it's consistently both rousing and intriguing, with an array of fine touches: clarinet obbligati in the middle of "Darıldın Mı Gülüm Bana"; several cuts that downshift into rapturous percussion-led interludes "Çadırımın Üstüne/Sürüverin Cezveler Kaynasın").
Kırık Kalpler Durağinda (2009)
Erçetin gets a bit carried away with the folk touches - Roma flourish on the title track; Irish-sounding fiddle on "Unutursun"; salsa piano on "Kimin Doğrusu" - as if she were on a public betterment mission (the Turkish Peter Gabriel? the PBS of pop stars?). Not to mention a cover of the early 70s Esmeray hit "Unutama Beni." But I can't come down on her too hard because her key strength - wrapping a striking tune in a sharp arrangement - is indomitable: "Gözler" may be the most irresistable dance track I've heard since the last time I reviewed an Erçetin album, while the concluding "Ninni," with a sleazy techno groove against high-minded orchestral strings, is breathtaking.
Not to mention, there's plenty of unadulterated Turkish pop ("Türkü," with strident strings; the toothsome, midtempo "Özür Dilerim"; "Nedense Sustum," a ballad building to a thrilling, portentous climax).
Aranjman 2011 (2011)
How good a purse can you make out of a sow's ear, anyway?
This time out, Erçetin opted to apply a complex set of production techniques -
Hawaiian guitar on "Les Mouettes De Mikonos"; doom-flavored trance on "Car Je Veux" (retitled "Karlar Duser")
- to a hoary batch of French pop tunes which manifestly don't merit the treatment ("Cen'est Rien," renamed "Yalanmis").
I get that songs of this nature were important in the early days of Turkish pop (cf. Ajda Pekkan's first LPs), and I put Erçetin with Caetano Veloso in the "superstitious positive regard" category: when I don't understand what she's doing, I assume that's my shortcoming, not hers. Still, though, an acid grind version of "İstanbul (Not Constantinople)"?
Give Erçetin credit for reaching into different realms each time out -
far more successfully than Iggy Pop's contemporaneous homage to the same genre
- but I hope and expect her next venture will be a bit more broadly accessible.
Milyonlarca Kuştuk... (2013)
A return to Turkish pop, though there's a sprinkling of songs from other traditions ("Eğlen Neşelen," a translation of the 30s Yiddish hit "Bei Mir Bistu Shein").
As always, it's striking how many contexts Erçetin is comfortable (not to mention effective) in, from the most freeswinging acoustic singalongs ("Yak Gemileri") to high-tech production of Anatolian dance melodies ("Yarali Gönlüm") to the most maudlin torch songs ("Sen," written with Sinan).
Largely self-written and self-produced (the sinuous "Kim Deli" - no relation to the place I get my morning coffee), and again Alper Erinç wears a number of hats. "Aşk" (written with Doğan Duru) is a wonderful study in contrasts, as Erçetin tears her heart open while electric guitars circle uneasily and strings wait for their chance to pounce.
The title means "(We Were) Millions Of Birds," Google Translate (which returns the goregrind-ish Millions Vomited) notwithstanding.