In recent years there has been a bevy of excellent reissues from the golden age of Turkish psychedelic music, a remarkably fertile period of musical activity that spanned roughly a decade from the late '60s through to the imposition of martial law in 1978. Each newly unearthed release offers fresh musical revelation from canonical figures like Erkin Koray, as well as lesser-known figures like the group Bunalim. Though he worked with some of the finest musicians in the Anadolu rock scene, including Mogollar and the wonderful trio Uç Hurel, the singer Ersen has gotten relatively short shrift, at least when compared with Turkish psych luminaries like Koray, Edip Akbayram, or Selda Bagcan. The reasons for this are complicated, stemming as much from his political affiliations as from aesthetic considerations. Apparently, in both respects Ersen was a little too prone to align himself with the prevailing winds, leading to a frustratingly erratic discography and compromised politics.
Some intriguingly groovy singles have made it onto recent collections of Turkish psych and garage, but the only full-length album to be released outside of Turkey was Dünden Bugüne, a surprisingly tepid greatest hits record from 1977 that didn’t elevate the singer’s cause. With this self-titled compilation on the UK imprint Finders Keepers, however, Ersen’s reputation gets a vigorous, and much-needed burnishing.
Indeed, Finders Keepers' Andy Votel, who has released some stellar Turkish reissues as part of the label's "Anatolian Invasion" series, argues in his informative and impassioned liner notes that the chimeric Ersen is, in fact, one of the emblematic figures of Turkish psych. His very neither-here-nor-there-ness makes him an especially appropriate symbol for the Anatolian musical hybrid of east and west, traditional and modern. It's certainly hard to argue with the record itself, which brims over with adventurous, fuzzed-out grooves, with Ersen’s dulcet vocals gliding above thunderous basslines and funky breaks.
The album explodes out of the gate with “Ternek,” a scorching song that Ersen recorded as lead singer of the mighty Mogollar in 1970, and, if anything, accelerates from there - no mean feat, given that “Ternek” is a stone-cold Turk psych classic (in fractured 7/8 time no less). The highlights are almost too numerous to mention: There’s the impossibly cool, smooth sleaze groove of “Gazan Mübarek Olsun,” the euphoric bassbin shaker, “Çakmagi Çak,” and the phenomenal east meets west, funk meets folk alchemy of “Yine Seni Taninm." Overall, Ersen's back catalog may be hit and miss, but pretty much every song here is a bona fide keeper. I’m not one for hyper-ventilated prose, but this record warrants it. Tremendous.