INTERVIEW: Yolcu | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Anatolian-inspired electronica band Yolcu are set to release their striking new EP, In Stream, this month. Based between Istanbul and Newcastle, Dağtaş (Turkey) and Joe (UK) are the masterminds behind this powerful music. The pair met in 2017 while studying for a sonic arts MA in Istanbul, instantly making a musical connection and setting up a studio near Mount Ida in north-western Turkey.

Within its dark, modular synth-infused tone, Yolcu’s music has an air of yearning and poignancy about it. “I think it comes from our interest in the emotional tone, or soul, of Anatolia,” muses Joe. “There is a sense of yearning in most of the music, poetry and literature from the region which is partly inspired by local traditions of mysticism. It’s not a yearning to be happy, earn money or something like that, rather it’s a search for answers to questions of an existential, metaphysical nature. One could say that the agony of the mystic is their separation from God (however you wish to define it), and through art that feeling expresses itself as a yearning for union.”

Open track The Somewhere comes barrelling in with its hip-hop-cum-ethnic beat and gorgeous microtonal scales of the bağlama, a traditional stringed folk instrument of Turkey (and one of my favourite sounds). But don’t be fooled, this song is closer to an underground rave track than traditional folk. “Since we’re both interested in each other’s cultures it seems effortless to blend them together. We’ve never tried to force the influence,” says Dağtaş. “It always depends on what the track needs, if it supports the production and the song’s narrative.”

There is a sense of yearning in most of the music, poetry and literature from the region which is partly inspired by local traditions of mysticism

The name Yolcu in Turkish means ‘passenger’ and is a metaphor about how the passage through life is a journey. Despite being written two years ago, the EP feels strikingly prescient, which makes sense when you understand where the themes came from. The lyrics are post-modern, dealing with confusion, anxiety and loss of control. “Post-modern in the sense of a fragmented self,” says Joe. “A loss of grand narratives to explain, guide and motivate, an alienation from political and cultural structures, being pessimistic about one’s capacity to change things – not much different to the 90’s really.”

Yet 2020 has been a highly productive year for the duo. “We wrapped up everything for this release and produced two music videos,” says Dağtaş. “I made the artwork for the releases and the 3D-scanned animation music video for A Hunter And The Prey. During lockdown I shot the music video for The Somewhere with Turkish artist Anıl Önen. The pandemic meant that we couldn’t play live to help promote our releases, but it did allow us to focus entirely on this EP release, which we’ve learned a lot from. And I think personally, for both of us, this time has helped us to be much clearer about what we want and how we want our next release to sound.”

Yolcu release their In Stream EP on 6th November

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