Philadelphia-based Turkish art-rock band Barakka deserve to be vastly better known than they are. Even though the majority of their lyrics are in Turkish, their relentlessly intense, mostly minor-key anthems are memorable and often haunting, transcending any language barrier. They’re playing at Drom on Oct 2 at 7:30 PM, opening for another more psychedelic (and controversial) Turkish rocker, Ahmet Muhsin. Advance tix are $20 and very highly recommended because the diaspora comes out in full force for shows like this.
Barakka’s brilliant album – streaming at their Reverbnation page – is titled Uzaklardan, meaning “far away” or “from a distance.” It’s a feeling echoed in the music’s persistent unease and frontman Baris Kaya’s recurrent themes of longing and loss. More often than not, the lead instrument is Roger Mgrdichian’s incisive, rippling oud, joining in a rich interweave with Kaya’s web of acoustic and electric guitars, William Tayoun’s elegant piano and Chris Marashlian’s kinetic bass. Multiple drummers contribute to the project, including the band’s current stickman, Jim Hamilton and the New York Gypsy All-Stars‘ Engin Gunaydin.
The opening track, Agit sets the stage, piano paired against the oud as the lithely dancing minor-key intro gives way to a crunchy, intense, anthemically swaying drive: as it crescendos, the band creates a dynamic that’s both towering and eerily rustic. The second track, simply titled X builds to a similarly angst-driven peak out of a strummy acoustic waltz. Kayip is the most American-sounding, and ironically the least musically dynamic track, winding down to down to the piano over Joseph Tayoun’s clip-clop darbouka groove.,
The bittersweet Gri Sokaklar is the gentlest number here: once again, Mgrdichian leads the band up and the piano follows. Hedye kicks off with a flurrying darbouka solo and quickly builds to a moody, haunting anthem with a tricky tempo, the wounded ache in Kaya’s voice echoed potently by Mrgdichian’s tense, upper-register oud solo. The steady, precise Yalniz Kahraman is every bit as haunting, with Kaya’s spare, echoey, bell-like guitar accents behind the oud’s stoic intensity.
Sairin Celiskisi sets anthemic mitteleuropean angst to a catchy, unexpectedly tropical pop tune with a little Middle Eastern spice. The stomping, vamping, crunchily hypnotic Hey On Besli pairs the clattering darbouka with bagpipe-like guitar – it’s the most Mediterranean-inflected track. The slow, pensive Son brings back the grey-sky anthemic ambience.The album’s final cut, Hit & Run has a metal-tinged, chromatically-charged intensity, Kaya’s eerie fuzztone lines matching the menace of the lyrics. As lushly and intricately arranged as these songs are, they sound like they’d be real showstoppers in concert.