En Kötü Iyi Olur is the new album from Lalalar, an electronic dance act from Istanbul who mix modern synth sounds and traditional Turkish instruments with their politics and optimism. The name arises from ‘Lala’; the wise-man, or teacher of sultans in Ottoman history. “It also has an opposite meaning for being goofy, or dumb,” says principal songwriter, Ali Güçlü Şimşek. “By adding “lar,” to “Lala” their name becomes ‘wiseguys’ “. The album’s name translates to ‘at its worst, it will be good.’ Which the band hope is “a beacon of hope in our ever socially, politically, and climatically challenged world”.
Although the album is sung in the Turkish language you can sense that Lalalar are promoting positivity alongside railing against tyranny and injustice: “Our music is about building a bridge between the people and the music, being listenable, while being experimental and filling the audio spectrum.”
It’s easy to get swept up in the sheer excitement of this album, especially when the powerful beats can reach pulse quickening speeds of 180+ bpm on tracks like ‘Göt’. From the fuzzed-up bass of ‘Avucunu Yalıyor’ to the prowling menace of ‘Yaşamaya Bahane Ver’, Lalalar don’t waste time getting to the meat of a track. Lyrically the vocals are often as fast as the instrumentation, and the serpentine flourishes from saz and guitar are launched from tight rhythmic patterns and ground shaking bass lines.
The taught arrangements are dazzling, and each track is like a different ride at a theme park. ‘Hem Evimsin Hem Cehennemim’ has the movement of Michael Jackson’s ‘Gotta Be Starting Something’ and ‘Şekerleme’ pulses with 80s synth-beats, and ‘Yarın Yokmuş Gibi’ ends at breakneck speed. Only the finger-clicking swirl of ‘Aynı Bokun Mavisi’, with its lilting tune, and the yearning sparseness of ‘Serüven 101’ (which closes the album) glimpse into the more reflective side of the band.
Lalalar merge the urgency of Punk and New Wave with psychedelic colours and the power of modern electronic music, but it’s when the gritty sound of saz and guitar burst through that the album really flies. The band may be trying to overcome the troubled politics of their own lives but the optimism of their sound is infectious and should give you the energy to rise above your own travails.
Review by Paul F Cook