“Timeless Waves” is my first exposure to the work of Turkish musician Erdem Helvacioglu. This is a piece that was composed for an installation in Istanbul but the scope of the music is unbound by its central idea. The resulting sounds are a thoughtfully assembled mix of jarring and soothing timbres, both unpredictable and lively.
“Fear” opens the proceedings, a dark amalgam of field recordings and heavily processed scraped string instruments; the overall feel is one of paranoid focus, building slowly and expertly across its nine-minute runtime. In this piece Helvacioglu sets a basic template for the earlier part of the overall composition, where rough noises are tempered by the barest hint of melodicism–his acoustic guitar/viol instrument evokes aspects of an oud and a bowed instrument, and these layered interjections serve as a unifying element throughout the disc. From the darkness of the first piece emerges the subtle and pretty “Love”; gentle finger-picked guitar/viol figures are matched up against rolling loops of backward harmonics and sharp sine waves. Helvacioglu’s sonic command is formidable–here he demonstrates adept slide guitar technique, tossing out sad blurts of ruminant wonder amidst the gentle push-and-pull of his languid drones.
“Anger” begins with crunching tones that wouldn’t be out of place on a harsh noise release. There is no buildup here, instead the piece just rises up from the landscape and begins its sputtering ascent. Revolving around a pulsing and panned bit of guitar noise, this piece is perhaps the least subtle here, but still successful. “Sadness” reasserts a quieter vibe, as buzzing stacks of sine waves ease into a landscape filled with clicks and achingly sad flickers of guitar. This piece is the least successful on the disc for me–the slow trek through its downcast sonics doesn’t develop much beyond its original idea, and its weighty mournfulness seems exaggerated in order to properly utilize the implications of the piece’s title.
“Surprise” and “Joy” make up the last two parts of the disc, and each is dissimilar to what has gone before. Detuned guitar/viol screeches battle with microphone feedback and stuttering electric guitar runs in “Surprise”, as Helvacioglu uses a number of contrasting sounds and pulls them together in a successful and noisy piece. After the exaggerated melacholy of the previous piece, “Surprise” lives up to its title with industrial-style banging metal and Derek Bailey-ish flailing on the acoustic guitar/viol. “Joy” returns to the world of more traditional methods of composition, as chattering guitars circle around a sprightly and truly uplifting chord progression. Elements of the work of bands like Aerial M or Gastr del Sol surface here, shorn of the occasionally weighty conceits of those bands. It is a truly unexpected and welcome sidestep that makes for a brilliant conclusion to this work. Having heard this disc I feel like I have to check out more of Erdem Helvacioglu’s stuff. Seek this out, it’s worth it.