Ah! Kosmos: Bastards
Denovali Records

Bastards might be the full-length debut by Istanbul-based producer and instrumentalist Basak Günak under the Ah! Kosmos name, but she's no inexperienced neophyte. Two years ago she issued the Flesh EP (scheduled to be re-issued in conjunction with the release of Bastards), and Günak has also created sound design for a number of contemporary dance and performance-related productions throughout Europe (Rotterdam, Prague, Venice, etc.).

One of the more appealing things about the recording is its muscular rhythmic dimension; while Bastards is not a dance music album per se, some of its tracks wouldn't sound out of place in a club and are all the better for being so; one imagines any festival-styled appearance by Ah! Kosmos will go over strongly when driving dreampop such as “And Finally We're Glacier” and “Always in Parentheses” is presented live. Günak also enhances the music's full-band effect by adding vocals (speaking voices and singing), guitars, and drums by a small number of guests.

The short intro “Out/Ro/In/Growth” immediately establishes Ah! Kosmos's connections to electronica in its arrangement of voice, abstract electronic, and percussion effects, after which the album proper gets underway with “Stay,” a somewhat shoegaze-styled setting elevated by ethereal guitar textures, intricate beat clatter, and a powerfully supplicating vocal performance by Seha Can. Traces of Günak's land of origin echo through “Home” in the dulcimer-like strums she drapes across the track's driving pulse and haunting melodic elements. The song stands out as much as “Stay,” and when its chiming guitars surface, the listener could be forgiven for hearing a hint of Radiohead and Coldplay in Günak's Ah! Kosmos sound (something similar could be said of the comparatively more atmospheric instrumental closer “Never Again”).

Whether the piece in question is long or short, Günak repeatedly serves notice during the album's thirty-seven-minute run that she's a sound designer and arranger of significant ability. Bastards impresses in another way, too, as that rare thing: an album of songs that pushes beyond conventional song design into the kind of sophisticated realm characteristic of electronica and ambient soundscaping.

May 2015