Y. Guney Hanedan: The Voyage
Y. Guney Hanedan

To create his ten-part album The Voyage, Yüksel Hanedan drew for inspiration from avant-garde experiments of the past decade. Though the Turkey-based composer's earlier work suggested links to New Age, his recent work exemplifies a harder though still accessible character, with atonalism and bold experimentalism now part of the production mix. Much like some ‘70s prog album, The Voyage is a concept album musically fashioned to depict an “imaginary vehicle journey”; consistent with the idea, track titles such as “The Dark Forest” and “Stopped to See a Distant Storm” provide narrative cues that enable the listener to piece together a workable story-line. Other titles, among them “Curtain Flap over Anxiety” and “Human Rub,” are less concrete and allow for any number of interpretations. No matter: in the long run, it's the music that counts, other aspects of the project being largely extraneous.

Disembodied voices, percussion, acoustic instruments, and synthesizers are deployed in service to Hanedan's vision, and each track, while obviously related to the whole, holds up satisfyingly as a stand-alone. “A Juvenile Departure” opens The Voyage on a high-energy, ambient-industrial note with a chugging, locomotive pulse accented by a bright bell signal, after which the tempo slows for the second part, “The Dark Forest,” Hanedan this time painting a gloomier scene. Although each track is more soundscape than song, melodies often emerge in such a way as to make the material more memorable. During part three, “Faint Images of the Past,” for example, the industrial base featured in the opening section reappears but this time coupled with a delicate synthesizer melody whose wistful quality feels fully in keeping with the track title. Even though the industrial chug is still faintly audible, the subsequent part, “Curtain Flap over Anxiety,” dials the intensity level down even more to shift the focus to limpid, guitar-like melodies and soothing synth washes.

In having the music advance through stages of contrasting dynamic character, the impression of a journey is convincingly established. The comparatively gentle tone of parts two to five certainly suggests, for instance, that the initial stage of the journey is a relaxing and spiritually replenishing one for the traveler in question, and said parts certainly differ in tone from the brooding eighth, “Barren, Damp Hilltops,” and ponderous ninth, “Stopped to See a Distant Storm.” The seventh part, “That Insignificant Station,” proves to be especially entrancing, in large part due to a lilting, seven-note motif that elegantly glides across a reverb-scented backdrop assembled from voices, electronics, and percussion. There are times when he appears to be revisiting his New Age past (such as during the concluding part, “The Lunar Bay”), but such moments are countered by darker forays into ambient-industrial territory. Throughout the fifty-one-minute recording, elements of various kinds are layered and arranged with care, atmospheres of considerable provocative power are produced, and Hanedan shows himself to be a sophisticated sculptor of sound.

May 2017