A Chat with Akkor (23.04.2020)

A healthcare worker by day, Akkor (otherwise known as Üstün Lütfi Yildirim) divides his increasingly sparse time between listening and creating. His first full LP Durma – released just last month – is a 50-minute journey of epic soundscapes. When experienced in its entirety, Durma is a slow-burning album with an almost cinematic quality. Whilst it has no accompanying visuals (yet) or discernable voice, it reads almost like a soundtrack with all the hallmarks of a visual or linguistic narrative.

We took some time out from the dreary normality of self-isolation to chat with Akkor about his ethereal creation.

Akkor Durma Istanbul
Courtesy of Akkor

OSR: How did your musical career begin?

ULY: When I think about my life, I see that music and sounds are the only attractive things to me. I have had an urge to create ever since I could remember. I can recall myself as a 10-year-old boy trying to compose his first piano piece without any education with my battery-powered Yamaha PSR-3.

Years later, I was a progressive rock fan and keyboardist – eventually, I realized that the dialect, experimental sound design and compositional sharpness in this genre is what hooked me.

OSR: There seems to be an interesting narrative behind ‘Durma’ – can you tell us the story?

ULY: Durma is unintentionally cinematic. I don’t mean it to be, it just happens to be.

There is a German word that I’ve learned about from Hesse’s Der Steppenwolf. ‘Umwelt’. It means, every single person experiences the world differently and there are different worlds with the same number of people in the world. For my album and my future albums, the narrative is the contemporary reflection of my ‘umwelt’. Durma is a whole work where the musical ideas in every track support and expand on each other.

A listener would have a more comprehensive experience and perception of the major narrative as well as different sound layers from hearing it full.

OSR: If each listener makes their own story, what ideas do you have in your own mind when you approach your work?

ULY: I compose Akkor with a method that is similar to a stream of consciousness writing. I try not to be analytic when I compose. It’s important to be in the moment while experimenting with my tools until I get a musical outcome that touches my feelings or thoughts. When I get it, I focus on sculpting and refining it. There’s no premeditation or plan for any of my tracks.

Through composing the unanalytical and unintentional, Akkor is a multi-layered electronic project that is impulsive. It speaks about my own perception of the world in an abstracted way. In my belief, when heard as a whole, it can be personalized by many. A world that is experienced subjectively is a world that we all share objectively.

OSR: Tell us about your methods. How can you create something so abstract?

ULY: I keep my field recorder with me all the time. When I encounter any dramatic scenery, I hide my recorder somewhere and let it record the sounds for a while, sometimes a whole day. Then I process these files and eliminate anything that is not musical. I also walk around the city with headphones connected to a microphone. Hearing the world through headphones creates an illusion of experience. It influences the perceived attributes of sounds.

As for the technical side, the only equipment that I use on all of my tracks is Oto Machines’ Biscuit. I have processed nearly half of my material with it – what a great small black box!

OSR: for a musician from ‘sunny Istanbul’, your music is surprisingly dark an industrial. How does your home city influence your work?

ULY: Istanbul is a place of variety where everything melts together. It’s a huge city where around 20 million people live – there are a lot of minorities from all parts of the country, and foreigners from all parts of the world, all with different cultures and languages.

Our experiences severely influence our opinions, stories and personalities. For artists, these are compositions, performances and exhibitions. As we share our work, different approaches and collaborations come out. A lot is going on here simultaneously, both in the mainstream and the underground music scene. For the latter, you can find a serious amount of experimental, ambient and electronica in Istanbul. Collectives, curators, venues, workshops and music enthusiasts all follow the scene.

But enough of abstractions, here are some facts. Turkey is passing through a political and economic condition that worsens every passing day. It has been for more than a decade. Every regulation results with difficulties for the venues here, some close down, some shrink. The life of musicians gets more difficult since venues of all sorts are the main economical fuel of our musical careers. Many have unrelated day jobs to be able to carry on with their music nowadays, but every kind of hardship creates an urge of expression and still, especially the underground music scene adapts and thrives. I can see markings of Istanbul in my music and I’m quite sure that every single musician can find them in theirs. It’s is a chicken and egg situation. That’s what makes being an artist here so thrilling.

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