Plaj – GİT (live performance)

Güneş neden tepeden gitmiyor?     
Git git git                                            
Gitmez ki bu böyle                            

(Why doesn’t the sun descend?)
(Go, go, go)
(It doesn’t go this way)

Plaj means ‘beach’ in Turkish (and for some reason, musicians in Istanbul seem to have a strange preoccupation with the beach as a concept) but this group recalls December more than it does July. To be sure, this quartet is not quite on the level of similarly-minded globe-trotting acts within their community who also value the ethereal/cerebral over the physical/visceral. However, with Git, Plaj clearly signals that they’re prepared to get competitive on the global stage.

As a term and concept, “post-punk” died a long time ago (though musicians, critics and fans alike continue to kick the horse’s corpse) but many of its main indicators apply to these Istanbul-based arty DIY’ers. The group shares many of the same qualities that turned Fazerdaze into global indie-rock darlings and precisely none of their logistical advantages of geography and access to media outlets with enough clout to break them on a larger level.

Most shoegaze groups rely on the studio as an instrument unto itself, which is a difficulty for many Istanbul-based groups working in a place where studio time is expensive and salaries are low, not just for working artists, but for everyone. This is just a single entry in a long list of obstructions that DIY musicians working with Turkey and its diaspora face, in terms of breaking out into the great beyond (a goal for many of them, even if they don’t want to come out and say it). Perhaps as a result of these barriers, Plaj has constructed a sound that pummels within a genre that too often aspires to the delicate and the celestial at the cost of tangible physicality, which often results in wan, warmed-over pretension in the pursuit of mood and reverb-y toan. Plaj does not fall into this trap: this is a group that aims for the clouds but keeps its ears to the ground.

This woolly mammoth of a song bulldozes its way into the brain’s pleasure receptors, built upon lumbering drums+bass and controlled-anarchy guitars, all tightly thatched together with towering keyb lines. The icy vocal melody lands slowly but when it does, it burrows deep and stays there. This Istanbulite shoegaze act signals inevitability, fully confident in its approach and comfortable within its own skin.

Git builds the track brick-by-brick: a dreamy foundation atop a sturdy kick-snare beat and skittering drum fills for the rock-solid b-line to lock into, steady ground for the keyboard to create a foreboding atmosphere, all of which culminates in a fiery guitar-break at the track’s coda. Where most of the song aspires to ice-and-snow, this guitar workout huffs’n’puffs, it lunges and it sweats, allowing the group to strike a contrast and balance between the ethereal and the physical (a valuable contribution to the shoegaze genre, which, as previously mentioned, can too-often fetishize the other-worldly at the expense of the humanistic)

This arrangement and performance of the song grew out of an earlier-released demo tape that garnered the group critical notice within the burgeoning Turkish DIY community (the current drummer of this group may be the hardest-working man within a vibrant circle of working musicians, which includes similarly beach-friendly Palmiyeler, whirring enthusiasts Eskiz, and the insistently visceral Raws; not to mention breakout stars The Away Days and Jakuzi or the stalwart diaspora-tripping Baba Zula). Listeners are encouraged to note the differences between the original arrangement and this current performance. Where the former aspires to a kind of surf-twee sensibility, all bouncy guitars and cutesy, sunny male/female trade-off vocals, the latter dreams of death-by-snow avalanches.

Perhaps there was some kind of falling out between the vocalist and the original guitarist? In any case, an evolution has occurred from its earlier approach and we’re all better off for it. This band clearly exists now as a vehicle for the lead vocalist; however, to her great fortune, she has allied herself with a drummer, keyboardist, and guitarist (and good grief, can that guitarist rip) that have the ability to provide her tunes with instrumental muscle, aesthetic power and a stylistic panache that the previous incarnation lacked.

That being said, the overall mood of this song is difficult to pin down and a look at the lyric sheet sheds no light. They don’t seem to want to reveal anything about themselves beyond the self-assured quality with which they perform. On Git, they sound simultaneously triumphant and melancholy (though considering the political environment they’re working within, basically everyone within the art community has adopted a beaten-down type of post-apathy). Furthermore, this distant pose and implementation of aesthetic distance are all too common within the genre and Plaj would do well to work on finding an aesthetic that differentiates itself from this icy remove and something more human. If it doesn’t, oh well, these urban aesthetes have done its part for the burgeoning Istanbul indie circuit (and the genre, at large) by creating this towering triumph of a song. Maybe that’s enough.

Shoutout to Petri Kabi’s soundperson for doing a stellar job of mic’ing up this performance in a way that illuminates Plaj’s true power (except for that unforgivable fuck-up at 3:09-3:11)

RIYL: Big Black — Kerosene (but without the metallic overtones), Public Image Ltd (without the dub obsession and punk pretension), Swervedriver (without the macho glam aggression), UIX Design Seminars