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Monday, Mar 31 2008 | 18:52

For me, Istanbul 1:26 a.m., is the personal hymn of Istanbul. Whenever I listen to the track, images of this amazing, crazy, sexy, cool city are coming to my mind. It is one of the tracks which I cannot stop listening to. I am addicted to that track …Fatih Akin

A complete longplay album dedicated to one single song might be uncommon to a lot of folks – still, in certain musical genres such a thing is even an art form to the highest degree … If a song got “that certain something”, a collection of versions and reinterpretations of it can open a lot of new horizons and interesting angles. Any which way: the story behind those “certain” songs is always worthwhile much more than only a few minutes. “Istanbul 1:26 a.m.” definitely is one of these songs.

And now, the ongoing sonic tale evolves from being a beautiful short story to becoming a real multiimensional audio book with a lot of interesting pages to it.

Once turkish-german movie director superdarling Fatih Akin handpicked “Istanbul 1:26 a.m.” as the title track for his highly successful, internationally celebrated documentary on the Istanbul music scene called “Crossing The Bridge” in 2005, the “addictive” Orient Expressions song was destined to make its way around the globe, touching a lot of people’s minds and hearts. Some still claim there hardly ever has been music out there which reflected and summarized the feeling and contemporary lifestyle of the beautiful and mystic turkish metropolis located on the banks of the legendary Bosporus river like “Istanbul 1:26 a.m.” does. And they might even be right! No stale world music clichees this time around, but traditional anatolian harmonies embedded into state-of-the-art western-european electronica instead, celebrating the vibes of this unique city and its’ colourful nightlife. The result: sort of “the best of both worlds” – in the mere sense of the words.

A compilation entry on the famous Buddha Bar series paved the global-scale perspective even more and triggered further licensing to other prestigeous comps. “Istanbul 1:26 a.m.” came a long way to finally being regarded as a musical blueprint for a contemporary fusion between East and West.

For the two writers and composers of the original song, turkish born DJ Yakuza (aka Can Utkan) and US saxophone player Richard Hamer, “Istanbul 1:26 a.m.” was only the first result of common musical effort in the first place. Their outfit Orient Expressions (with additional members Murat Uncuoglu, singer Adile Yadirgi, percussionist Levent Guzel and Cem Yildiz coming on board a bit later) had only just been coming about in 2003. Richard Hamer remembers those “early days”: “Can came up with the name Orient Expressions. In those days, we were recording our stuff in a studio that was located close to the famous train station of the Orient Express.”

“The main reason for us to get together was the fact that all of us wanted to create a new sound, with the aim of finally being able to work in a job to our own rules” DJ Yakuza adds. “And we can really say that what we play is the music of Istanbul people. Richard came from the US to live here, I came from Erzincan, Cem from Japan and Levent came here from Izmir. And finally, we all met in Istanbul. We came up with a saying that goes ‚the roots of this tree belong to us, and its branches belong to the world’”. In the meantime, Orient Expressions work on their third album for reknown turkish label imprint Doublemoon – and now being noticed by a worldwide audience that was attracted ever since their debut production, “Istanbul 1:26 a.m.” … which also defined their remarkable, unique sound.

Originally, the songs’ unexpected global journey started with german DJ / music journalist Michael Rütten (Soulpatrol). After he returned from an Istanbul club gig with DJ Yakuza, he listened to the Orient Expresions first demo recordings Yakuza had given to him – and decided to play “Istanbul 1:26 a.m.” in his “Soulsearching” radio show. That way, Frankfurt/Germany based DJ / compiler Eastenders became aware of the song, licensing it for his credibility-loaden “Orientation” compilation on Poets Club Records. All the rest of the story, as mentioned above, is history they say …

The eight tasty reinterpretatons (and two bonus tracks) of “Istanbul 1:26 a.m.” on this album mark a new chapter in that very history book now. The unstoppable Orient Express train leaves Istanbul direction Vienna (Austria), Budapest (Hungary), Hamburg (Germany), Stockholm (Sweden), and back to breathtakingly inspiring Istanbul via Tokyo and Cologne. Track 9 on this album is the origin then – with the haunting album intro by turkish classical piano player Ece Dagistan being inspired by that original just as much as the remixes to follow, all fuelled by that certain hometown flavour of the mixers involved.

Really laid back and dubby at times, like in the vocoder-driven neo dub rework by Cologne based producer collective Solar Moon, the hung(a)ry mix by darlings Vono Box or DJ Yakuza’s very own remake. Or try the crispy electro funk vibe of japanese future jazz predator Sahib – maybe even with additional Balkan spices added by Vienna eastern sound-meisters [dunkelbunt]. Care for even more of that jazz moment? Listen to Richard Hamer’s variation. Prefer it rootsy and analog-sounding? Go for the version provided by Oi Va Voi mastermind Nik Ammar. In any case: the Bosporus beat goes on …

Sticking to the above mentioned Orient Expressions claim “the roots are ours but the branches belong to the world”, this “tree” of an original song grows even stronger with the variety and adventureous attitude of its gardeners.

Yet, one hing is for sure: all versions on this album pay loads of tribute to the fascination that the city of Istanbul holds in the first place, not only to its inhabitants. Just like the original song, these fresh interpretations of an outstanding piece of music are globally inspired and give their warmest regards to another city that never sleeps – and for sure not at 1:26 in the early morning hours! In fact, Istanbul is wide awake when most other cities have long turned out their lights … and now you might have an idea how that sounds … or even feels. 1001 nights? This is definitely closest to being there yourself!

Hypnotic ambience served on a warm bed of digital undertones, darbuka and underground beats. Perfect for the chill room. Love it.Nitin Sawhney

A meandering journey through a beautiful city capturing all it’s beauty.Pathaan

The track “Istanbul 1:26 a.m.” is a fine downtempo jazz with a fine ethnic percussion touch – good and uplifting vibe!Richard Dorfmeister

DJ Yakuza is delivering the perfect Bosphorus 1:26 am soundtrack with his track, sublime …Rainer Trueby

As Cinematic as it is deep, moody & delightful, Soundtracking Istanbul’s lonely, early hours.Quantic


01. Intro (by Ece Dagistan)
02. Zilver & Gold Remix
03. Nik Ammar / Oi Va Voi Remix
04. [dunkelbunt] Remix
05. DJ Yakuza Remix
06. Vono Box DJ´s Oriental Express Remix
07. Solar Moon Dub Session
08. Richard Hamer Remix
09. Original
10. Barrio Populaire Remix (Bonus Track)
11. Sahib Remix (Bonus Track)

The album Orient ExpressionsIstanbul 1:26 a.m.” (Poets Club) is going to be released April 25, 2008.

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