Like a lot of the world’s most interesting electronic music artists, Istanbul’s Hüma Utku has a classical music background. She started playing piano at 14. By 20, she was a full-fledged recording artist.
In time, her music took on more modern techniques. By 2015, Utku’s debut as R.A.N. (Roads at Night) Her Trembling Ceased combined industrial, electronic and modern classical influences. This new effort – Şeb-i Yelda – goes further, incorporating sounds from her native Turkey.
The title of the four-track 23-minute disc is a Persian phrase that translates roughly as “the longest night.” According to the album’s notes, the new material represents her “personal reflections on the long-lasting devastation and turmoil in the Middle East.”
Utku is a genuinely international artist. She tours the world as both a performer and DJ. She’s been based in Berlin for half a dozen years. The progressiveness of that global capital is all over her work. But as Şeb-i Yelda makes clear, she is just as much a product of her original home in Istanbul.
Her work has a heaviness that is difficult to avoid given its subject matter. But that’s balanced against an optimism that infuses her use of technology. This is not dystopian electronics. This is powerful, bold, beautiful work that signals an acceptance of the modern world, warts and all.
Utku’s ability to marry that pragmatic, futurist worldview with an affection for the traditions of her homeland (not to mention a touching piano performance on “Ay”) is profoundly reassuring.