Born in Istanbul “a beautiful place [with] dark sides” Basak Günak is a multi-instrumentalist producer and performer who uses experimentation with found sounds and analogue and electronic composition to experience how sound vibration and melody resonates with bodies and “other beings”. With a foundation as a keyboard and bass player, Günak developed technical skills in recording and electronic production during an MA in Sound Design & Engineering, marking a departure from her background playing in bands and a venture into solo territory as Ah! Kosmos.
Her latest EP Together We Collide, marks a significant move back into collaborative work with performance artist Aslı Bostancı and WARP signee LAFAWNDAH , who Günak met when they were both participants on the Tokyo edition of Red Bull Music Academy. Their synergetic process on this project led to the forging of friendships, which Günak says transformed her “self and life”, and gave her the courage to “short circuit…institutional codes”. Similarly to her debut EP Flesh, released on Turkish indie label Muzik Hayvanı in 2013, ‘Together We Collide’ is characterised by rhythmic momentum-building repetition, in an attempt to reflect the context of Istanbul’s “heaviness of hate crimes, alienation and displacement” and to channel a deepened understanding of sociological issues and philosophical ideas underpinning her MA in Cultural Studies, before being woven into the fabric of the album.
“Each song is an attempt to transform whatever I encounter into sound. What I try to overcome in life leaks into the soundscape of my work.” – Ah! Kosmos
Detailed layering and texturing is influenced by dreams and the potential in “everything that is created and…encountered”, hence the moniker Ah! Kosmos. “Each song is an attempt to transform whatever I encounter into sound. What I try to overcome in life leaks into the soundscape of my work.” This approach is clear also in LAFAWNDAH’s lyrics, written during one of her visits to Istanbul; “remember this heartache, it will fade.” ‘From the Land Below’ isn’t the first time Günak has worked with vocals, her 2015 LP Bastards, released by Denovali Records, features spoken word inspired by the lectures of curator and art philosopher Selen Ansen, who inspired Günak to “embrace being a bastard” with her art.
Both timeless and otherworldly, Günak’s work unconsciously defies being tied to a genre, tapping into something beyond an immediate surrounding or experience to communicate something more transcendental. This fluidity perhaps stems from her work with improvisation, which is conducive to functioning outside of an awareness of thought in a dream state more akin to “floating intensively…to reach to this profound level where the planned thoughts [are] put aside, to get deep into the flesh”. She describes each song as a musical canvas, varied with initial layers and improvisational starting points remaining a mystery.
Having composed for contemporary dance and theatre companies, short films, site specific performance and performed herself at Sonar, Venice ElectroFestival, Tokyo Electronic Music of Arts Festival, and supported Jonny Greenwood’s Junun project at the Barbican Hall, live performance is clearly an integral part of Ah! Kosmos. She allows her work to be embodied, played and received differently each time depending on the context with no limits to her freedom to experiment.
As far as materiality goes, Günak views live performances as an opportunity to experience the realm in which individual and crowd physicality, imagination and vibrational waves meet and allow a sense of time to expand with the stage providing a space where different layers of self can be explored and reinvented.
Ah! Kosmos is currently working on her next album and on a ‘multi-disciplinary platform’. In the meantime you can listen to ‘From the Land Below’ here: