THE BAND’s LINE UP:
Setrak BAKIREL Guitar, Lead Vocals
Evelyne KANDEL Bass, B.vox
Micha ROUSSEAU Keyboards, Guitar
Eril TEKELI Guitar, Flute, B.vox
Julien TEKEYAN Drums, Percussions
ASIA MINOR is a French-Turkish progressive rock band, led by two Turkish students who settled in
Paris in the 70’s: Setrak Bakırel and Eril Tekeli. After several years of separate musical experiments, in the Rock area for the former and the Jazz area for the latter, Setrak (vocals, guitars) and Eril (guitars, flute) joined forces in 1971 in Istanbul to found their band Layla, which would earn four nationwide prizes, notably for composition and arrangement.
After their arrival in Paris in 1973, they founded their new band Asia Minor Process, which after some personnel moves found stability in 1977 with the recruitment of Lionel Beltrami (drums & percussion).
At that time they decided to change their name to Asia Minor. In October 1978, the band recorded its
first album, « Crossing The Line », with the outside help of Nicolas Vicente playing the keyboards.
Shortly after its release, a fourth musician, Robert Kempler (keyboards, bass, backing vocals), joined
the band. Under that configuration, the band appeared live in two nationwide TV shows. The album
« Crossing The Line » was then broadcast on a regular basis on French official and « free » radio
channels during the year 1980, with several gigs in and around Paris. In July 1980, Asia Minor decided to record its second album, « Between Flesh and Divine », which, just like the first one, would be entirely conceived, produced and released by the band itself.
After a few months of self-promoting the album, the band signed a distribution contract with Safari
Ambiance in August 1981, then sold their records through an English record-shop owner, Andy
Garibaldi, who covered the British, Canadian and Japanese markets. Although the released quantities were eventually sold out, the band decided to split after a concert in February 1982, due to weariness and disillusion.
Then, more than 30 years later, Bakırel, Tekeli, Beltrami and Kempler decided to reform the band, soon to be joined by Evelyne Kandel on bass so that Kempler could focus on keyboards. They performed a number of gigs in festivals and live concerts. Kempler leaved the band in 2017, followed by Beltrami in 2019 due to health issues. They were replaced by Micha Rousseau and Julien Tekeyan respectively, and under that configuration entered a studio late 2019 to record their third, self-produced album, « Points of Libration ». With its current 5-member line-up, the band is now eager to perform its outstanding repertoire live.
Asia Minor’s music is at the crossroads of rich and varied influences melding Western progressive rock, rock and jazz with rhythmic and melodic inspiration from Asia Minor – currently Turkey – in an
authentic endeavour to produce quality music, whether in terms of composition, atmosphere or
expressiveness, with the band sounding at times dark and compelling, wistful and sensual, dynamic
and contrasting. Beautiful themes, strong and original, are intricately adorned with subtle
arrangements, enhanced by a nostalgic and soulful singing. Flute’s nervous and airy parts underline
guitar’s raucous or lyrical notes. A melancholic and sometimes furious music, with texts mainly written in English and sometimes in Turkish.
In short, a music propitious to dream and spiritual voyage, with some introspection as well.
Testimonials: ASIA MINOR (by Bill Bruford, drummer and composer, extracts from a letter sent to Asia Minor, April 8, 1980) – “I am very impressed that you have managed to record and produce music of this quality without the aid of a record company and it speaks volumes for your stamina and sense of purpose.
You have a very good group and if you have as much energy and stamina as I think you have, just keep working away polishing your particular musical jewel… “
ASIA MINOR (by Claude Nobs, Managing Director of the Montreux Festival, extracts from a letter sent to Asia Minor, May 1980) – “I was impressed with the excellent music from your first album « Crossing The Line ». I believe Asia Minor is really talented and I strongly hope to welcome the band in an upcoming festival… “
ASIA MINOR (from ‘Gibraltar Encyclopaedia of Progressive Rock’) – Truly fantastic Turkish/French
progressive band that put two great albums out, « Crossing The Line » and « Between Flesh and
Divine ». Their sound could be related to a mesh between Snow Goose period Camel, King Crimsontype guitar pyrotechnics, and the very French sound of bands like Pulsar and Ange, with some slight jazz influences. Vocals are sung in English, and sung well. Of the two albums, the latter one is absolutely essential. In the late 80’s they supposedly reformed and started work on a new album, but nothing ever materialized of it. The music is very much in the vein of Camel, all the way from the flute leads to the melodic guitar and keyboard work, down to the vocal style. The band is French, but the lyrics are in English. At times, though, the musicians let loose and unleash aggressive barrages, very much in the spirit of their countrymen, Edhels, and the like. All in all, this is well executed progressive rock that runs the gamut of moods, from the quiet to the symphonic, and can be likened to a blend of Camel and Edhels/Minimum Vital, with an added melodic bent. « Between Flesh and Divine » is a classic of French symphonic. At least they’re usually considered French, though there are also Turkish members in the band. Plenty of flute can be found swirling in and out of the keyboard, mellotron, and guitar. There’s a somewhat dark, haunting feel to the music, similar to other French bands such as Pulsar. Sounding pretty unique to my ears, I guess I can imagine a hybrid between Camel and the above-mentioned Pulsar. Strongly recommended.
ASIA MINOR, “Crossing The Line” (by Alan Parsons, sound engineer, producer, composer, meeting with the Asia Minor band at Acousti Studio in Paris during the recording of Alan Parsons’ album « The Turn of a Friendly Card », October 20, 1979) – “Though I’m not very fond of this type of music, I must admit that « Crossing The Line » is very good and that your album is well played. I do like the drums and the flute, though not highlighted enough in the mixing according to me. It’s one of the best record I’ve ever heard till now as to musical quality and production for a band as yours and considering the means you’ve got.”
ASIA MINOR (from ‘Reels of Dream Unrolled’, Reviews n° 4, February 7, 1998) – One of the many
fantastic, obscure European progressive bands to be unearthed and made available to the prog-buying public by the French label Musea is Asia Minor, who only released two very small-time albums in the late ’70s. This Turkish/French band created some great symphonic progressive rock tinged with a subtle, unique middle-eastern twist which helps guarantee their singular niche in the world of progressive rock. This is the first of Asia Minor’s two albums and from what I have heard of the second one, this one is a little simpler but maybe more original. « Crossing the Line » is characterized by its clever displays of different textures and tonalities. Genesis-like guitar arpeggios and light, melodic, yet fuzzy solos combined with rough, breathy flute playing create a melancholy, dreamy atmosphere which is also achieved through the use of chorus, phasing and other effects. The instrumentation is usually quite sparse, but cleverly arranged. There is a little keyboard now and then, but it never takes the center stage. Seven of the nine tracks contain very, very thickly accented English or Turkish vocals, but they are usually short, unobtrusive and embedded in several minutes of instrumental passages. Occasionally the band breaks from the dreamy, melodic Landscape and employs some heavier, faster group phrasing in asymmetrical time signatures, allowing most of the tracks to be quite compositionally episodic and dynamic. Overall this adds up to quite a pleasant listen, but it does seem to suffer slightly from the same ailment as Änglagård’s Epilog in that it is excellent, original music, but it can be very difficult to pay close attention to throughout the length of the whole album. Maybe this is more a fault of the listener than the music, however. It’s very hard to think of any band Asia Minor resembles. Aside from some very slight Genesisisms and the Ian Andersonish flute technique (probably coincidental and coupled with a completely different melodic sensibility), Asia Minor are pretty much in a class by themselves. Adventurous proggers know that’s a good sign and that it’s reason enough to check them out.ASIA MINOR, “Points of Libration” (by Jean-Alain Haan, Passion Rock magazine, March-April 2021) –More than 40 years after having re-released through Musea two albums one can easily qualify as « cult » to numerous fans of progressive rock, namely « Crossing the Line » in 1979 and « Between Flesh & Divine » in 1980, the French-Turkish band Asia Minor is back with a new album undreamt of,its third one, called « Points of Libration », which was just released by AMS Records, an Italian label.
The band formed in Paris in the 70’s by Setrak Bakirel (guitar, bass and vocals) and Eril Tekeli (guitar
and flute), two Turkish students who had met a few years earlier at a college in Istanbul before coming to France for their studies in 1973, had split in 1982 to reform 32 years later. But who could think a new album might emerge? Now supported by Evelyne Kandel on bass, Micha Rousseau on keyboards and Julien Tekeyan on drums, Setrak Bakirel and Eril Tekeli offer us 8 new tracks where one can identify at once the sound and charm of Asia Minor, with this kind of subtle progressive rock, melodic and melancholic, fond of passionate guitar licks while reminiscent of its Turkish roots, notably through the use of the flute. Those who, at the time, listened endlessly to their first two albums will certainly not lose their marks with « Points of Libration », which besides benefits from a staunchly modern production. From the excellent “Deadline of a Lifetime” which opens up the album with its nearly 8 minutes and heavy bass line to “Radyo Hatırası” sung in Turkish, which closes the album, the magic is there, listening to the delicate “Crossing in Between” and “Melancholia’s Kingdom”, or to the more progressive “Oriental Game” and “The Twister”, lasting more than nine and seven minutes respectively. ASIA MINOR, “Points of Libration” (by Michael de Socio, Progarchives.com, April 2021) – How did I miss this? A new Asia Minor album? Finally, more “moon madness”! And only one review so far? That’s crazy!
Asia Minor has long been shrouded in mystery to me. They released two excellent albums in 1979 and 1980 (including the great Between Flesh and Divine, in my opinion the best prog album of the 1980s, certainly holds its own with Moving Pictures and Misplaced Childhood). And then they vanished – until now. It’s hard to find information about them; apparently two of the members were from Turkey studying at university in France, where they formed a band with two French students (the drummer and bassist). Often compared to Camel, in my mind they’re no mere copycats. They have their own authentic style that simply cannot be faked. Yes, Crossing the Line and Between Flesh and Divine are the best albums that Camel never made, especially the Camel of their first 4 albums. But the music is more old world and more mysterious than that, the melodies more haunting. No, they don’t ‘copy’ Camel; it’s more like they deliver on its promise.
But that was then. What will they sound like now, 40 years later? The first track puts that question to
rest immediately. This is the same band, they’ve picked right up where they left off: the dynamic
percussion, the ubiquitous and adventurous flute, the haunting melodies, and restlessly shifting
structures. The first track, “Deadline of a Lifetime,” is an instant classic. “I’m a builder by trade.” Have
they been listening to Big Big Train? At one point, an instrumental passage reminds one of Rush, a
subtle nod to “Tom Sawyer” perhaps? “In the Mist,” the second track, continues in this vein. The flute is quite prominent, the tune hits a groove and you almost want to clap along. It ends rather abruptly; it might only be 3 minutes long, but it’s still quite proggy. The third track, “Crossing In Between,”
features an acoustic guitar and what sounds like a mellotron; an electric guitar enters, and then a flute, but it remains beetles. More Camel-like magic. I wasn’t sure about “The Twister,” but it’s starting to grow on me the more I listen to it. It becomes clear that their sonic palette has increased, but tastefully so: found sounds, acoustic guitar, female background vocals, more varied tonal colors from the keyboards. “Melancholia’s Kingdom,” the sixth track, is quite symphonic, and another highlight. So is “Urban Silk.” Perhaps it’s the music, perhaps the lyrics, but I immediately think of lovely Istanbul nights and crowded outdoor hookah bars. The album ends on a high note with Radyo Hatirasi, I think the only non-English tune. It’s quite Asian sounding, with shimmering synths. It just might be the best track on the album.
I don’t want to over-hype it because I know that can be a turn-off; people end up feeling let down. If
you’re familiar with Asia Minor’s previous efforts, you know that they’re a low-key band, and their
charms are subtle. But the music casts a spell, and rewards multiple listening. This album continues in that vein. Fans of Asia Minor’s classic Between Flesh and Divine, as well as Camel’s Mirage,
Moonmadness, and Rajazz, will definitely want to get a hold of this. I mean, who else is making music like this anymore?
To buy albums, links, album reviews, and more, please click the links below:
AMS Records Europe: https://www.btf.it/catalogsearch/result/?q=%27asia%20minor%27
Marquee Japan: https://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/BELLE-203405
45 Rainbow Records Turkey: https://www.rainbow45records.com/asia-minor—points-of-libration-