Berlin indie rocker Ilgen-Nur developed her new album “It’s All Happening” in Los Angeles. She matured as an artist in California.
Shortly before the pandemic – Ilgen-Nur’s star in the indie rock sky had just risen thanks to her laconic, casual debut album “Power Nap” (2019) – the musician fulfilled a lifelong dream: an invitation to Austin, Texas, to the industry meeting festival SXSW them with a stay in Los Angeles.
The Californian metropolis had always fascinated her – not least because of the ambivalence between a sunny lifestyle and the mysterious. Many artists who the 27-year-old admires also live there. “I grew up with music from Los Angeles, with the series and films.” Ilgen-Nur Borali, who grew up in a small Swabian town and now lives in Berlin-Neukölln, wanted these pop culture productionsfinally compare it with reality.
She ended up in a hot spot of legend formation, in Laurel Canyon – she was given a room in a shared apartment there after her original roommate opportunity fell through. The canyon had its creative heyday in the late 1960s; Cass Elliott from The Mamas and the Papas lived next door to Jim Morrison, Carole King and Frank Zappa. To this day, Laurel Canyon, high above the city’s hills, is traditionally home to artists.
Ilgen-Nur immersed himself in a world shrouded in myths. Of course the room rent was overpriced, she says – like everything else in LA. But the hippie vibe still exists. And Joni Mitchell, whose influence has left a clear mark on Ilgen-Nur’s new album “It’s All Happening”, still lives on Lookout Mountain, Ilgen-Nur in the voluptuous opening song sings about.
After the weeks in the canyon, Ilgen-Nur came back to the city on a scholarship. She spent a total of nine months in Southern California and got to know a wide variety of areas. The West Coast also left its mark musically. The result: sun-drenched, sometimes wistful folk rock, into which the darkness of the Moloch occasionally breaks in. Sometimes it sounds brashly swingy as in “Purple Moon”then shimmering again like in “Sweet Thing”.
This means that Ilgen-Nur, who was initially known as the “slacker queen,” is reinventing herself more than just a little bit. It doesn’t sound particularly innovative, but the album exudes a pleasant matter-of-factness. “It’s All Happening” seems as if Ilgen-Nur had come to terms with himself. Which, she says in the Zoom interview, has to do with the fact that “there is an understanding of rock music in the USA that is missing here.”
Three languages: cool!
You don’t have to constantly explain why you like guitars as a young queer woman. What was probably even more important for her was that “no one cared that I was from Germany or that my family came from Turkey,” she says. “They just say: Oh, you speak three languages, cool.” In Germany, however, she never felt like she really belonged because of her name and background. And in Turkey she was always considered to be from Germany. “It’s something that has accompanied me my whole life. In the USA this was completely eliminated.”
Chasing her own American dream was by no means disillusioning for Ilgen-Nur – despite the extremes she encountered. “It did something to my head, looking into these vast spaces all the time.” She adds, somewhat flirtatiously: “I also love fast food and I love grass. I love rock music and I love the sun, the beach.” The fact that, as she emphasizes, she was never as happy as she was during her time there is probably also due to the fact that she was able to do her own thing there without projection.