issue 11 :: June 2006

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REVIEW: Israeli Noise Compilation

“Tel Aviv Aftermath” CD (Topheth Prophet)
reviewed by Josh Ronsen
Tel Aviv Aftermath is a collection of noise music from Israel, if you can imagine such a thing. You shouldn’t merely imagine it, but track down this interesting record of 10 diverse approaches to music and noise. I got mine from Ground Fault Records.
Israeli music is not generally known in the U.S. and I have only started exploring it in the past few years. My two favorite Israeli musicians are saxophonist Assif Tsahar and composer Chaya Czernowin, who now live in New York and Berlin respectively. I assumed that for economic and socio-political reasons the sorts of creative improvised, experimental and noise music that greatly interests me, musics not generally having a popularist basis, would be nonexistent in Israel. I would have thought it would be too frivolous for a such a serious country.
The book Twenty Israeli Composers details the efforts of composers to develop a national style of music, distinct from a European styles, including dodecephonicism. Like the music supported by the Soviet Empire, it would be primarily based on folk melodies. And tracking down recordings from the earlier composers mentioned in the book was not entirely enjoyable. (I am still trying to track down recordings of Noa Guy, who features electronics with chamber instruments in her works.)
A website like allows you listen to samples of thousands of songs arranged into 23 genres. I encourage everyone to spend a few hours listening to a little of everything, listen to the best selling album in each (make sure to listen to Albert Berger with Hamid Drake and William Parker). You will find at least a few things interesting. But with a few exceptions, the music here lacks what I will call “out-thereness.”
Thus I was overjoyed to find the compilation Tel Aviv Aftermath, a diverse collection of 21st Century noise music, mostly recorded in 2002. A few key players -- Igor Krutogolv, Vadim Gusis and Maor Appelbaum -- appear on all but two of the 11 tracks, making this more of a catalog of a particular scene rather than an overview of the entire country.
The standout track here is "About a man falling apart" by Igor18 (Igor Krutogolov). The mix of overdubbed vocals and bowed electric bass guitar creates a creepy atmosphere of moans, scrapes and drones.
The message of the piece "Message" by Choas As Shelter (Vadim Gusis) is claimed to be a "spy message" intercepted by shortwave radio. This low fidelity female voice, sometimes speaking in English, sometimes not, becomes obscured by metallic sounding electronic washes with irregular percussion sounds bubbling up from the background. Gusis’ other solo project is called Hu, and in "The Helmet," he "crytoacoustically" activates a military helmet, close recording it being rubbed with sand, bowed and struck with a hammer. "Every object accumulates spiritual energy," read the liner notes, "the longer the object’s lifetime, the more energy it absorbs." Overdubbing each method of activation, the bell-like hammer strikes, the pink noise-like sand scrapping, numerous taps and rumbles, presents a dense history for this helmet.
The tracks by the New Jerusalem Defense Forces and VectorScope (Maor Applebaum) are assaultive barrages of 1980s industrial noise; drum machines, screaming, distorted synthesizers. Not my thing.
Vera Agnivolok’s "The Golden Skull" utilizes an Arabic sounding melody on "piano accordion" with numerous noises and percussive sounds, provided by Igor Krutogolov and Vadim Gusis. Agnivolok sings what seems to be ancient song (although she wrote the lyrics) praising nature: "Young moon is like King of Sky, He holds cherries in his palms..." Her nasally vocals do not appear to be Hebrew. She sounds very old in her singing and the feel of the piece reminds me of Native American singing of the Southwest.
The closing track is 16 minutes from a live improvisation from the Crossfishes, a group of changing membership, including people we have heard previously on this comp. At least three musicians of the sextet play “devices.” Processed vocals, sinewy clarinet, repetitive bass guitar and hand percussion wander aimlessly from sections of greater and lesser interest. One instrument always seemed out of place among the others.


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Josh Ronsen
joshronsen (ate) yahoo (dote) com
2001 Brentwood
Austin, Texas 78757 USA