issue 15 :: July 2008

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REVIEW: Israeli Noise Compilation

“Nothing Works as Planned” CD [Interval Recordings]

reviewed by Josh Ronsen

Mostly documenting the sophisticated electro-acoustic performances presented at the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art in October of 2006 the ten works that span this double CD focus on the quiet exploration of electronically processed chamber instruments to great effect. Sophistication, from the sounds to the packaging, is key here. The laptop only performances of Ido Govrin and Amnom Wolman which open the disc are starkly beautiful drones. Govrin’s “Limbo Sketches” is a post-”Volumina” masterpiece of organ tones (or what sound like organ tones: sampled or computer generated?). The drones of “Increased Fines” by Wolman are darker and murky, evoking underwater buoyancy until the piece suddenly changes course and confronts us with a insistent banging, as if someone was hammering on the hull of a ship. Jonathan Chen’s buzzing tones and piercing rollercoaster of feedback, recorded at the Issue Project Room in NY, graciously assaults our ears. “Echoes and Footsteps” by Neil Leonard brings us back to more quiet environs, with saxophone slowly weaving through a wispy and murky electronics undulating in the background. Eschewing melodies or long lines, Leonard’s saxophone elegantly deposits a few notes here and there, closing this first marvelous disc, perhaps marred only by the thunderous applause that ends each piece (although it is nice to know these pieces were appreciated).

 The entire character changes on the second CD, which is dominated by violinist Gilad Hidesheim on four tracks, all with electronics. Kiki Karen-Huss’s “Summer 2006, War” avoids any familiar musical symbols of war. Instead the violin and Barbara Schumutzler’s contrabassoon play mostly long tones over recordings of chirping birds and dense mumblings of spoken text and crowd noises. At times the violin does assume a mournful character but once the contrabassoon bubbles up something almost clownish. I can only guess at how this material relates to the Second Lebanon War. The works of Arie Shapira and Keren Rosenbaum prompt the violin to more kinetic vocabularies. The electronics of Rosenbaum’s piece, ironically titled “Waltz,” explodes in (violin-sampled?) percussion noises.The only exception to the refined and rarefied works in this collection is Beth Denisch’s “Fire Mountain Intermezzo” recorded in Moscow by the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin (which sounds as appealing as the Pentagon Jazz Ensemble). The Romantic connotations of the word Intermezzo perfectly describe Denisch’s truly bizarre and unappetizing use of bloated thematic material recalling the era of Soviet People’s Music and the Israeli search for a “National Style” of music. If this is meant as a parody of that kind of music, it is not funny.
Artwork by Josh Ronsen.
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