Saturday, October 18, 2008

Koby Israelite - Orobas: Book Of Angels Vol. 4 (2006)

This album is fucking bizarre dudes. Another set of Zorn tunes, but this one is definitely one of the most far out from the Book of Angels series. The album is all over the place. One song will be Jewish/Turkish electronic fusion stuff like Balkan Beat Box, the next will be traditional, the next will sound like heavy metal, the next traditional, the next jazzy, the next fusion etc. It's a fucking blast and definitely NOT background music. Not for everyone, but if you are a fan of bands like Secret Chiefs 3 or whatever, this album is pretty good. Find joy in the schizophrenia.

Koby Israelite has issued two previous CDs for the Tzadik label, Dance of the Idiots and Mood Swings. Both showed a tremendous flair for composition, instrumental acumen, humor, and an ability to shift genres without batting an eye. Israelite was born in Tel Aviv, and has played everything from traditional Hebrew folk music, classical music (he was trained on piano at a conservatory from the age of nine), and he's a huge fan of heavy metal and has played in a number of metal and punk bands. This set of John Zorn tunes -- from Zorn's second Masada book -- Orobas: Book of Angels, Vol. 4 was handpicked by the composer. The results are stellar. There's the Yiddish gypsy blues that meld with funk and jazz on "Czgadi," where accordions engage in contrapuntal free form with a fretless bass before guitars and trap kits move to the center of the mix. The startling metal guitar riffing that introduces "Zafiel" is splayed out by Turkish folk melodies by mid-track. Then there are the mariachi-styled melody lines played by trumpets, electric guitars, Farfisa organs, and a drum kit on "Khabiel"; the mood changes, the genres smash and meld effortlessly (klezmer melodies and reggae enter and leave seamlessly and the track is taken out by a kind of prog-surf metal before it ends), and the music becomes hypnotic while remaining exciting, even breathtaking. The other musicians who lay here -- trumpeter Sid Gauld, Stewart Curtis on recorders, piccolos and clarinet, and Yaron Stavi on bass, (Israelite plays no less than eight instruments himself) -- are in top-flight, and this feels more like a band than an individually directed effort. And perhaps that too is a strength Israelite possesses, to place his imprint on Zorn's music in an idiosyncratic way, and still give his ensemble an individual identity. As for the series, Orobas: Book of Angels, Vol. 4 is another essential Four-for-four and counting. This is the most exhilarating set of recordings Tzadik has offered in quite some time. For those who haven't yet checkout Israelite, this is a fantastic opportunity.
-Thom Jurek,

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