Saturday, August 17, 2019


Can a scalpel be considered cutlery, or, equally alarmingly, should it be considered cutlery? Received wisdom would suggest, must suggest, no to both questions. But, isn't it all about what is to hand at any time, as in, what you have available at times of hunger? Ask Hannibal Lecter.

Anyhow, who here has heard of Asaf Avidan, my featured artist? Certainly one of the more distinctively voiced of singers, he falls probably into the category of a marmite singer, but one, like the spread, I could suck from a spoon. Not literally, clearly, that would be a bit eww, but get past the initial curdle as he, and it is a he, hits your ears, and the experience can be worthwhile. Big in Israel, as an israeli artist, he has been making records for over a decade. The one instance approaching a wider fame came in 2012,  when an early song was picked up by german DJ Wankelmut and remixed.

It is the overwrought and slightly manic vocal that cuts through, progressively more and more frantic in repetition. A song my wife played me when we were courting, our rituals invariably including the playing of ever more arcane nuggets, culled well away from any mainstream, it, as well as bringing us together*, had me searching for more evidence and information. Already 4 years old at the time of the remix, it came, in original form, from the debut album by Asaf Avidan and the Mojos, briefly huge in Tel Aviv. By the time the remix was topping various mainland europe chart,s the band was over, Avidan launching his solo career the same year.

'Setting Scalpels Free' is the 2nd track from 'Different Pulses', the first solo record. From the title, let alone the lyrics, both of this and of 'One Day', reveal the Avidan is now shallow thinker, his songs often a tortured maelstrom of verbiage that, at their best, can recall Leonard Cohen. Indeed, on first hearing, I assumed the song below, 'A Gun and a Choice', to be a cover.

A 2nd album followed in 2015, 'Gold Shadow', slightly thinner fare to me, less anguished and playing more to expected musical styles. A 3rd disc, 'The Study on Falling', arrived in 2017, veering between an orthodox guitar rock and the oddly experimental, his voice remaining a tool to test the limits of the human larynx. And, while failing to break any sales records, it is worth noting the calibre of musicians now supporting him, at least in the studio, the title track, below, and much of the album featuring americana heavyweights like Jim Keltner and Doug Pettibone.

We missed a recent tour, my wife and I. She feels he no longer packs the punch to the guts of 'Different Pulses'. I remain less dismissive, but, jings, we both regretted our joint failure on reading this.

Finally, something a little different, a guest appearance on a record by Bosnian composer, Goran Bregovic, where the combination of his characteristic vocal and the overtly eastern mediterranean arrangement takes me to a place I would like to see Avidan explore the more.

Knife, fork, fingers? Tuck in.

*And, yes, we had clocked the lyrics!

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