Iconic Alternative DJ Nadav Ravid Faces the Biggest Remix of His Life

Just before he settles in as director of IDF Radio’s music station, Ravid has released a new collection of remixes. It works pretty well until about midway.

Goni Riskin

The essence of remix is akin to “recalculating the route” in navigation systems. Two weeks or two years or 22 years after the route of the original song ended, a remix artist takes it apart, reassembles it as he sees fit and launches it on an alternative route, whose trajectory usually includes the club’s dance floor. The remix’s cousin, the cover, also recalculates the course of a song, but its raw material is the written song and it’s generally a more responsible and less radical entity than the remix, whose raw material is the recorded song. The remix affords its creator a license to go wild, which of course makes the result a fascinating musical beast.

A salient product of the club culture and of electronic music, the remix has never caught on in Israel. One of the few local artists who regularly creates music-based remixes is the deejay and radio announcer Nadav Ravid. Six years ago, he released a collection of remixes titled “Shirbul,” and now he’s come out with “Shirbul 2,” a collection of 15 remixes of songs by contemporary Israeli musicians, mostly from the indie scene. The word “shirbul” is a neologism – from the Hebrew words for “song” (shir) and “mixing” (irbul) – that Ravid proposed to the Academy of the Hebrew Language when the first collection was released. The academy didn’t accept the new word, but Ravid continues to use his snappy linguistic innovation, and rightly so.

A terrific example of the great potential of this musical form is the second cut on the new CD, Ravid’s remix of Rotem Or’s “This Is What You All Came For.” (Check out the album at: http://anovamusic.bandcamp.com/album/shirbul-2.) Ravid transforms the song into a long, galloping and rather dark item, which in a pincer movement succeeds in being both more concrete and more abstract than the original song. One of the enthralling-but-disturbing sounds of the remix version evokes the extreme Swedish duo The Knife; in fact, the whole cut, including the ending, which gradually hurtles out of control, draws inspiration from that sharp blade.

Another example on the new album of the beauty and slyness of the remix is Ravid’s version of “2 Seat Ride,” by Cut Out Club, Nitzan Horesh’s band. Ravid here uses the surgical remix approach: he isolates a small, specific element from the song and allows it to dominate the whole thing and dump the other elements. In this case it’s an ecstatic break in an atmosphere of the Rolling Stones on Ecstasy (or, alternatively, Primal Scream), which Ravid stretches across a full nine minutes. Amazingly, it never becomes boring (the original song is three minutes long). He also creates a seamless transition from this cut to the one that follows, an excellent remix of a song by Emily Karpel.

“Shirbul 2” has a few more fine remixes, such as Ravid’s very humorous treatment of “Schluck Beton,” originally performed by Mouth and Foot, which includes a manipulation that causes Assaf Gavron’s voice to trill. But too many of the remixes don’t work. If the remixed song is familiar and loved, or at least liked, the point at which the remix doesn’t cut it is clear: when you want to jump to the original song in mid-remix. That happens on “Not About Us” by Amit Erez and The Secret Sea. Ravid’s reassembly of the song doesn’t come together, sounds forced and makes one long for the lovely flow of the original. Even less successful is the album’s only remix of a veteran, canonical song, Assaf Amdursky’s “15 Minutes.” For no apparent reason, Ravid latches on to the words “from minute to minute” and replicates them in a never-ending series – “fromminutetominutetominutetominute”

A considerable grind

The remix of “15 Minutes” is positioned more or less midway through the album (eighth of 15 cuts). If until that point there is a good balance between excellent remixes and others that are not as good, from here on there are no really good remixes; and given that this is a particularly long collection (about 100 minutes) and that about half the remixes are seven minutes or more in length, the second half of the album is a considerable grind. A further disappointment is the fact that this time around I didn’t discover fine artists with whom I wasn’t familiar (as in the case of Onili on the first album). I didn’t come across new and fascinating faces on “Shirbul 2,” even if I enjoyed the remix of “Oxygen” by the Bunny on Acid band, which I don’t know.

Listening to a remix of a song one doesn’t know creates an interesting situation: it turns the remix into the original and the original into the remix. That’s an intriguing conceptual issue, though one without a great many local implications, as Nadav Ravid is pretty much the only Israeli producer who does remix regularly. Now he’ll be forsaking that, at least for the time being. He was recently appointed director of Galgalatz, IDF Radio’s music station, and has suspended his artistic occupations while he holds that post. In a sense, he now faces the biggest remix of his life: he has to give the country’s most popular and most influential music station a shirbul.