Kutiman Rows Back From Surfing the Zeitgeist

The Israeli musician made his name with a brilliant Web project, but his latest record isn't music you check out while checking your emails.

Ben Shalev
Ben Shalev
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail

Kutiman is probably the only Israeli musician in recent years who’s been able to successfully surf the zeitgeist. His deep understanding of Web culture paved the way for him to acquire global fame with his brilliant “Thru You” remix project on YouTube. But together with his ongoing occupation with the interface between music and the Internet (he recently released a single titled “Inner Galactic Lovers”), Kutiman – better known to his friends as Ophir Kutiel, from Kibbutz Tze’elim – also operates in creative channels in which he enjoys turning his back on the spirit of the times.

The artistic conception behind Kutiman’s new record, “Space Cassava,” runs contrary to the mentality of the world of social media. It is comprised of materials similar to those he plays in live performances with his orchestra. There are just two tracks: one is 12 minutes long, the other 14. This is not music that you check out while checking your emails. It needs to be listened to with a receptive, patient mind and allowed to build gradually, letting the rich sound spread and percolate into the brain’s spaced-out receptors.

I’m not sure the title of the record needs to be interpreted. But if you take that route, you will find logic in it. Cassava is a plant whose root is used to prepare food. There’s lots of earth in Kutiman’s music. Bass and percussion are very dominant. But his work almost always also has a spacey, trippy vibe to it.

The title track is good, but not without its flaws. The tension falls palpably toward the end, and the work probably doesn’t justify its 14-minute running time.

The second track is characterized by the opposite dynamic. It starts off like a standard instrumental punk piece. Toward the middle, though, Kutiman starts to sprinkle intriguing herbs into the mix, which begins to bubble with a sizzling clarinet solo and later reaches its peak with a marvelous explosion of wind instruments. This song is called “Cheetah Guava,” and I won’t even try to figure out what that means.

Kutiman.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum