From 'Real' Jazz to a Lifeless Rhythm: Thoughts on 4 New Israeli Singles

Roei Freilich sounds fresher, the Isaiah duo offers a hummable melody, Avishai Cohen's jazz fizzles and Skazi is stuck in the 90s.

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The Isaiah duo, Mika Avni and Tomer Yeshayahu.

Roei Freilich – “Grutaot”

Singles are usually released before the album on which they appear, in order to promote the album. Some singles come out shortly after an album’s release, with the aim of generating a last publicity push. But there’s also another genre of singles that come out months after the album, and their role is Well, what in the world is their role?

“Grutaot,” (meaning old or broken things) the new single by Roei Freilich, soloist of the Reines Girls band, has just been released, more than eight months after his debut album. And the truth is that it really does sound like a salient anti-single, like a full-fledged album track. The rhythm is slow and lifeless, the song’s body temperature is about 38.5 Celsius (101.3 Fahrenheit), and Freilich pauses so long before getting to the chorus, and then repeats it so few times, that it’s not entirely clear whether it really is a chorus or some sort of concluding comment to the song – which itself is stretched out well beyond the normal duration of a single.

Last April, when Freilich’s album was released, I thought “Grutaot” was a disappointing, bland effort by one of our best singers. It’s possible, in fact, that this and another two or three songs in a similar spirit left me with mixed feelings about the whole album. But when I listened to “Grutaot” now, disconnected from the album, I changed my mind: Suddenly, it sounds quite captivating. True, it’s a song that drags its feet, but that’s exactly the way it wants to move, like “dead time hanging on a wire,” as Freilich sings. The sluggish violins, which to me sounded like an oppressive hangover from the 1970s, suddenly seem magical to my ears. Not to mention the sick synthesizer at the beginning and the end. I’m going to listen to the whole album again – maybe it will all sound different now. So there you have it: the function of long-delayed singles.

Isaiah – “Solitude”

Roei Freilich.

The singing is pale and over-hesitant, as it usually is with indie musicians, and the guys especially. Still, the debut single of the Isaiah duo (Tomer Yeshayahu and Mika Avni) has something you don’t find in most songs by young indie musicians whose lyrics are in English. First of all, the sound: The fusion of persistent percussion, harmonium and tweaking electric guitar along with a bouzouki weaves a somewhat unanticipated tapestry of East and West. The melody, too, stands out amid the local indie scene, embedding itself in the memory so you suddenly find yourself humming it. That’s due to the lovely chorus, and more especially to the gorgeous harmonic shift that takes place halfway through it. The song’s title, “Solitude,” bespeaks its content, and in the chorus, when Yeshayahu sings, “but you’re stuck and / you don’t ever leave your nest,” the harmony slides slowly, evoking a solitary person’s melancholy and heartrending acceptance.

Avishai Cohen – “Lost Tribe”

Before we even get to the single itself, we should celebrate the fact that an Israeli jazz musician has released a single for radio play. One, furthermore, that’s not a vocal but an instrumental segment. Real jazz, not jazzy pop. There’s even a piano solo, though this doesn’t prevent the whole thing from lasting less than three minutes. The forthcoming “From Darkness” will be Cohen’s 15th(!) album, and people who are familiar with his body of work won’t be surprised by the new single. There’s the well-known Avishai Cohen rhythm, there’s the dynamic bass. What’s lacking in this cut is a good tune, which means that “Lost Tribe” will probably not repeat the radio success he scored with “Remembering” 10 years ago.

Skazi – “Poison”

The choice of the song’s title is highly problematic, especially for those who lived and breathed the electronic pop of the 1990s – which Skazi certainly did. You see “Poison” and think immediately of The Prodigy’s convulsive explosion of sound. “I got the remedy, I got the remedy.” Okay, we’ll try to neutralize that splendid association. “Poison,” featuring Shira Gavrielov and the South African singer Arno Carstens, is a first single from Skazi’s new album. It’s better suited for the radio than the dance floor. “In Skazi terms, this is the quietest and calmest track on the new album,” as the man himself says via press release. In terms of a good song, according to the categorization of the 2015 ADM (Any Decent Music?) report, it gets about 7 out of 10. In absolute good-song terms, it’s more like a 5.