Moshe Kutner and Noa Barak have the potential of a big hit on their hands. "This is not a love song," an album collection they produced, is coming out in two weeks or so. It includes 14 songs. The basic, catchy electronic beats are the background for the singing of daring texts, spiced with quite a few vulgar words, humor and also some refreshing candor.
This is the first recorded fruits of Israeli electro-clash, a genre that draws its inspiration from the new wave of the 1980s and from the tones of "primitive electronics" like old synthesizers. In recent years it has become very popular in Europe and the United States. The Israeli version bears something very local, primarily because of the texts and the careless singing, done in a trendy and captivating way.
The new album features, for example, Lior Shamriz, a good-looking Tel Avivian singing gloomy-amusing gay love songs against a backdrop of optimistic music. Galilea, a thirty-something lesbian attorney, sings a feminist song on the album. The artist Tami Ben Tor sings the Beatles' song "Money" in Yiddish, and the Physical Sisters ensemble, of which Noa Barak is a member, sings a dark song about painkillers.
The album also features the PVC troupe, led by singer and musical producer Patil ("that's his name, just like Rita," says Kutner), who usually wears women's clothes at concerts, and Pollyanna Frank, Sharon Ben Ezer's troupe, performed a piece for the album. But Kutner and Barak are building primarily on the sexy girls' trio, Three Fusion, which has already acquired an actual following - dozens of teenage groupies who travel to every performance. The trio's leader, Louisa, immigrated to Israel from Belgium and has become a sex symbol. The women in the trio are now working on remixes with Assaf Amdurski.
Electro-clash, so it seems, came at the right time. In the 1990s, the club experience prevailed in pop culture - house, trance and powerful techno music, whose strength lies in the euphoria offered by Ecstasy, but as the year 2000 approached, the club experience started to wear out. Electro-clash, which emerged in Berlin, London and New York, kicked club-goers back to earth. Groups such as Miss Kitten, Peaches and Cheeks on Speed marked the return of the song in its old and beloved pattern of stanza-chorus-stanza, but with an ironic wink and amusing arrangements that embrace the 1980s.
"The intifada broke out and destroyed night life," says Kutner. "DJs stopped coming, the music started repeating itself, the atmosphere changed. And then came electro-clash, which expressed the desire to express oneself with words, the desire to protest. After we floated in space, we suddenly wanted to say something."
The electro-clash phenomenon emerged from homosexual camp culture and began to develop very quickly. "We were fed up with the '80s," says Kutner, "and we started to take the genre in different directions. People today use electro in the music they grew up with. Today, they are making electro-pop, electro-punk, everything. `Electro' is not a genre that can be easily defined. And one of the nice things about it is that unlike the music of the `90s, which was for the most part created by men, this time women are the ones leading, alongside gays."
At his home in south Tel Aviv, amid lumber shops and garages, Kutner is surprised that in the end, he is the one releasing this album. "Electro is essentially contemporary pop," he says. "It's pop that didn't get stuck, that develops and absorbs influences and connects to other musical words.
"Today it's clear that Israeli pop is in a deep slumber and as far as Israeli rock is concerned, there's nothing to even talk about. And, in the meantime, half of Tel Aviv is recording electro clips at home, and they are actually the nicest pop songs. But somehow, a blockage has been created, new and refreshing things are not reaching the center."
That, says Kutner, is why he and Noa Barak decided to set up an independent label to spread the message of electro in Israel. "We called it Fut*re," says Barak. "We censored the word future, just as they censor the word `fuck.'"
And how do you set up a label?
"You simply tell people that you set up a label and hope that they believe you. Electro, like punk, is based on the idea of do-it-yourself. Our idea is to distribute music, not to make tons of money."
And Barak adds: "The material is there on the streets and in the clubs. You just have to ask the groups that perform a song in concerts to record it. The artists have to understand that the power to be the star that is born is not dependent on any television channel, but is in the hands of every person."