Acoustic improviser Shaul Kohn traverses ASMR zones with atonal, whisper-quiet string scrapes.
Jerusalem's Shaul Kohn has managed to spend his time developing a way of playing acoustic guitar that almost completely removes it from the context you'd expect when you see an acoustic guitar. Bowing the strings with a careful pressure, he creates tones that are so delicate that they sit beneath the sound of the scrapes themselves, creating an almost ASMR listening experience, where it feels almost like it's your eardrums that are being bowed.
Over time, Kohn's pieces develop into resonant tones - not unlike a singing bowl - and the brushy bow strokes create near-rhythms. The result is hypnotic as metallic clangs and microtonal hums convince you of rhythms and harmonies that exist completely on the astral plane. Deep, difficult listening, and worth every ounce of effort.
From Israel comes Andarta, a trio operating from Jerusalem. The band consists of Alon Ovnat on vocals, Itai Anker on drums and Shaul Kohn on bass. Indeed: no guitar. Andarta EP is the debut of the loud trio and these first 21 minutes sound very promising.
Andarta plays noiserock with a punk attitude and an industrial influence. The latter influence concerns industrial of the heavy kind. This trio makes very hard and pounding noise rock, which nevertheless also has something brooding. The lack of a guitar will be to blame for that. As a result, the band has a nice bare sound and bass and drums are given plenty of space. That space is not used by Kohn and Anker to fill gaps. The band keeps its music basic and that is precisely why every blow hits like a hammer blow.
Andarta's first EP has four tracks that show the band's style. Each song is characterized by hard drum beats, a throbbing bass and a full-length singer, without Ovnat shouting over himself, something that is sometimes a problem in this genre. The vocals of the singer may take some getting used to, but the vocals are good in the mix and are an added value in the music that would also remain intact without vocals.
'Muscle' opens the EP with ominous bass sounds, indicating danger lurking behind a shelter. With a dark sounding bass drum and beats on the cymbals, the piece gets started. The tempo is still slow, but that will change with a staccato but at the same time heavy bass riff. Moments later Kohn lets his bass resound longer and Ovnat announces himself with a few screams. Like the music, the lyrics are basic, consisting of just a few words. The music is pounding, but there is room for nuance. The bass lets go for a while and we hear Anker's heavy but also intelligent drumming solo for a while. The atmosphere remains ominous throughout the play.
That variation is also possible within the coherent sound of the trio, is evident from 'Bondage'. The rhythm of the drums is driving, the bass is limited to percussive playing and Ovnat is now a bit more active, sounding energetic and angry in his performance. In all its unrulyness, the piece also has something contagious, not least because of the memorable rhythm that invites you to move along. Anker and Kohn vary on the basic motif, but they do so sparingly and well dosed.
In 'Weapon' Kohn's terribly throbbing bass provides the intro, to which Anker adds a few firm toms and later also cymbal beats. Threats are created at a slow pace, over which Ovnat overlays his typical vocals. The vocals are not devoid of melody and are performed with a lot of bravado. The further the track progresses, the harder the music hits the listener. Again this happens with just a few musical ingredients and no real riff. It is amazing how the trio achieves maximum effect with minimal means.
Closes with 'Dehumanise', which comes in just as hard as 'Weapon', but at a slower tempo. In the beginning Kohn limits himself to playing one note on the beat, which is played very hard. He adds a few high notes further on. The drive comes from the drums, where Anker asserts himself (again) with hard and well-dosed beats. No unnecessary fuss at Andarta, limiting it to the main goal is sufficient. Ovnat is allowed to lay his vocals over the stripped music, which he does with a good sense of emotion. Towards the end Kohn adds a lot of noise to his bass playing.
It is short, 21 minutes and only four tracks, but In that limited time and handful of songs Andarta gives a nice calling card in which the trio combines a good feeling for dosage with a craving for aggressiveness. The first guides the second in the right direction. The stripped-down and minimal sound of the Jews has great expressive power. It will be interesting to hear how the music of this trio will develop. Until then, you can enjoy this very successful EP.
Cherrystones on Andarta:
"Orbiting and residing in a murky engine oil bunker scented with sweat and the aura of disgust/ contempt, illuminated by the flickering back light of a broken strobe is where you'll find, or possibly run into for this low slung drop tuned sludge, that easily and heavily reflect upon the current times with the same angst as early Swans and the formidable Melvins albeit the comic strip humour of the latter. The songs merge despair as much the axis being weighed heavy on contempt & intent, it's a visceral beast that is hungry and salivating to the point of attack,their journey and obligations are not your concern, they have that covered like a blood stained tent post warpath descending into a Poe like story dank and gothic but more guttural than woe -they enjoy their job, you can sense it.
Nihilism runs free recalling 80's veterans but with fresh anti bodies and perspectives -some gates have opened and you have to choose the right doors now or submit to the thirst contained -you're in the cross hairs metaphorically and as the lights get lower the eyes appear sharper more focused-soundtracking your own anger is never easy but this works whilst reminding you of horrors you may have conveniently ignored-so self reflection on a 3 dimensional level is now an obligation not a demand -as the curtain falls a head rolls forward and another and another - there is a thick crust to get through and a large bite is required."
- G Goddard (Cherrystones) 2020 - year of change
Suppedaneum, run by Joseph Clayton Mills, has long been one of my very favourite labels, quite a unique enterprise whose releases overlap into scores, texts, visual elements and more. To the extent items are still available, you should all check it out if you haven't already.
Tom Soloveitzik - Tel Aviv Flora & Fauna: a quintet (double bass, acoustic guitar, crotales, cymbals, all bowed) and tenor sax, the musicians seeking to somehow replicate or re-image the sounds of the city, field recordings layered in. Oddly eerie and moving, immersive and unusual.
[hebrew] Ofer Tisser interviews Andarta for KZradio