Flirting with issues of fascism, race and religion is hardly anything new to the genre. Take seminal act Mental Destruction for example whose rhythmic poundings try to reign down some old Testament fire and brimstone upon all the sinning unbelievers. Genocide Organ take on the role of the ultra-right and despite being commonly mistaken for the real thing, do so purely as a postmodern attack against. Detecting when the uniform is worn with burning sincerity versus being a disguise for subversive intent is often difficult if not impossible as well as being highly dependent on the political bent of the listener. With Barzel I myself detect zero sarcasm making this militant Jewish industrial the perfect soundtrack for Israeli settlers dabling in ethnic cleansing or those just yearning for some ideological pornography to get beneath their thick skin.
The 9 tracks here (plus a short intro blurt) blast through 48 minutes filled with burning oil and billowing smoke. As one would hope from the byline, the focus here is on martial music based around heavy industry and themes of racial / religious pride. Lyrically the tracks are crammed with historical references to the birth of Israel, go words like “honour” and “Zionism” and the same sort of creepy hate fueled fanaticism that drives both the JDL and WAR alike. Still, there is less focus on the “other” and more on self agrandizment, militant empowerment and nationalism.
Instrumentation is formed using rough loops and line noise in the finest industrial traditions and bears an immediate gritty authenticity sometimes missing from our progressively more software driven scene. Structurally songs roll along like bulldozers through a refugee camp with the destruction sometimes painfully close while at others as if seen via a poorly recepted newscast on pirate television. It’s all very noisy, crude and with particles of sand and ash irritating any and all smooth surfaces.
The sound quality on this disc works both ways. Its lo-fi, at times utterly bombed out profile mixed with the thematic hate spewing forth like hornets from a disturbed nest is at times almost frightening in how it displays raw malice with so little emotion. The lack of full spectrum oomph however makes this world a little smaller and distant, like driving by a serious accident instead of being spattered across the wreckage at its epicenter.
Comparisons would immediately lead off to acts like Survival Unit though the level of rhythmic structure adds some MZ.412 like momentum to the power electronics and old school industrial. While I think a different approach at the mastering stage might have increased the circulation to the extremeties, what’s here is still quite effective as a (perhaps unsavory) motivational tool.
As I tend to follow events in the middle east, I’m not a disinterested bystander which means that ideologically I see zero difference between Likud and the Gestapo besides surface dress code aesthetics. For me Barzel fill the jack boots of an anti-hero which does lend the work a forbidden taste I am not immune to. For hardcore Zionists from the JDL mold this release may provide the equivalent service that Resistance Records does for dented head neo-nazis. But unlike every bit of bonafide white pride flotsam I’ve heard, Barzel places art high above the politics. So even if your point of view is from beneath the butt of an Israeli rifle, it is hard to resist this call to arms.
Jewish culture and history, I’m shamed to say, I know very little about. I know that for some reason, which I still can’t fathom out, the Jews have been persecuted since the beginning of time. I’m also aware of the atrocities and genocide that the Jews have had to tolerate in the 20th century and that hatred hasn’t disappeared even today. That is the sum of my pitiful knowledge.
When I saw the cover stating “Militant Jewish Industrial” I was slightly worried that here might be a propaganda exercise put to music that would be off-putting to those intolerant of all things Jewish. Forget those preconceptions. Put aside your religious bigotry and just enjoy a great piece of power electronics. Barzel work very much within the styles of Propergol, Folkstorm, Today I’m Dead etc. Utilising samples from radio / film and distorted vocals over ear crunching noise this recording will go down as a classic amongst fans of this genre. Huge waves of reverberation threaten to blow up the speakers as the sonics go into overload mode. Throbbing with the power and energy of a nuclear blast the music of Barzel deserves a place within anyone’s collection. Awesome in other words.
Clear your mind, clear your room of precious ornaments, and be prepared to experience the second coming in power / noise electronics.
Nothing less than two of the most acclaimed acts out there nowadays, together in a collaborative project with a new attractive artist, such as Igor Krugutolov, and a young label with an outstanding prior release and a promising future added to the mix, and the cocktail can do no wrong! This collaboration CD was created by Bastard Noise, Igor Krugotolov, and Chaos as Shelter. Bastard Noise is the noise project of ex-Man member Eric Wood, Igor Krutogolov is known for his project Agnivolok, and Chaos as Shelter is known for their multitude of releases on various labels such as Crowd Control and Drone. This CD contains a strange mix of noise and folky sounds (singing and traditional instruments). An interesting scheme composed of 5 tracks with an interesting progressive content where the Pythagoras-inspired channel between geometry and inner/outer harmony finds its way. With more than an hour of recorded stuff and such a small number of tracks, you can easily infer that all of them are long ones. All but the introductory one, where we can find some static noise, scrap manipulation and serene, ritualistic, monastic-like male chants that increase its intensity along the almost 4 minutes it lasts. Surpasses expectations.
First Impressions being what they are tend to form the cast you use to mold any subsequent encounters. With Chaos As Shelter this means that memories of “Midnight Prayer / Illusion” prime my instincts for a descent into some dark and spiritual waters. The scent of age and runish script is not all that unfamiliar to “The Geometry of Soul” but the shapes and angles are much more obtuse than expected, no doubt due to the influence of the other two collaborators. Bastard Noise is quite self-evident, his name a truism as far as his sonic outline is concerned. Igor Krutogolov is an unknown element to me so the exact nature of his contributions are not well determined.The disc opens with “Point Of No Return” which in different circumstances could suggest an odd mastering related accident at the pressing plant. I say this because the components fit easily into the Chaos As Shelter mythos – hymns, resonant low end swells, found sound, mostly what one would expect from prior interactions. What is less familliar is a frequency dependent distortion that lays fully across the the peaks of the recording like a crispy coasting of charcoal and shiny aluminum shards. I like it, the dryness and sparkle it adds lends a certain stress to the piece but it is very much an external treatment as opposed to an integral component.
The liner notes nor the label’s website expand at all on the process leading to this release but I am going to risk eating my own sweaty foot by laying the core of the second track at the doorstep of Bastard Noise. The microphone dangling in front of the PA monitors here seems thoroughly uncomfortable staying put in any position for than a brief moment. The resonant frequency locked onto my by the wandering mic placement is constantly whipping about but if you can brave the initial invasiveness of it, it becomes more glassy and musical as the track’s other components move up through the ranks into the foreground. Around this squeaky merry-go-round is a gang of slowly lumbering swells which meet with a burst of distortion before going their separate ways to the holy lands.
“Triangle” is like the blowback from Genocide Organ with its high voltage thronging and reek of heavy industry. Perhaps this is Igor’s stylistic contribution and if so, bless his black heart for the much needed catharthis. Red eyes glowing through billowing acrid smoke this one is (and any other pretentious but satisfying phrases you like to use when describing pure industrial musics).
“Live” delves into drone based microsound and easily eats up two minutes before the listener is particularly aware of it. Tack on another 7 or 8 before it becomes apparent that this is a tricky deconstruction of some of the underlaying vocal samples throughout the disc. Overly glacial perhaps but hypnotic and if you have the patience to wait through the development cycle of tones that might have been programmed using a TI graphing calculator, you will find it quite beautiful.
The final track exits the previous calm immediately with a death industrial type seething that merges a low slung dread (hard and auto-panned sinusoids through a very digital sounding plate reverb) with a blurbling inner voice of irregular distortion squashed into the little bit of space at the back of the eye sockets. It’s quite menacing at times, not from any in your face aggro but due to the suggestion that you are about to lose mental control of normally repressed thoughts. Subtle and not without a lingering strength.
Chaos as Shelter were definitely the draw for me when I first pulled this from the envelope but the mingled influences here have created an equally satisfying hybrid of noise, pure industrial and spiritual ambient music. The range is wide enough to be hard to pitch this in a single direction but even without a super tight focus, it is a satisfying stylistic collision that has me circling the block for yet another look.
A showcase for new music from Israel, Tel Aviv Aftermath is a mixed bag of noise, industrial, electronic and avant-garde music which, although at times it wallows in self-indulgence, at others has the power to intrigue and to captivate. The minute’s silence “for the memory of all those who violently lost their lives in the Middle East conflict, except those who took other lives while losing theirs” would be the collection’s low point, were it not succeeded by an utterly dreadful seventeen minute live improvisation by an underground supergroup calling themselves The Crossfishes. This is a shame, as the nine preceding pieces are all pretty much OK – and none better than the New Jerusalem Defense Forces’ ‘Make Law’, a bitter slab of grinding power electronics that appears to be punctuated by the sound of a nearby firefight. Never mind that NJDF personnel Igor Krutogolov and Vadim Gusis also work out with the aforementioned Crossfishes (as well as both having good individual tracks on the compilation), they also find time to contribute to the wonderfully weird ”The Golden Skull’, as backing group to Vera Agnivolok, a singer capable of raising the hairs on the back of anybody’s neck. The other standout track is VectorScope’s ‘No Way To Deny The Dream’, which, with its pounding industrial rhythm through as swirling soup of synth sounds, had me in mind of the Aphex Twin, c.1993. New label, interesting material, worth a listen.
STEWART GOTT – 8 August 2002
All Music Guide
The first release from the Israeli label Topheth Prophet was, as is often the case for small independent labels, a compilation album of local talents. But behind the two handfuls of acts featured on Tel Aviv Aftermath hide only a few artists, namely Igor Krutogolov (aka Igor18), Vadim Gusis (aka Chaos as Shelter and HU), Maor Appelbaum (aka Screening and VectorScope), and Ant Weiss (aka Forma). All of them plus a couple more musicians get together as the Crossfishes for the final 17-minute live performance. The music ranges from pensive electronics (Grundik and Slava’s opening piece) to experimental electroacoustics (HU’s “The Helmet,” in which Gusis explores the spiritual energy of a helmet by playing it, dixit his liner notes), to harsh noise (New Jerusalem Defense Forces, a duo of Krutogolov and Gusis). Some tracks are unremarkable chunks of experimental drone/noise, but there are some stunning contributions. Igor18 and Chaos as Shelter’s solo tracks live up to the quality of their full-length collaborations (with Tidal and Bastard Noise, to name but two). Agnivolok’s song — yes, song, actually a litany — provides a moment of quiet beauty: gripping voice, simple accordion, very tasteful arrangements, a clear standout track. After a minute of silence (a cry for peace coupled to a political stance) comes the Crossfishes track. If anything, the first three quarters of the album announce that gathering all these musicians on the same stage could result in thundering chaos. On the contrary, the piece is rather quiet and very disciplined (I don’t think the six improvisers ever play all at once), dominated by repetitive motifs and Weiss’ disembodied wails. Tel Aviv Aftermath is not an essential album, but it offers a nice occasion to get acquainted with the Israeli experimental underground. ~ François Couture, All Music Guide
To my surprise I received a cd out of Israel, a country of which you usually only hear news related to the tragic conflict with their Palestinian neighbours. My musical encounters with Israel are mostly confined to their contributions to the Eurovision Song Contest. So I was pleasantly suprised to find out that there is an interesting experimental/industrial scene in Israel. On “Tel Aviv Aftermath”, of which the artwork shows a militant and apocalyptic style, are ten different acts compiled. Of these I have only heard music of Chaos as Shelter in the past. The booklet of the compilation is quite nice and informative, with background info about all the performing artists.
Grundik-Slava, a long-time collaboration between two composers/sound artists, gives us a experimental electronic composition, which is rather strange and inacessible, reminding a little of old krautrock. The music of New Jerusalem Defence Forces sounds just as threatening as their name: a noisy powerful wall of sound, extreme frequencies and harsh distorted vocals. Igor18, a solo project of Igor Krotolov who is also involved in the previous act, brings us to experimental territories again, with distant voices, an unorthodox treated bass and strange effects as the main ingredients. Chaos as Shelter contribute an estranging soundscape, lead by ongoing drones and a sampled female voice. I quite like the track ‘Outlaw’ by Screening. According to the booklet the music of this act is solely created by (manipulated) bass guitars. the song has an ‘ethnic’, meditative feel.
The song of Forma is called ‘ma bella chaotique’ and indeed it sounds like a chaotic, randomly created composition. Another interesting soundscape is contributed by HU, with tools as sand, cellow bow, hands and a wood hammer. After this tranquil piece comes the beat-driven track by VectorScope as a surprise. A nice micture of monotonous industrial rhythms and floating, atmospheric electronic layers. Another highlight is ‘The Golden skull’ by Agnivolok, a wonderful traditional folk song, reminding me of street musicians from eastern Europe which I sometimes hear, with a melancholic and nostalgic feel. It also has something of the ritual aspect of Hagalaz Runedance. A variety of traditional instruments is used, and the female singer has a peculiar but not unpleasant voice. The last track is a very long and chaotic live improvisation by various underground musicians under the name of The Crossfishes, but in my opinion not one of the most memorable tracks on the album.
This compilation is certainly an interesting and varied showcase of the Israeli experimental music scene, which seems to be quite lively. Musically there a few quite nice contributions, overall “Tel Aviv aftermath” is quite hard to digest though. This is also the debut release of the label Topheth Prophet, it will be interesting to follow what they will be up to in the future. The mood on the album is dominantly quite grim, which is perhaps not so surprising in view of the political climate in the Middle-East. The most direct reference to the conflict is of course the ‘One Minute Silence’, ‘for the memory of all those who violently lost their lives in the Middle East conflict, except those who took other lives while losing theirs’.