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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Yehuda Poliker - Ashes & Dust

Name: Yehuda Poliker
Album: Ashes & Dust
Year: 1988
Style: Hebrew/Jewish Traditional, Mediterranean
Similar Bands: Theodore Bikel, Gruff Rhys
"One-Word" Review: Bleak-wind-echo-klezmer-rock
Based Out Of: Kiryat Haim, Israel
Label: CBS
 Ashes & Dust - Cover, Liner & Tape
Ashes & Dust - Liner Notes & Tape

Ashes & Dust (1988)
  1. Efer Vavak (Ashes & Dust) 4:31
  2. Chalon Layam Hatichon (A Window to the Mediterranean) 5:36
  3. Kshetigdal (When You Grow Up) 4:18
  4. Shir Acharey Hageshem (Song After the Rain) 4:06
  5. Prachim Baruach (Flowers in the Wind) 4:31
  6. Hatachana Haktana Treblinka (Last Station Treblinka) 5:12 /
  7. Yalel 2:27
  8. Radio Ramallah 5:14
  9. Ahva Horeget (Love Kills) 5:02
  10. Mikan Vad Bichlal (From Now On) 5:22
  11. Kol Meertz Haruach (Voice from the Land of the Wind) 5:43
  12. Biglal (Because) 4:49
Album Rating (1-10): 4.0

Members & Other Bands:
Yehudad Poliker - Vox, Guitar, Music, Arrangement, Production
Ya'akov Gilad - Lyrics, Arrangement Production
Halina Birnbaum - Lyrics, Translation
Vladshaw Shlengel - Lyrics
Yoad Nevo - Assistant, Recording
Simon Weinstock - Mixing
M. Hooning - Mastering, Digital Editing
J.Lamme - Cutting Engineer
Jan Saudeck - Cover Photo
Gandy Markus - Inner Cover Photo
Vardi Kahana - Inner Cover Photo
Michael Kleg - Inner Cover Photo
Yehuda Dery - Cover Design

Unknownness: I have never heard of this artist. But I found this tape in a clearance section of a library cast off book & music store, and I was on a hunt for more Eastern European, Klezmer music. I found this bleak looking tape, and decided to give it a try. With a production date of 1988, I really have no idea what to expect.
  
Album Review:  I was unaware that this was an Israeli pop album about the holocaust, as Wikipedai has pointed out. Yehuda’s father escaped from Auschwitz, so I can only imagine this has some second-hand story telling and spirit, and ultimately lead up to the bio-pic Because of that War a few years later. The album is all in hebrew, so I’ll not be able to understand the lyrics except by the emotion evoked.

Efer Vavak (Ashes & Dust) feels like an Italian folk song as it starts out with what sounds like an accordion and strumming guitar. Once the singing begins, the Yiddish theme emerges, and the result is an emotional, powerful ballad.
Chalon Layam Hatichon (A Window to the Mediterranean) is a darker, more sinister song at the beginning, with a gloomy hum stalking in the background. But the singing has a much more positive and hopeful approach. The transition/bridge between verse and the chorus has a nice hook in its build. There is a very earthy, and new age feel to the song as well, with the way the guitars echo and there is a breezy like chime in the background with a similar echo effect.
Kshetigdal (When You Grow Up) initially feels like theme music from a Dragon Warrior game when the warrior is tired, but in a safe and familiar place. Comfort and wisdom note the song’s character. The music is not a solid straight line, it is jagged and its flourishes are start/stop. Only the chorus glides by effortlessly.
Shir Acharey Hageshem (Song After the Rain) has a little bit of a western / Blaze of Glory feel to it, mainly thanks to the twangy guitar, and percussive march in the background. The chorus is repetitive in lyric, but it rolls the lyrics over the same melody over three keys, and is enjoyable in the anticipation and delivery feel.
Prachim Baruach (Flowers in the Wind) begins in a new age fashion too, but one that is bleak and sinister. The echoing bell/chimes effect is entrancing, and sometimes off-key. I like the atmosphere the song creates. The song also has loud booming bass drums that are sporadic, but when they hit, remind me of something big, like Genesis or something. An electric guitar wallows in pain and adds the perfect anger/frustration to the songs already confused emotion.
Hatachana Haktana Treblinka (Last Station Treblinka) begins with strumming guitars faint in the background, and an oscillating hum. This is the song that reminds me a lot of Gruff Rhys (from Super Furry Animals) live performance, were he begins instruments one at a time, and the lyrics over top are mostly spoken or echoing chants rather than sung. The song builds, and a steady drum beat starts around 2:15 in. There are controlled metal screeches that come and go, perhaps mimicking trains passing.

Yalel seems to pick up with the twisting metal sounds from the previous side/song, and progresses like a Middle Eastern religious chant with a circular buzz in the background.
Radio Ramallah continues the Middle Eastern sound, and reminds me a little of Faith No More’s Wood peckers from Mars in the very beginning. The song is more rocking than the other songs that felt more folky and traditional. There is a rock drum beat, and the song’s pace is quicker and surer. The chorus is catchy and besides FNM, it also feels like the rock/Mid-Eastern blend that Firewater or Gogol Bordello are popular for (and to a lesser degree, System of a Down, but I hate even mentioning them).
Ahva Horeget (Love Kills) continues with the hard rock/ Eastern European style of music. This song reminds me of a mix of Ween’s Stallion part 5 & I Can’t Put My Finger on It. It is a soaring, driving, near-disco song with the violin-sounding strings. Suddenly out of nowhere about 4 min in, the singer just shouts for seemingly no reason, except for perhaps the song’s climactic point. It ends in an electric fury and an echoing of guitar.
Mikan Vad Bichlal (From Now On) is another wind swept song-scape, with acoustic guitar leading the way, echoing as the entire album has before it. It is somewhat sad and solemn song once the vocals begin. It grows in confidence, and gets a little aggressive in its optimism, backed by the familiar echoing chime/bells effect. The song continuously feels like it is just starting out, building to something grand, but it never really unleashes the anticipated delivery. And with a whoosh effect, the song ends.
Kol Meertz Haruach (Voice from the Land of the Wind) continues the echoing wind effect, and backs it up with somber violin/string composition. This too starts out sad and beaten down. The vocals grow louder and it is loud calling out/chant/shout, with a yearning emotion. And like a whisper or a gale, it quietly fades away.
Biglal (Because) starts with spoken vocals with massive echo. The music begins with a sinister, almost industrial stripped down drum and guitar rhythm. The vocals continue to be spoken, not sung, and the song drives on, growing more intense with a Middle Eastern buzz in the background.

Overall, the album has a few select catchy & memorable hooks here and there. On a whole, it is depressing, which I believe was mostly the concept of design, with the topic being such a horrific tragedy as the holocaust. There are a few instances where the rock and traditional moments blend together flawlessly, but there is even more dead space and tedious construction to make it grow better on repeat listens.

Stand Out Track: Radio Ramallah (live)

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