katamine 88 298.
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Forest of Bobo
Tinstar Creative Pool
Katamine is a collaborative Israeli acoustic project unlike anything else on the local music scene.
On this CD, singer-songwriter Assaf Tager oversees the work of an ever-changing cast of musicians on 11 tracks he composed. The disc requires close listening, with Tager all but whispering for most of the collection. The music is densely layered, and every spin of the CD offers new surprises.
A graduate of the London Music Academy, Tager has described his album as full of "dark, simple songs." It's an apt description - the music is indeed sedate (it's also inspiring). Tager's other projects have included playing guitar for Elliot Smith and scored string arrangements for the pop group Moloko. Musicians helping out on Tager's own album include Uri Frost on guitar, Haggai Fershtman on drums and Zoe Polanski (vocals, and bass).
Katamine's 2005 album, Lag, garnered such good reviews that American producer Wharton Tiers - who's worked with groups including Sonic Youth, White Zombie and Lunachicks - offered to produce Forest of Bobo. The album tells the offbeat, bittersweet story of a scary bear that means no harm, and features an album booklet filled with drawings of a black and white cartoon bear passing through the plot points referenced in the songs.
Save for the fact that the band is Israeli, there's nothing very Israeli about this collection. Katamine sounds just like a top-quality American alternative band, with a CD featuring songs that manage to be slow, alluring and attention-grabbing simultaneously. Sung entirely in English, the album could be one of the Israel's top musical exports this year.
Seven years have passed since rock band Girafot released its debut album. Which is not to say that frontman Gilad Kahana has been lazy. Following the success of the group's 1999 album, Talking to the Chair, Kahana and his bandmates focused on solo projects before reuniting for their follow-up disc.
Time has worked in their favor, and the band members have returned in top form here. Kahana penned all the lyrics for Roof, and also composed the music for most of its 11 songs. The lyrics are associative and require multiple listens for their meaning to come out. They paint a picture of desolation and joy, especially on the title track and "Mirpeset" ("Balcony").
The band is exploding with talent. None of the members - Yair Kez on piano, Erez Russo on electric guitar, Rotem Dror on electric piano and Asi Sason on percussion - is anything but generous in playing his part and deferring to the others when the music requires it. After seven years apart, the group sounds united, with the members complementing one another on each of the album's songs.
While the title track has made a splash on the radio, most of the songs here aren't catchy enough for additional radio play.
Nevertheless, the group has created a CD that avoids most of the irritating conventions of Israeli rock, offering fans songs that are strong both musically and lyrically.