Garden of Eden
The leading Jewish music blogs seem as interested in the divide between schmaltzy straight-edge dos-pop and new-school Carlebach-y jam bands as this column is.
A few months ago, a particularly vicious debate raged, and a contributing reader to the Velvel blog and Blog in D Minor cited the band Pey Dalid to illustrate his point. The unidentified "Blog in D Minor" reader argued that bands like Pey Dalid and Soulfarm are sloppy and inferior to "shiny-shoe" ensembles with polished horn sections. Velvel, a Chicago-area Jewish rocker, rebutted with, "You know what? A lot of people prefer to hire a crappy, Carlebach-y, jam-band with loads of spirit over an uptight, cheesy band." Zing.
As Pey Daled's debut album now hits the stores, their place in this debate seems finally cemented. With Shlomo and Mordechai Walker on guitars, their brother Pesach on percussion, and spiritual brother Baruch Seff on bass, the band seems to have the goal of presenting their simple melodies in a manner that is as grandiose as possible - and in this case, that's a good thing. Thanks to tasteful spacious meandering and unconventional rhythms, songs that would have been simple folk-rock-style ditties are transformed into epic prog-folk worlds on Garden of Eden.
While "Mi Hu Zeh Melech" and one or two other tracks can't resist drawing out in duration by way of over-repetition, it's the atmospheric and deliberate closing title track that ties the recording together as a unit. A strange hidden outro (found at song number 84, the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew letters Pey and Dalid) explores trance beats, with a barely discernable "Am Yisrael Hai" looped voice sample. The bloggers might be right, and Pey Dalid might not be the tightest outfit on stage, but if their studio work is any indication, the band's creativity and flavor raise them above any conventional dos-pop outfit.
Words of Prayer
Even the packaging of Words of Prayer speaks volumes about the gap between GalPaz's marketing approach for their own artists and those they merely distribute. The religious label has clearly laid out a considerable investment in this album's silver printing, outer cardboard sleeve and foldout glamor-shot poster booklet.
From "Milim Shel Tfilah"'s synth and clarinet balladry and "Hatan Kalah"'s wall of darbukas to "Rak Elokim"'s clubby pop and "Barukh Hashem"'s pseudo-philosophical lyrics, Haim Israel gives mainstream mizrahi pop the GalPaz religious twist on this new self-produced, team-composed release. "I've got everything I need / The path to continue / And to keep the traditions," he croons, and long-skirted damsels will undoubtedly swoon.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at email@example.com.