Beating to another drum

Asaf Avidan performs in Israel fora special early release of his new album, ‘Different Pulses.’

Asaf Avidan (photo credit: Courtesy)
Asaf Avidan
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In the last decade, Asaf Avidan’s career has emerged from Israel to find its place on the international stage. Previously, he had a supporting cast in the form of The Mojos. Asaf Avidan and The Mojos released three albums together and found a great deal of success in France, Germany and the US. After they had achieved what many groups hope to achieve in a lifetime, the band splintered into a number of different projects, and Avidan went back to being solo and started working on a new album, Different Pulses. Due for worldwide release in early 2013, Israeli audiences will be treated to a special early release and a couple of live dates this month.
The new chapter in his career will see his trademark voice, described by many as somewhere between Janis Joplin and Robert Plant, with its aching vocal and blue-eyed soul brought into the production frame of Tamir Muskat of Balkan Beat Box.
The powerhouse drummer behind the BBB and Firewater sound has musical and production credits that straddle the Atlantic. Make no mistake – Muskat’s steady hand on the faders and his guidance from behind the screen has produced another modern classic. While the previous material featured more dominant electric guitars and heavier effects, the new material has an electro-acoustic, steel-string, footstomping, hand-clapping, steadyrhythm feel. The thematic current throughout the new release is a fluid, dance-like waltz of an album. Tracks like the title track “Different Pulse” has a Tricky-esque eeriness to it (he of Massive Attack), with its steady snare rolling march backbeat, while “Love It or Leave It” has more of a coast-to-coast American road trip feel to it. Add a good dose of classic modulating reverb, and you have a modern album that sounds like a classic and definitely a new direction.
Billboard caught up with Avidan for a little Q&A.
What’s different between then and now?
The Mojos and I split up, and I found myself writing things that were not confined to who and what we were as a group. For a while, I was experimenting with electronic loops and keyboards, so it was a very natural transition.
People have called your music folk-rock, but what would you call it?
Me trying to figure myself out.
Trying to interpret my feelings into sounds and words. So, naturally, like everyone, I as a person evolve and change, and with me my feelings and thoughts; and with them, their reflection in my music.
How have you and your music changed over time?
Less of a generic sound. A lot of layers of sounds I didn’t usually have.
If you could categorize my previous albums as rock, blues or folk or whatnot, the new material is really hard to define.
How was working with Tamir Muskat?
It was pure joy. Tamir is talented and professional in a way that’s unique. We both hit it off instantly with the same measure of tight workaholic love of details, combined with a very loose and relaxed approach to recording music. That combination is rare, and the fact that we’re both similar that way is what makes the album what it is.
You mentioned loop experimentation. Does that mean you play all the instruments on the album?
Tamir and I played all the instruments, with the exception of very specific parts like bass clarinet or trombone.
How do the live shows compare to when you were gigging with The Mojos?
It’s a whole new experience. There are three girls in the new group, which gives it a very defined flavor.
The songs are from all the five albums, and we have a lot of fun with them. It’s a very dynamic show, going from very intimate to very loud, and all the colors in between.
From contrasts to crescendos, these colors will be running into each other as Avidan steps out on a world tour, taking him to North America, Europe and back again. However, Israeli audiences will be able to attend his live show for three dates before he does and enjoy his distinctive voice, skilled musicianship, eloquent songcraft and strong stage presence.
A special album release show takes place on September 27 at Moadon Ha’teatron in Tel Aviv and on September 28 at Zappa, Ampi Shuni, in Binyamina. Avidan will also participate in the 4Tamar Festival in En Gedi on October 4. More info: