Elements of cool

Coolooloosh defies categorization and incorporates aspects of groove, funk, jazz, hip-hop and now, even some rock.

coolooloosh 88 (photo credit: )
coolooloosh 88
(photo credit: )
Fine, I'll admit it: English-language music coming from Israelis often makes me cringe. The vocabulary tends to be poor, the rhymes clichéd and the statements trite. Then along came Coolooloosh, a Jerusalem-based band fronted by the American-born Rebel Sun (Joel Covington), whose powerful, energetic lyrics serve as the perfect complement to Coolooloosh's transcendent sound. People familiar with the Jerusalem music scene should already be familiar with Coolooloosh. It's a group that defies categorization and incorporates aspects of groove, funk, jazz, hip-hop and now, even some rock. Formed six years ago as a groove jam band without a soloist, they took on Rebel Sun a year later. He fast became an important member of Jerusalem's hip-hop scene not long after making aliyah. In the five years since Rebel Sun joined, Coolooloosh has certainly made a name for itself - even if it's a hard-to-pronounce one. The group released a self-produced album, traveled abroad to hone musical skills and has just released a studio album produced by Grammy-nominated David Ivory (The Roots, Erykah Badu, Patti LaBelle). Yes, that is impressive. "We've become better as we're together more. Our music reaches perfection the more we play and the more we create," says Rebel Sun of their evolving sound. The combination of the band's incredible talent and Ivory's production expertise makes The Elements of Sound one of the best to come out in Israel all year. The journey to Philadelphia, Ivory's home, came at a time when the group was ready to take its art to the next level. The self-titled, self-released first album gained critical success, but, according to Ori Winokur, the band's bassist, "we were ready for a more marketable, though not commercial, sound." The group knew it found a perfect match in Ivory, a producer known for his participation in the famed Philly Sound. "He made us grow up a lot and be more mature about our music and how each one of us should play his role in the band," relates Winokur. "He helped us sharpen our sound and push ourselves more than we had been." The result is an eclectic mix that shows klezmer and hard rock influences at points and, at others, combinations of hip hop with Balkan sounds. The variation creates a thoroughly enjoyable, varied album as opposed to a single repeated twelve times. One of the more impressive elements to Coolooloosh's sound is how the members tap into the lyrics to draw musical inspiration and vice versa. In fact, Rebel Sun's vocals often come across as an additional instrument simply melding into the others, even though his rapping is essentially non-melodic. Consider the lyrical alliteration of the title track, "fortified finesse fiend force flows to freak ya frame." His lyrics attack the listener at one point as Arik Levy's saxophone does at another. "Everything is built together," says Rebel Sun. "The lyrics come out of the instrumentals and the instrumentals come out of the lyrics, everything is one piece." And so it is on the new album. Every lyric, every drumbeat and every guitar lick fall exactly into place. To celebrate the new album, which comes out this week, Coolooloosh embarks on a domestic tour. From November 15 through December 6 you can see what all the hype is about - and why it's well deserved - from Beersheba to Haifa, and just about every place in between, including, of course, their hometown of Jerusalem. For more information about specific tour dates visit myspace.com/coolooloosh.