VARIOUS ARTISTS Yamim Ketumim (Hatav Hashmini) Last summer, with Israel's impending Gaza disengagement dominating the attention of the press, Shlomo Blass, a young journalist from the Makor Rishon newspaper, met a foreign press photographer working the same beat. The two discussed the experience of covering right-wing nationalist demonstrations and agreed that the canon of protest songs they heard at these events constituted a cultural phenomenon unto itself. Before they knew it, the journalists found themselves working overtime to put together this album, which bears the subtitle "Songs of Hope and Faith." The project's producer, Karni Eldad, is the daughter of National Union MK Aryeh Eldad. She recently released a new CD of Cuban music, Red, as well. "Love of the land is something that even the people who were [in favor of] the disengagement could connect to," Blass says, "and this love is found in these songs. The idea behind the CD was to uplift spirits." Of course, any work that expresses solidarity with a particular political viewpoint will have limited unifying power, but this disc has sold in the thousands already, with a reissue now arriving at Steimatzky shops all over Israel. Aaron Razel's always-soothing voice opens the disc with a pleasant rendition of "Shomer Yisrael;" he returns to kick off the disc's second half with a funked-out "Ana B'koah." Ariel Zilber's "Zokhreni Na" is not as rocking as it wants to be, but later, on Hamakhela's "Tfilah La'ani," a lovely female vocal ensemble presents a version of Psalm 102 that is rich with harmonies and strings. The cuts heard on Yamim Ketumim were recorded specifically for this release, which says a lot about the commitment of the artists involved. This disc might not be as image-conscious as the two other significant anti-disengagement compilations - the settler movement's official V'Lo Yinatshu Od Me'al Admatam and the American solidarity-themed The Hebrew Vibration Achdus Project - but at least the music heard on Yamim Ketumim is not a mere repackaging of songs that were recorded for something else. AVIAD GIL Ahot Ktana (Greentek Productions) Judaism's somber Nine Days are almost over, and if his new Ahot Ktana album is any indication, Aviad Gil seems ready to party. This disc draws on a rainbow of influences to market every conceivable pop clich to its intended religious audience, making Gil's tenor, arrangements and compositions hard to take seriously. The disc opens with the techno-pop "Yesh Anashim," which is so over-the-top as to evoke decidedly non-Haredi-friendly predecessors like Dana International's "Diva" and Adam Sandler's "Secret" - caricaturish recordings meant to be ironic. "Eli Shebashamayim" uses Destiny's Child-style rock steady R&B motifs to offer an ode to the Lord, while the title track ("Little Sister") goes so far as to channel alleged pedophile R. Kelly (ouch). Elsewhere, we're treated to straight Mizrahi pop mixed with rap and Cher-like vocoder effects ("Elokenu") and a Hassidic wedding standard ("Od Yishama"). Yet how sacrilegious can this salad of an album be if the artist wears a skullcap on the cover and the lyrics are about God? Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.