RIO, Post Rock, Avant This, Avant That, blah blah. Labels. We love them, we hate them, we hate to love to need them. Look past the notion that Ahvak is essentially a meeting between an Israeli avant-prog band called Verdun, longtime RIO figurehead & 5UU's drummer extraordinaire Dave Kerman, and Daevid Allen/Present/Kerman collaborator, engineer Udi Koomran. Discard precepts and focus instead on this band. Ahvak Hebrew for "dust" is a trilateral birthing process, a sonic triptych that sternly resolves to being only one thing: a band.
Believe it or not, Dave Kerman's role here is to drum keyboardist Roy Yarkoni and flautist-saxophonist/percussionist Udi Susser receive comp'ing credit for nearly the entire album (Dave's involvement in the overall production process is crucial, however). Guitarist Yehuda Kotton struts his stuff on a short number titled something like "Cement," yet he & bassist Ishay Sommer have plenty to say plenty with regard to their instrumentalist roles. Sommer looks half the age of his bandmates, but he's been playing a long time, and it shows. Then there's Udi Koomran. Imagine the pull-pin of a grenade, the marked card in the deck that's Koomran. He's the technician behind-the-scenes, pulling many an aural string and shaping the other musicians' lines via his computer as an ice sculptor scrapes with his hotknife; the two best places to study Koomran's role may be within the epic tracks, and the "gurgling" and "sizzling" sonorities that surface in "Bherta." The best method by which to experience the entire album is with headphones, and the opening of the first track alone will prove this.
Throughout this disc, I kept reminding myself how much it actually rocks; no doubt that borders on blasphemous for those unwavering disciples of many things RIO-lian, who tend to be rather anti-rawk in their collective stances. But hell, Ahvak is not quiet music: it hums, it vibrates, it throbs and it even thrashes. These guys are thrash metal to Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic's AOR. Atonalities, rhythmic shifts & turns, contrapuntal themes, everything's here. Yes, there are quieter moments, because monuments don't form without basefloors to spring from. Kerman a 5uu's founding member who plays or has played with U Totem, Present, Blast, and Thinking Plague, among others and who also penned the Earth To Josh: Prog Is Dead series for Exposι is a veritable marvel of a percussionist, as agile as a drummer can possibly be. The last quarter of "Hamefahakim" finds him caught up in hi-speed runs that sound almost programmed, yet could hardly be. No wonder he's played with many different groups, he's probably turned down twice as many. Kerman & Sommer could be, say, technical metal's best kept wet dream of a rhythm section, but Sommer's metal days are behind him, he emphatically states. Pianist & keyboardist Yarkoni is Kerman's counterpart: his precisely nimble delivery on "Bertha" matches Kerman's energy note for note.
Ahvak's title track is a sixteen minute-long foray into Frenetics 106. Susser's heavily-processed robotic vocal spews a dozen lines amidst a backdrop of octal piano salvos Yarkoni's got some nimble digits and serpentine guitar riffs. Koomran adds a little postmix spice to Kerman's drums to lend an industrial flavor in spots. "Melet" (Hebrew for "cement") is a lovely little abstract that buffers the album's two epics, voiced alternately & consummately by acoustic & effected electric guitar and bass, topped with a quaint (synthetic) belltone arpeggio that dangles in the background. "Hamefahakim" translated as "Yawners" (don't laugh) is the sequel to "Ahvak," and then some. You can tell the band is having some fun: a quirky synth patch and guitar harmonize together, Sommer solos quite a bit (and deservedly so), Susser gets in his licks, and listen for the "cat" so don those headphones! Panning is the order of the day (Udi: "You rang?"). Ahvak is indeed one wild ride. Fear not, melodic purists, for it's actually very musical. This might be the album that wins RIO a few more fans. If each member of Djam Karet was playing in a different key & time sig, then
Total time: 53:22
- Vivisektzia (Vivisection) 8:28
- Bherta (Bertha) 8:22
- Regaim (Moments) 2:36
- Ahvak (Dust) 16:20
- Melet (Cement) 2:49
- Hamefahakim (Yawners) 13:27
- Pirzol (Ironworks) 0:55