Yotam Avni: Tehillim

For the last thirty years, Israel’s electronic music scene has operated in fits and starts. When India opened up their borders to Israeli passports in 1988, many youths who had finished their conscription services poured into the country and became entranced by Goa trance, bringing that rave aesthetic back home with them. But by 1997, police cracked down on bigger festivals, driving electronic music further underground. The last few years have seen an uptick in hotly tipped young Israeli producers such as Moscoman, Autarkic, Deep’a & Biri, and Red Axes (not to mention Moscoman’s always intriguing Disco Halal imprint). Of them all, Yotam Avni might be best positioned to crossover to larger festival crowds, as his resumé links him with the likes of Derrick May, Osunlade, and Terrence Parker. 

Avni knows every side of the industry, beginning as a music journalist before moving to party promoter (AVADON) as well as his own club, Resek. Across a handful of singles, the Tel Aviv-based producer has mined the trenches between tech, tribal and deep house, his tracks popping up on both Ben Klock and Âme & Dixon’s Essential Mix. Following up on this summer’s “Monad XXII,” this four-track EP (also on the Berlin-based Stroboscopic Artefacts imprint) continues to push him towards a sound at that’s more assured, though he continues to take risks to varying degrees of success.

“Orma” strikes a plangent, ominous chord and quickening hi-hat pattern for the techno. Just when it seems like it might just plunge deeper into darkness, Avni introduces a saxophone skronk and lets it echo. Quick fillips of tom and an incessant beep are added, but despite the horn and the possibilities it suggests, the track never quite moves beyond its original components. “Shtok” features glimmering struck bell tones not unlike Pantha du Prince, which Avni then sullies with sweeps of white noise and a phantasmal wordless vocal, just balancing between beauty and menace.

“Even” mixes the EP’s stoutest beat with the most elegant filigree of strings –both plucked and bowed—and piano. For the title track, Avni builds a rhythm of rattling gourds and thumped wood, harkening back to his tribal house productions. Before it goes down that route though, a men’s chorus enters, making the “Tehillim” (or “psalms”) of the title a literal reference. The first few times through, the combination of choir and drums feels more like a throwback to Enigma. But Avni unleashes squalls of feedback and noise that give the track some grit, so that a mix of the ancient and futuristic also has a bit of the messy present in it.

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