Left to Right – Dave Kerman (long hair, drums, percussion), Roy Yarkoni (tall guy, keyboards), Yehuda Kotton (beard, guitars), Ishay Sommer (very long hair, bass), Udi Koomran (black short hair, sound/computer), Udi Susser (French beard, horns, keyboards)
I can’t believe it’s taken *cough* seven years to get around to reviewing this awesome album. I’ve had it since its release, and I’ve listened to it a few times over those years. But though it was obviously a technically brilliant album, it just never spoke to me. It seemed like too much chaos and no structure. It didn’t sink in. But this past week, with my life in utter chaos … my daughter going into labor, taking my precocious (read: hyperactive) three-year-old grandson off her hands so she could concentrate on that, an angry customer screaming at me at my job, and finally my refrigerator conking out … I chanced to put Ahvak on again. Guess what? It’s not chaotic at all! It’s carefully and precisely structured, with every note and percussion hit fulfilling its necessary role, and every noise, sound treatment and special effect meticulously placed for maximum effect. If I ever needed a lesson about how, in music, context is everything, this would be it. I actually found Ahvak to be calming.
Ahvak, I’m told, means “Dust” in Hebrew. Pertinent, since most of these band members are Israeli with the exception of Dave Kerman, who I believe was visiting Israel during this time. Fortunately for all of them, they teamed up with Israeli sound/production icon Udi Koomran (who, you’ll notice, is granted full “band member” status on this album for his contributions) to create what will surely be recognized by those who decide such things as one of the all-time masterworks of the RIO/Avant-Garde genre of prog. If I’ve never before quipped in the GEPR that RIO is simply Avant-Garde with drums, then I’ll do so here. It would be hard to argue that this is really modern classical music played on rock instrumentation, and of course with drums. It has a lot in common with bands like Thinking Plague, Yugen or 5UU’s (and I don’t just mean Dave Kerman), but without vocals. That just makes it even more difficult to carry off without the human element of voices.
Ahvak‘s sole release is an absolute masterpiece, and if you’re a fan of RIO at all, it’s a must-have in your collection. If you’re like me, it may take a few listens before it registers with you, but if you have the right ear for this style, it’s a thrill ride. Superb. — Fred Trafton
for a fan (and reviewer’s) web site
to order Ahvak
from Cuneiform Records