Compromised musical dynamism
Israeli indie rock star Tamar Aphek surfaces with her solo-debut album All Bets Are Off. Aphek sought to embody “the feeling of a rollercoaster” with this album, according to the famous music label which signed her, Kill Rock Stars (KRS), which continues to unearth underground rock groups from the roots of the Pacific Northwest.
Early in her musical career, Aphek was inspired by bands like Fugazi, Sonic Youth and Shellac, where the minimalistic sound took hold and made her create something of her own. In a quote to Kill Rock Stars, she said most of her songs “reflect a quest to find equilibrium between contrasts either love vs. hate in relationships, justice and injustice within society, war and peace between nations and so on.” Her music encapsulates many emotions which she and her band use to craft something irreplaceable.
Aphek released “Show Me Your Pretty Side” as her first single with KRS, pacesetting her musical path in global music. Monotonous and delicate, this asymmetrical rhythm builds suspense and walks a thin tightrope of both jazz and slow rock mixes. However, the nine-track album takes many forms that are infused with Aphek’s varying global influence, which at times can be overwhelming. Songs like “Nothing Can Surprise Me” are too active, which inevitably forces an unnecessary sequence of dynamics, compromising the album’s flow.
The album’s opener, “Russian Winter,” is an energetic cocktail of rock and asymmetric musical structure. Combining a variety of resonances, this track develops into a crescendo of thrilling drums finished off with spider-like keyboarding. This song is bold and very adamant upon breaching the formalities involved with today’s rock music. In a similar fashion, “Crossbow” energizes the album, providing the second peak of the album, as a rollercoaster might progress. A constant garage-like beat adds the underground element of the group allowing their vision and character to seep through their tracks.
Following this is “Beautiful Confusion,” which serves a different purpose. Mitigating the energy of “Crossbow,” this song infuses some angst into the album. Almost as an interlude, the unhurried count of Aphek and the band halt the movement and suppress the verve created by the rest of the album. This song offers the indie rock aura of “Drive,” another monotonous track of the album.
“All I Know” crosses a different border, mixing the edge and desertion of western rock with a newfound indie flare. Aphek’s hollow guitar playing and bassist Uri Kutner’s alluring riffs weave into the song nicely. In similar style, “Too Much Information” is smooth but relentless, integrating the dynamism and melodic cuts of Fugazi’s “I’m So Tired.” Tympanic accents round out the track without overwhelming the intricacies of Aphek or her guitar. Almost jazz-like in style, this song twists the ends of each chorus verse with a certain serenity and commentary on society—definitely one of the better tracks on this album.
Closing All Bets Are Off is Aphek’s cover of Dooley Wilson’s classic “As Time Goes By.” Aphek’s joie de vivre is muffled, in style with the era of Wilson’s version. Aphek’s delicate pitch offers a nice substitute without derailing the song. Her voice contains the romance and allure, which the string and acoustics enhance as the song progresses.
Aphek’s prominence in the Israeli rock scene ignited her career once she became international. But this fusion of ideas, influences and creativity make her music dynamic, solidifying her rollercoaster-like sound in All Bets Are Off. But the rollercoaster moves off-track when too many elements are mixed, compromising the sound which had already captivated us.