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Ahvak - Ahvak CD (album) cover





3.72 | 76 ratings

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4 stars Technically very interesting, but musically patchy

Magnificent "World Music" sounds, with a clear and transparent production, solid, rolling bass, complex and dissonant modern-jazz harmony and a touch of late King Crimson with flecks of Zappa at his jazziest make for an intriguing blend of hugely enjoyable prog.

The overall sound is a tad familiar to anyone who has listened to a lot of free-form jazz and world music in general, and very occasionally the music errs towards the stilted and coldly calculated rather than the joyous and improvised, but Ahvak put enough originality and energy into this impressive debut to make it stand out from the RIO pack. There seems to be quite a large element of mid 20th century "classical" music lending a certain creedence to the music, with touches of Scriabin, Boulez and some of the lesser-known avante-garde composers.

Overall, the music arises from the dark side, with glimmers of light that just occasionally seem a little cheesey. The experimentations in texture are to be applauded, however, the melodic invention is very strong, particularly in the riffs, and detailled attention is paid to formal development, giving most tracks and indeed the album a dramatic unfolding that is quite refreshing.

Repeated listens reveal more each time, as this is is not music that shows itself immediately, and does require an appreciation of the many compositional styles to "get" fully. However, there is a degree of engaging immediacy which invites the listener to become involved on all levels, and late King Crimson, early Gong and ELP fans interested in branching out into something a bit different should find plenty to enjoy in the first 3 tracks at least.

The 16-minute title track however, starts to feel a little tired and short on ideas, and, since this is such a large portion of the album, loses the "Masterpiece" award for the album straight away. If you go for the constant workup to a climax, then relax approach, this might be right up your street, but I find this form somewhat wearying and predictable. That said, Ahvak's approach is a lot more creative than much music that I've heard in this vein, so if this sounds like your type of music, then I think you'll absolutely revel in it.

As a centerpiece, I would have expected a little more invention from the rest of the album, and Melet becomes the first point at which I find my interest wanes, after the extended fade-out of Ahvak, as it carries a sense of scale practice which feels distincly unmusical.

The 13 and a half minute Hametahakim redeems this, however, with an almost nostalgic flavour and more improvised feel thanks mainly to the flute. Formally, this has much of the feel of Ahvak in the atmospheric workouts and climactic sections, but the atmospheric sections are longer and more sensitively built up, with a pervading dark sense of humour making this the climax to the album, IMO.

Pirzool is a bit of an oddity and I fail to see the sense it gives to the rest of the album, but others may see it.

All in all, an excellent cultural voyage - as the music has strong Israeli flavours that transport you to an unsettled Middle East with ease.

The closest band I can think of for a true comparison is Thinking Plague, so if you're already a fan of the latter, this is essential listening.

Not for the faint-hearted who require a "tune" or a toe-tapping beat, but a veritable feast for those who hunger for challenging music.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |


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