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Rockfour - The Wonderful World CD (album) cover




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4.08 | 3 ratings

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4 stars When HaOlam HaMufla (Wonderful World) hit the front page of PA roughly a month ago, I spotted Rockfour a couple of times in the top searches for the last 24 hours. Now I know I'm not the only one here who is easily distracted by a pretty album cover. It seems though up till now I'm one of the only ones who absolutely had to get my hands on it for a review. Cudos to cohot for claiming the first rating before pretty much any of us had even heard of Rockfour, but I'll claim the first full review.

The decision to pick up Wonderful World was a total shot in the dark. I wasn't even aware that there was much of an Israeli rock scene never mind any exports from it. Overall I'm impressed by the band. Their sound falls just barely on the pop music side of space rock. The song structures are short most are built at least initially on a not overly challenging alternative rock style. On the other hand there is plenty of mellotron and cosmic diversions which depart from its alternative pedigree. This is however a prog-related album and it is clearly not in the band's game plan to cut loose on any killer epics. I think it's a shame because they do show some real promise when they let themselves get a little out there.

In spite of the bright polychromatic album cover, Wonderful World's overall sound is actually quite melancholy. The closest musical relative (probably a first cousin) I can offer to other inquisitive souls is The Flaming Lips; a band which has been unfortunately omitted from PA, but that is a discussion for another time and place. Their music has the same light touch and fairly decent pop sensibilities. By contrast, it lacks some of the harder edges which poke through on the Lips' work nor do they allow themselves to get quite as daring in structure or sound. The signing is quite good and befitting the music. I am an English Canadian of mixed Ukrainian and British decent so needless to say I cannot make any comment on the content or quality of the lyrics which are entierly sung in Hebrew.

The first track is also the title track. It airs more on the pop side of the album and is just a little brighter than the other tracks on the album. I can tell that this would be single material even with the language barrier in mind. It is much more sophisticated than what would pass for pop to most North American listeners.

Seret Zar or Foreign Movie is a mostly acoustic track and possibly the most generic on the album. It reminds me of some of Sam Robert's slightly spacy-er stuff. If I may be so bold, it is the worst rack on the album, but if this is as bad as it gets we're all in luck.

Ein Lecha Elohim or You Don't Have a God is one of the most consistently spacey tracks on the album. Every instrument and vocalist echoes throughout which makes it stand out from your standard alternative rock fair. While the "oooooh's" are generally a little weak on the writing front, they seems to fit the track's overall aesthetic.

Gavia Kadosh or Holy Cup is a down tempo psychedelic drone. For the most part it seems quite depressing, but depending on your mood it could be on the menu. It's a simply structured track with a faded and distorted sound. Once you're a little passed the midpoint it makes it takes one of the best progressive twists on the album and opts of a head bobbing acoustic guitar riff. It does come down from this short lived but enjoyable high with a tempo change up which sounds like it could have come right off of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Good track and just shy of a great track in my mind. I just wished they'd had the desire to play around a little more at the change up.

Degel or Flag is without a doubt my favourite track and for me the most evocative of the album's surreal cover. It has the brightest sound of any of the tracks. It alternates continuously between toe tapping pop and drifting space rock. The whole package makes for pitch perfect crossover prog.Though it only lasts just shy of five minutes it's so captivating you'd swear it was two minuteslonger. It is well worth a listen and happily is one of the few tracks I was able to sample before purchasing the album. Go hit up youtube if you're at all curious, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Sheva Dakot which means Seven Minutes is curiously only 3:46. It is mostly fairly typical alternative rock, but it makes more than infrequent leaps into high distortion cosmic sound effects a la Flaming Lips. It's a pretty solid track but not really a high light of the album.

Mal'ach or Angel has just a touch of Supertramp/Muse to it with the prominent staccato piano playing. It is just a touch shorter than Gavia Kadosh and not quite as depressing. Like Gavia, it also makes a break for something considerably more interesting around the midpoint. The degree of the departure is a little less obtuse but doesn't really settle back to exactly where it came from either. The result is a track which shows Rockfour's potential as a progressive band.

At first Bayum HaHu or In That Day feels like it was yanked right out of the gently rolling middle section of At War With the Mystics, but within its short span it makes a noticeable turn towards the disquieted heavily distorted territory of Embryonic. The similarities here between Rockfour and the Flaming Lips are extremely noticeable. I don't mean to say that they've ripped the Lips off, but fans of the Lips will find this very familiar.

Staying in the frenetic style of Embryonic is the instrumental BeIlum Shem or Nameless. It is by a wide margin the hardest track on the album. At its centre lies some great virtuoso drum work and hard bass playing. As it fades out, it bleeds directly into Menat Yeter or Overdose and together they make-up the best part of the album since Degel. Menat Yeter is similar to Degel in that it is both toe taping and comic at the same time.

The closer is Horef Israeli or Israeli Winter. It is rather more on the sombre side and on the alternative side. It isn't without it a little bit of stardust though. It's an apt closer for what has proved to be a highly entertaining listening experience.

On my first listen, I mistook Wonderful World as an alternative rock album which only flirts with being progressive in passing. On subsequent listens though it has revealed itself to be considerably more detailed and well realized. Unlike other prog-related bands like Muse, the progressive tendencies are essential to the sound and not skin deep. It is both creative and entertaining from a pop perspective and absorbing from a psychedelic perspective. I wouldn't go so far as to qualify it as essential, but I would highly recommend Wonderful World and by extension Rockfour to just about anybody. I do feel it will be of specific appeal to those of us who like their music a little on the cosmic side. I'll certainly be looking for more of their work in the future. Four stars out five.

R-A-N-M-A | 4/5 |


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