Monday 20 May 2013

Avital Raz - Infidelity

Album review by

Slow, hymnal opener 'If You Ask Me' entices you into 'Infidelity'. All mantra-like vocals, with eerie, haunting dashes of middle-eastern tabla. Like a young Patti Smith, Avital Raz lyrically lays out a picture of want and temptation with a deft hand. After 'If You Ask Me''s density, 'Till It's Time' is more traditional in its form. Again the lyrics are stark and visceral. Raz's deep tone more reminiscent of tortured torch singers Nico and Marianne Faithfull. Raz's command of the song's structure balances the mesmerizing, stark words with simplistic but powerful use of a bare acoustic and accordion, Raz pitches both sides of the song at the perfect equilibrium. Third song 'Oh, Isabel' is lighter in its tone and dances into a waltz-like, carny-esque track. The vocals are richer and brighter, though never betraying the broad descriptive tact of the lyrics. As 'Oh, Isabel' builds, you find yourself enjoying the carousel ride. Here Raz brings you into Isabel's world and you find yourself seeing Isabel and her laugh with a colourful intensity. With mentions of the everyday 21st century malaise such as the internet it brings to mind a young Victoria Williams.

After 'Oh ,Isabel', fleeting, sombre track 'The Sick Rose' washes by with no real impact; hard to focus on to after the previous song's journey. Title-track 'Infidelity' ushers in with heavily-fuzzed guitar, which leads into a strong track. Here Raz's plaintive vocals with the underlying distortion bring to mind a Kim Gordon lead Sonic Youth. The song hides in those dark corners, where very little light reaches in. As the song ebbs lyrically Raz concludes with lurching metallic echoes and a call to prayers across a stark land. A surprisingly playful track, 'Blues Of The Ugly Sister' is an enchanting jazz, scat trip. Showing a hand of Tom Waits eccentricity with a vocal crisp lightness that brings a more contemporary feel to the album, and places Raz alongside peers Martina Topley Bird and Cat Power. For the first time in the album the lyrical sharpness brings a wry smile to the face, and shows a stronger, richer heroine than previously described. 'Regarding Angels' sustains the lightness of touch and enables you to completely lift out of the darkness that shadowed the opening clutch of tracks. "I believe in love" is sung warmly over a rich folk vibe, shaking you out of any reverie and embracing all that is love; perhaps the most structurally normal track but that is not to diminish its touch. A highlight on the album.

'You Told Me' is the first misstep on 'Infidelity'. It wallows, and almost has a stodgy Sade feel. You can hear it soundtracking some lost grey walk along the Seine, in a bad Tom Cruise film. With a welcoming sparse blues vibe, like a more bitter Beth Orton, Raz dismisses the stodge of 'You Told Me' with 'Regarding Man'. A rich, colourful track, its deceptively simply rhythm brings your foot-tapping and you happily fall into the song's groove, and the heroine here is as strong and powerful as Raz's vocals. The song's groove rides out to a rich ending, taking you sweetly into closer 'Back Into The Promised Land'. More rich foot tapping, with again a Tom Waits kitchen sink groove. A twisted, glorious soul food tune. Those exacting lyrics dispensed with, instead "oh lord" is chanted, howled, to complement the dirty groove which the song inhibits. As 'Infidelity' finishes you realise you have a been on a journey that is at times stark, dark and harrowing, but lifts into a praise of love and redemption. It is a journey that you'd happily take again and again.

Avital Raz's website

Stream or buy the album

Catch her live:

Aug 13 The Peterloo Commemoration, Manchester, UK 
Sep 07 Digger's Festival, Wigan, UK

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1 comment:

  1. Interesting album indeed. Thank you.