Peter Marmorek (uhclem) wrote,
Peter Marmorek

  • Music:

Isra-Alien Live

Seeing Isra-Alien last night at Lula Lounge was an ear-opening treat! Isra-Alien are two guitarists: Oren Neiman (originally from Toronto, now in New York via Israel) and Gilad Ben-Zvi (from Israel, now in New York). Oren comes from jazz and plays nylon strings on his guitar; Gilad comes from rock and plays steel on his. Before the show, Oren had mused how their music was part of their ongoing argument over what constitutes Israeli music. As the show went on, I remembered the Talmudic adage, “The dispute of scholars increases wisdom.” Their performance increased the audience’s wisdom about the breadth and range of Israeli musics, but also certainly increased our sense of melodic pleasure and sonic delight at hearing such disputatious enchantment.

In almost every song, leads were swapped back and forth, musical phrases were deconstructed and reconstructed. The music and the traditions on which it drew became a process rather than a form, a verb rather than a noun. It was never less than a series of questions, exploring possible answers, rather than the simplistic declarations (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus) we are too often offered. The pre-song banter was also disputatious. One would explain the origins of a song, and then the other would explain, “What really happened was...” and supply a different version.

I’ve long held a theory about bands, that the greatest music comes when there is a dynamic tension between two musicians who want to do slightly different kinds of music. Lennon and McCartney in The Beatles, or Neil Young and Steve Stills in Buffalo Springfield may have driven each other crazy, but also pushed each other to greater depths than they often achieved afterwards. Isra-Alien may not have such hostility; Oren and Gilad are older and wiser, but it was the extraordinary range and tension between their musical visions that made the evening magical.

Even the songs themselves contained such arguments: one was “The Mother-in-Law Dance”, in which the two guitars started with a tentative harmonic rhythm, then argued furiously, before reconciling at the end. While the audience was universally appreciative throughout, Gilad didn’t let them off without failing to question their relationship to the performance, “This is our nominal last song, before we go off stage and you cheer us back on, and we do three more songs, and everyone goes home happy. I mean, no need to pretend.” And it all came to pass exactly as he said, particularly the going away happy part. No need to pretend indeed: this was a great concert, and if you’re in Boston, or Connecticut, don’t miss the chance to hear this show.

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