A Glance into the Israeli Post-industrial Scene

Monday, October 01 2007 @ 02:00 AM PDT

Contributed by: Hoerikwaggo

When that nebulous term post-industrial is mentioned, a number of diverse scenes readily spring to mind, ranging from the English neofolk of the early eighties headed by the triumvirate of Sol Invictus, Death in June and Current 93, through to the manic aural missives of the Japanoise scene, led by the proliferate Merzbow.  But one scene that hardly springs to mind is the small yet vibrant and emergent Israeli scene. Fans of the noisier end of the spectrum may be able to rattle off a few names but the scene as a whole remains relatively unknown. Thus, a brief, introductory article seemed to be in order.

Part I:  The Early Years

“In the 80”s when pop and rock music was very hip in Israel there where a few bands that  were very much into punk and new wave”, states Maor Appelbaum. (Vultures, Poochlatz) “Those bands helped open up a new window for small local industrial bands and other unique bands that made special music – bands like DXM, Duralex Sedelex and Dadatrix. Later, some more bands (Testcard 225 and Phon – Zildenstein) started to develop and take the industrial wmusic scene here to a new level.

Uri Shaham (founder of the Topheth Prophet label) concurs. “The most important groups at the time were Duralex Sedelex and DXM. Both managed to create some buzz around them in the press and gained a small cult of followers.”

Ch4 (Drone Lebanon) can count himself amongst that “cult” and his admiration for Duralex Sedelex is unabashed and unrestrained. “I cannot stress enough how this pioneering band managed to ingeniously fuse powerful industrial-culture-like sounds with themes that are relevant even today (World War II, Israeli Defence Force, Jewish anxiety, extreme politics, etc),” gushes Ch4. “I truly believe that they were a very unique band and as a pioneering industrial act they contributed to the formation of our contemporary scene in more than one way.”

Formed in 1984 by Eric Switzer and Ori Drumer, Duralex Sedelex’s early recordings were a melange of noise generated by metal scraps, wailing baby loops and explosions, combined with taped radio broadcasts, some electronic and a bass guitar. In their early years they gained a reputation for colourful performances.

 “During our shows we projected porn movies and presented performance act, one of us was hanged upside- down and we would swing him back and forth,” states co-founder Ori Drumer. “We wore striped uniforms like the Jews in the concentration camps along with the yellow badge.”

“The acts were diverse; we would throw rotten meat at the audience, turn on blinding lights, smoke. There were shows where we imprisoned the audience. In one of the first shows the audience entered a totally dark room, on the floor there were scattered saws and broken furniture, at times the light were on, people would fall and injure, those shows socked a lot of people, who fainted, or were injured.”

But this did not attract as much attention as a performance by an infamous concentration camp in 1992. “We had a tour In Poland and we performed as I requested next to the concentration camp "Auschwitz". That made a lot of noise in Israel, some people thought this was a desecration but we made it clear we had the right to deal with those issues as we wanted,” elaborates Ori.

“Duralex (Sedelex) was the first industrial band in Israel, many bands came after who performed once and vanished - I can not even remember which!, affirms Ori. “[Also] worth mentioning are DXM (1984 – 1985) and a guy named Danny Bleir who lived in south Israel and made industrial gothic music which resembled dark church music and combined loops and electronics. [In] the eighties there was no noise or industrial scene in Israel; there were a few bands but it never got to become a scene.”

“The loyal audience were a few dozen of people who all knew each other, mostly from Tel Aviv, every time when travelling abroad they would return with records and then copies were made for everyone else. Very few records were to be found in Israel.
Most of the audience who got to shows was curious people who considered it as a freak show.”

“The most popular band in Israel were: Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Einstürzende Neubauten, Foetus, Psychic TV, Coil, Whitehouse, Virgin Prunes that of course combined with: The Residents, Chrome, Punk and Hard Core.”

“The beginning of the nineties brought Duralex a new audience mainly because of the world wide increasing popularity of grunge and thrash metal which influenced Israel, as well as bands such as Skinny Puppy. Ministry became popular and the audience was  more open and less conservative.”

“When they (Duralex Sandlex) broke up, [in 1987, reformed in 1989] there was a huge void, up until Vultures came along in 1999,” states Rani Zager (Vultures, Lietterschpich).”I feel uncomfortable to state that, since it was my band, but I think that despite the fact we played industrial metal, we had a major influence on the current industrial/noise scene, mostly because of our live shows. Now I might sound like an ego-maniac, but I truly believe that Lietterschpich, another band I was involved with, had a big influence as well and encouraged the scene to develop to where it is now.”
His co-partner in Vultures, Maor Appelbaum echoes similar sentiments. “After a few years, when the metal scene grew bigger in Israel the use of guitars started to have a big influence on the musical compositions and arrangements. Some tried to work on that direction and made a few contributions to the industrial scene but most of them faded away very fast. [But] There was one band that started in the end of 1999 that give the Israeli industrial style a whole new meaning.” That band is of course, Vultures. One might be tempted to think that both Rani and Maor are indulging in self promotion, but their sentiments are echoed by others.

Part II:  The Current Scene

Since the emergence of Vultures, the scene has grown exponentially, but remains small. “When 60-70 people show up for an event it is a success,” states Uri, “and outside of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem there is no scene at all.”

 “There are a small amount of clubs in tell Aviv and Jerusalem that give the bands a stage to perform,” states Maor Appelbaum. (Vultures, Poochlatz) “In Tel Aviv  there is Levontin 7 and The Ark and in Jerusalem there is the Rosa and Hazira and a few more clubs in both of them – it’s a small scene – very small but active- most fans are also musicians so you know most of them when you come to a noise festival or a show. There is also the Noisefest that is organized a few times a year by Uri (Shaham) [that helps to] keep this scene alive and kicking. The Noisefest is the biggest noise event here so most of the bands perform there.”

I notice that a lot of artists have rather Slavic sounding names. My suspicions of Russian immigrants are confirmed by Stephan Friedman (Silence & Strength).  “‘Russians’ are the immigrants who came to Israel from former Soviet Union. Nevertheless they are very much integrated into Israeli society and feel themselves very much a part of it, in the post-industrial scene we do not make a difference between ourselves, we perform together - Israeli-born and immigrants - without any prejudice, we're one big family.” Similar sentiments are echoed by virtually all the artists interviewed both those with a Slavic heritage and those without and are widely acknowledged as having a major impact on the scene.

“The Russian immigration definitely contributed to the crystallization of the scene. I believe that the process was fractal-like but one of the catalysts was the accumulation of creative motivations and energies such as alienation, boredom, despise and counter indoctrination that many of them felt. Add this to the supra-transgressive nature of living in a place like Israel and you'll get some crazy Russians playing with home-made synths and samplers.

Again, "they" do serve as some sort of a focal point in the scene, but it is not the only factor that contributed to its formation.”

Not all appreciated the use of the term “immigrant”. “We are not “Russian Immigrants”, explains K-76 (Seventeen Migs of Spring) “but repatriates from (former) USSR and truly belong here.”  This appears to be a reference to the “Law of Return” whereby Jews from anywhere in the world are entitled to settle in and receive automatic Israeli citizenship. “The actual person who is responsible for discovering the “Russian wing” and connecting it to the rest of the body was another pioneer of the scene Rani Zager.”  Perhaps wary of ceding too much credit to Zager, K-76 quickly adds a qualifier:  “Well, mainly him!”

The possibility that the scene might be divided into geographical camps, rather than country of origin has some currency. “It is much more divided on geographical basis Tel Aviv and “surroundings” – against Jerusalem, and much less on a “country of origin” basis”, asserts K-76. “Not in a negative way but more on conceptual and philosophical basis as those two cities are like “positive” and “negative“of the Israeli magnetism. Anyhow, today the scene is much less divided and much more varied than ever before and more focused at the same time. ”

Strangely, there is only one neofolk band, the quirky Agnivolok, and this is confirmed by Ch4. “Besides Agnivolok (and maybe some Igor18's projects and Chaos as Shelter too) no one really managed to manipulate traditional Jewish folk into newer styles of folk. We do have apocalyptic lament folk music in the Jewish tradition; both from the orient and the occident, but only Agnivolok utilized it to compose her art.” 

The question arises as to why there is a deficit of folk acts.  “The noise scene in Israel is much more influenced from Ministry or Neurosis, for example, than from Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio or even Death in June,” comments Rani, “as much as some of us love those bands, people here are obsessed with noise, not with romanticizing the past and playing acoustic guitars.”

This might explain why the complete absence of martial industrial. Ch4 suggests that “since we have enough bombastic militaristic overtones in our daily life, maybe we don't really need to simulate it onstage unlike European martial industrial bands.”

There is merit in this line of thought. As I write this, it is the 40th anniversary of the 1967 war, when Egypt, Syria and Jordan mobilized their armed forces to the Israeli border, not to mention the seemingly endless and ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. In addition, there is compulsory military service for all young Israelis, in a country where the sight of soldiers armed with submachine guns at street corners is not uncommon, and one can understand why Israeli post-industrialists are not exactly in a rush to create overt militaristic overtures. But Tanya and Igor (who founded The Eastern Front label) are not entirely convinced by this line of thought.

“We suppose that in the country where every citizen was or will be a soldier, the army/military theme does not represent any challenge or marginal behaviour.” it’s very natural fact that there is no such active interest for martial entourage at all and for music in particular. From the other hand it is not correct for 100%. There are people who do love martial genre, do wear camouflage and do feel the sense of a Message laid in foundation of martial music genre.”

Zager points out that “most of the people in the scene are left-wing; some of them are extreme activists for the rights of the Palestinians.” He goes further than The Eastern Front, and suggests that there is a simply a lack of interest in the genre.

Nonetheless, several current bands do focus on nationalist / military themes. Drone Lebanon is one, but he is quick to point out that he does so from a third party standpoint. Barzel is cited as possibly the most militant act, but his noise constructs fall outside the ambit of this article, as he is an American Jew (in America).

However, this doesn’t explain why there are so few ambient projects. Apart from Silence and Strength, Seven Morgues, Chaos as Shelter and the work of Igor Krutogolov, there seems to be little other ambient work. Tanya and Igor disagree. “We should mention the remarkable project Seventeen Migs Of Spring as well as Vectorscope, Screening, Grundik + Slava, Forma working in the ambient / experimental genre; Refuse to Die and Kreuzer [in the] industrial genre and Zlye Kukli, whose album is to be released next month on Steinklang Industries, [has] elements of neo folk and folk rock.” But they nonetheless concede that the majority of projects are focused on the noise and power electronics.

No particular noise or power electronic sub style seems to dominate.  “Every project here is significantly differs from others, “comments K-76, [and] has its own substyle.  There is no preferred style to speak of.”

I end this section with the words of the one who (co) started it all – Duralex Sedelex’s Ori Drumer. “Today at 2007 Israel there is finally an Industrial and Noise scene on its variations, which grows, In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv there are at least few hundred people that are dedicated to it, there are bands that perform and record: Dukatalon, Poochlatz, Barbara, Cadaver Eyes, Katamine, Lietterschpich ,Drone Lebanon, Gedem and Vultures. For nearly forty years Israel is a country with well developed weapon industry, but it took about twenty years to develop an Industrial music scene, maybe we still have a chance!”

Part III:  Seven Albums to Hear before you Die

If I have been successful in my endeavours, you, our most valued reader will be dying to know what the most significant albums are. Some interviewees expressed the opinion that the scene is too young for talk of significant or influential albums.

 “I think that the Israeli scene is too young to point any significant post-industrial album,” suggests Rani Zager. “I think that the most significant ones were done in the 80's (Duralex Sedelex or DXM, for example), but I can't really choose something from the last few years when the scene started to be more active again. I have a lot of favourite ones, but I wouldn't consider them as significant just yet. Time will tell.”

Regardless, I have compiled a ‘Top 7’ list for those who wish to explore the scene further. The newest was released just a few months ago, whilst the oldest dates from 1985, and are a mix of my own feelings and interviewees recommendations.

An obvious but highly recommend starting point would be the “Noise.Il” compilation released by Topheth Prophet. “[The] compilations – [a reference to the out of print “Tel Aviv Aftermath”] are important because they exposed a whole bunch of local artists to the world,” states Friedman. Participating artists on “Noise.Il” include Mortalmanifest, Drone Lebanon, Barzel and Wreck & Drool. (Which has to be one of the best names ever!)

Those of a folkish bent may prefer to have a listen to Agnivolok’s “Cherries,” whose quirkiness and hypnotic rhythms are unmatched anywhere in the neofolk realm.  Dark ambient fans are advised to have a peek at Chaos as Shelter “Dead Air Broadcast.” One of the admirers is K-76: “A classic piece by a very well established (in a good sense) composer Vadim Gusis. One of his best. In my opinion Chaos as Shelter is one of the best post industrial / dark ambient projects in the world, together with Lustmord and Bad Sector. On the down side, I don’t really like his last record (‘The Dawn Syndrome’).”

Those who prefer their ambient with the darkness may wish to have a look at “Igor Krutogolov’s “White” album, a highly repetitive yet serene sojourn. A list of this nature would be incomplete without mentioning the albums that started it all - their cassette demo “Closing Eyes Continuing to Shoot, Closing Eyes and Continuing to See", recorded in 1984, and their debut album “Destruction of the Third Temple Where To?” recorded a year later. Restricted to 100 and 300 copies respectively, these albums are not around anymore. Whilst I wouldn’t normally include out of print albums in a list of this nature, these are the seminal recordings which gave birth to the Israeli scene and may be re-released in the future.

Another recommended but hard to find album is Split 3” CD-r between Vultures and Finkelstein. Vultures are described as “the most energetic industrial –metal crossover band that came from Israel.” The reader might be tempted to treat this statement with a great deal of cynicism, as it was uttered by Maor Appelbaum who was one half of the project, he is far from alone.  K-76 asserts that this album is “the best Vultures record to date and it is very good, very similar to their last shows and unlike anything people associate with them. I personally didn’t listen to any of Finkelstein records before or after, actually up until now I don’t know much about his recorded music. If it is anything like this one, then I should go out and search for his music. Live he is a killer! “

Finally there is Lietterschpich – “I Cum Blood in the Think Tank!!!!!!!!”  “Although it’s a very recent release, it was very much anticipated for the last 2 years. No less then 8 people participate in Lietterschpich, members of Vultures, Barbara, Panda Porn and Finkelstein as well as one of the best musicians in our parts Eran Zax. This particular album is very well recorded and represents super fat, slow and heavy “doomdubnoise” sound of Lietterschpich very well indeed, plus one of the best vocal performances by Rani Zager on record. My all time Israeli favorite.”

Part IV:  Concluding Thoughts

The future does look bright for the Israeli post-industrial scene and the reader is encouraged to explore the scene, not only by listening to the albums recommended above, but also to indulge in their own explorations.