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Farthest South: Omens & Talismans

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Farthest South is a new alternative Israeli band, comprised of a core trio from the alternative Tel Aviv Scene that attempts to challenge its formative musical experience by playing spontaneous, on-the-spot music. The three— Guitarist Barry Berko has a background in alternative rock and contemporary music; bassist Yair Yona played in psychedelic rock and folk music formats; and {Yair Etziony is a DJ, specializing in minimal electronica and techno, but none played before non-idiomatic free improvisations.

The name of the band refers to a term coined by the explorers of the South Pole in early 20th century. Epic and courageous figures like Sir Ernest Shackleton or Roald Amundsen, who searched for the southernmost point reachable. Transforming these examples to music, the band sets out to explore the same perpetual frontier as the title of guitarist/bassist Joe Morris' book, The Properties of Free Music (Riti, 2012), exploring sounds and textures beyond known atmospheres.

For its debut recording, the band invited Israeli sax hero Albert Beger to participate, and it was a challenging meeting for both sides. Beger has a distinct sound and vocabulary, based on modern jazz, the free jazz legacy, and a charismatic character. The members of Farthest South have only begun to form their collective sound and dynamics—still lacking the breadth and sophistication of experienced free improvisers' vocabularies-yet are still bursting with a wealth of original ideas.

The most satisfying moments in this arresting meeting are the abstract ones. The first improvisation, "A Lesson Learned Part I—Creating Transformation," is a storm of distorted, industrial sounds, rooted by fat bass and psychedelic guitar lines that triggers Beger to add associative sax playing without enforcing any narrative. This violent, thick mix of raw sounds has a dramatic, often a disturbing impact. But this tension dissolves into a schizophrenic interplay on "A Lesson Learned Part II—Lecture," where the dominant Beger dictates a structured improvisation and the trio opts for an accompanying role, adding a repetitive rhythmic pattern.

On "Concrete Part I—Godshall," Beger and Farthest South find an emphatic middle ground, creating a meditative, otherworldly ambiance. The tension is accumulated patiently, morphing eerie electronic blips, white noise, dense and effects-laden bass and guitar, along with Beger's impressionistic sax whispers and wails into a hazy, nuanced and open-ended texture that has a captivating effect. The last improvisation "Concrete Part II—Mantram" is more playful and lighter in spirit, almost like an alternative rock song with a recurring theme and groove, its optimist tone celebrating the realization of a new experience and new sonic options.

Farthest South's adventurous journey to new frontiers is a most interesting one.

Track Listing: A Lesson Learned - Part I - Creating Transformation; A Lesson Learned- Part II – Lecture; Concrete - Part I – Godshall; Concrete - Part II – Mantram.

Personnel: Barry Berko: electric guitar; Yair Yona: bass, effects; Yair Etziony: electronics; Albert Beger: saxophone.

Title: Omens & Talismans | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Self Produced

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