Switched On – Apifera: Overstand (Stones Throw)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

How long should it take to record an album? From the stories we hear, a few months would seem to be appropriate; a few weeks if the components really click. Apifera, newly formed as a quartet, took just three days to finish theirs, which explains its instinctive music making.

The band are accomplished solo artists from Tel Aviv who have played together before on the Stones Throw label, fronted by Yuval Havkin under his Rejoicer moniker. Here they appear as equals, listing an intriguing set of influences that include Ravel, Debussy and Sun Ra. These are placed in the melting pot alongside folk influences from Israel, Ghana and Sudan.

What’s the music like?

Given the outline above, it is no surprise to report that Overstand is both instinctive and musically free. The music reflects the fresh approach with which it was recorded, creating vivid pictures while utilising a satisfying ebb and flow of energy. The mood is largely positive, the chemistry between the players clear as they create room for each to have their own say.

Drummer Amir Bresler provides the best example of this approach, with complicated rhythms on Lake VU given impressive clarity but also allowing other contributions to shine through. He is a versatile beat maker, pushing the music along with positive energy, over which the keyboards of Nitai Hershkovits and Yuval himself shimmer and shine. Underneath the bass of  Yonatan Albalak offers a sure foundation but embodies their flexible style.

Theirs is an expansive approach but a focussed one too – none of the improvised passages outstays their welcome, and on occasion they add even more colour with brass.

Does it all work?

It does – Overstand works as an overall creator of positive, laid back moods, but also up close as a set of interlocking lines and textures. Just occasionally the music hints it might lose direction, but these moments are fleeting. The blissful, watery finish of Pulse 420 suggests the band could easily make an accomplished ambient record too.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Gloomy Januarys need this sort of music to see them through – and Overstand is a welcome dose of positivity in that regard. It works very nicely as a blend of its influences, bringing some of the cleaner lines of 20th century classical music up against offbeat jazz rhythms.

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