Tales From Tel Aviv

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Yuval Havkin photo by Ariel Efron

“What happens in Tel Aviv is counter to everything else that is happening in Israel.”

Andrew Jervis is Bandcamp’s Chief Curator and host of the Bandcamp Weekly.

For the past couple of years I’ve been obsessively following the Tel Aviv-based Raw Tapes record label. While they may not boast a roster crammed full of household names, their musical output has been consistently engaging and enjoyably unpredictable. The Buttering Trio cut worldly rhythms with a streetwise edge, dreamy KerenDun sings soulful, cosmic-tinged torch songs, and most recently they’ve started a jazz-inspired series, leading off with an album by drummer Sol Monk.

I wanted to learn more about the label and its rambling family of acts, but information on the web was scarce. Their own site lists a fictional Osbourne “Ease” Green as the label’s head honcho, but there were no other clues as to who these people were. Going to their Bandcamp site felt like crashing a party; the artists all hobnob on each other’s releases, and they have a ton of great tunes and eye candy album art, but I was still in the dark. Recent Boiler Room sets and little blurbs in hip places like FACT magazine shed some light and confirmed I wasn’t alone in my appreciation of the crew, so after further investigation I tracked down Raw Tapes co-founders Yuval Havkin and Guy Glikshtein for the truth, and nothing but. As a DJ and producer, Havkin releases music on Raw Tapes as Rejoicer and Guadaloop, and he’s also a member of The Buttering Trio, 12-piece group L.B.T., and one half of the duo known as Play Dead. As a designer Glikshtein creates most of the album art, and he records for the label as Plusga.

Andrew Jervis: When did Raw Tapes start – did you found it by yourselves? Who else was involved early on? Why did you start it?

Havkin/Glikshtein: The label started in 2009 when we decided we needed to create one roof for all the music we were creating, and for all the music from our friends. Starting with a very low-cost system – virtually no money being spent, artists producing and mixing their own stuff, home mastering – we naturally evolved into a more invested and grander system that fits the quality of the music.

AJ: What were you doing before the label?

H: I was working as a bartender in an Italian restaurant but my mind was always in the studio. Back then I was making jungle beats, and promoting/DJing jungle/D&B/hip hop/reggae parties as a member of Sensi Sound, a 7 people sound system. My vinyl collection got ridiculously big around that time, with hella’ old school jungle, hip hop, Indian and Bollywood sounds from the ‘70’s, and other weird old records – and that got me into making hip hop beats, too.

G: I owned (and lived in) a silk-screen print studio where I was experimenting with designing for and printing on fabrics (as Jengo). When the next-door club wasn’t banging on my walls, I was making beats and smoking hash (as Plusga). In that studio Yuv and I decided to create Raw Tapes, and also printed all of our first merchandise.

AJ: When I think about Israel the first things that come to mind are the peace process, and then maybe food, but according to Wikipedia, Tel Aviv is “the city that never sleeps” — is that true?

H/G: What happens in Tel Aviv is counter to everything else that is happening in Israel. Some people want to fight over a piece of insignificant land, and other people want to push the world forward. All these people who come from the second group concentrate in Tel Aviv to be able to network and make shit happen – it’s like an escape bubble.

AJ: What is the music scene like in Tel Aviv? Is it supportive of your sound? What other music is popular there?

H/G: The music scene in Tel Aviv is small but very active. It has an edgier sound that draws from the electronic world – which runs against the rock music typically heard on Israeli radio. All types of bass music gets heavy play in clubs and enjoys local support: from trance in the ‘90’s all the way through dubstep in late 2000’s, and now trap, footwork, techno and whatnot. The cool thing about Raw Tapes is that it never fit into any of those trends – we’ve kept a consistent, unique, and eclectic mix of dirty hip hop and warm electronics. Yes, Tel Aviv has really started showing support in the last year and so we’ve been able to throw some of the coolest events in the city (we’ve featured Samiyam, Peanut Butter Wolf, Free the Robots, Georgia Anne & Dudley Perkins with DJ Romes, Oh No, IAMNOBODI, along with local stuff), in some of the best venues like Port Saaid, Pasaz, Teder, and Casino San Remo. We’ve seen some radio play, too.

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AJ: Does your reach in Israel extend beyond Tel Aviv?

H/G: Yes, and fortunately crews like Ghostown help create bubbles in other cities like Haifa.

AJ: Are all Raw Tapes artists based in Tel Aviv?

H/G: Most of the Raw Tapes crew is located in Tel Aviv, except Plusga/Jengo and Radixx, who live in Los Angeles.

AJ: What was the first release on the label?

H/G: The first real release was in 2009, Plusga vs. Guadaloop “The Big Showdown.” It drew inspiration (for the name and the cover) from the Scientist vs. Prince Jammy LP “The Big Showdown,” a classic dub record. We printed 100 CD’s that we still have – that’s when we realized printing CD’s was a waste of money! Looking for a more efficient way to release the music, we came across Bandcamp in 2010, and the next release (Mad Steve & Rejoicer’s “Street Hype” EP,) and everything ever since, has been on Bandcamp.

Sol Monk

AJ: Your most recent release is an interesting collaboration with a jazz drummer. Who is Sol Monk? And why are you doing a series of releases with jazz musicians?

H: Sol Monk is the stage name of the super-drummer Aviv Cohen – a creative and funky musician and a very good friend. I was a fan of his trio Layerz, which features a soul singer from Israel called Marina Maximilian Blumin, and thought that instead of programming or playing drums for my music I’d ask Sol Monk to do it and that’d leave me to deal with rest of the music. But then Avishai Cohen, Avri Borochov, Beno Hendler, Nomok, Mo Rayon, Yonatan Albalak, KerenDun and Shuzin wound up on the album and made it complete. In the last 2 years I’ve met a lot of jazz heads that are into beats and especially Raw Tapes’ shit. Some of them became my best friends (the super group L.B.T. for instance), and I felt that we could document our love for simple, groovy, sampled beats next to the smart, abstract play of jazz in a series of albums. So that’s what this new series of releases will be about. They’re called the Time Grove Selections.

AJ: What can we expect from the forthcoming Buttering Trio album “Jam”?

H: Buttering Trio’s forthcoming album “Jam” is quite different from the trio’s previous album. It is much more surreal, with longer tracks. The sound, the stories, and the creation process were all influenced by the time in which the album was recorded — during the bombings that occurred in Israel in November 2012. There were alarms being set off while playing, and the whole atmosphere of the album, as a result, is dark and senseless on the one hand, soft and hopeful on the other.

Buttering trio

AJ: Are they completely obsessed with breakfast items (the last album being “Toast”)? And what’s the band’s connection to Berlin/Tel Aviv?

H: The trio is, in fact, quite obsessed with breakfast items that have double meanings – Toast, Jam, Butter, etc. We eat breakfast every day, but the album was recorded in a three-day jam session in the 106fm studios, and this cemented the album name. Originally based in Berlin, the trio’s first EP, “Party Bear,” was created there, in Wrangel 666 Studios. Nowadays the trio is based in Tel Aviv, but we still try to visit Berlin as much as possible.

Upcoming releases on Raw Tapes include:

Kalimist “K Boog” (July), Malox “XXL” and Rejoicer “The Big White Ball” (August), Calo Wood Vol. 2 feat. Ester Rada (September), Buttering Trio – Jam (October), KerenDun & Echo “Yey4Ney” (November), Beno (December), and a full-length from Live Beat Tapes aka L.B.T. (tbd)

Bandcamp App Update, Now with Search, Music Discovery K-Hole

You can now dig through Bandcamp’s catalog of 1.4 million albums and 10.7 million tracks, right from the app. Search for artists and fans, too:

Search for albums, tracks, artists and fans

You can also now tap on any fan image in the new “supported by” section below the music in your collection, and then listen to that fan’s full collection (this is an awesome way to discover new music):

Tap on fans to listen to their collection

For items in your collection, you can pick your favorite track, and tell the artist and your followers why you love that record:

Add your favorite track and comment

And finally, if you still haven’t set an image for yourself, you can now do that from the app too (it’s in Settings):

Set your fan bio image for maximum fun

Do I need a fan account for all this? Yes, details here.

I already have a Bandcamp artist account, can I sign up for a fan account too? Yes. If you’d like your artist and fan account to be one and the same (e.g., you’re a solo artist and don’t want to maintain separate logins), make sure you’re logged in to your artist account, and then sign up here.

I’m an artist, is there anything I should do to improve my appearance in search? Yes, please visit Bandcamp from a desktop machine, go to your profile, and make sure you’ve set your bio image. We’ll show it in search results, your artist page, and the about section of your albums.

The Future Sound of Latin America  

ZZK Records foundersGuillermo Canale, Diego Bulacio, Grant C. Dull

“The most important lesson we’ve learnt is that there is no formula, you’ll never know when something is going to hit. Passion and perseverance are everything.”

ZZK Records was seeded in the sweaty confines of a Buenos Aires weekly underground party. American expat Grant C. Dull and two Argentine friends, Guillermo Canale and Diego Bulacio, hosted the Zizek Club. “ZZK was born out of three nut-job, music-loving romantics who thought they were onto something,” explains Dull (aka El G). After two years of mashing “ideas, beats and rhythms,” the trio wanted to expand beyond their local base to show the world how Argentina gets down. “It was born out of a passion to take things bigger and enjoy life to the fullest, through music, friendship and good times,” Dull says.

The sound of ZZK is centered on digital cumbia, a hyper-modern take on the popular Latin American genre. Cumbia has been re-interpreted locally across the continent for over a century, but was arguably popularized for younger and foreign audiences by the likes of Mexico’s Toy Selectah and Diplo’s Mad Decent label. Digital cumbia has increased in popularity, and the sound and styles have expanded concurrently with wider access to music production technologies. Today, ZZK is one of the leading exponents of the genre, thanks to a roster that has included artists like Frikstailers, El Remolon and La Yegros, dubbed the “first lady of digital cumbia.” Beyond cumbia, the label provides a creative ground for artists to experiment with and reimagine other traditional Latin American genres and sounds.

In just five years, the trio behind ZZK have succeeded in extending the reach of their club night, benefiting from coverage on CNN and NPR, and editorial in The New York Times. They have also received invitations to SXSW and Coachella, and a distribution deal for the US and Japan. “Five years is a lifetime to think about, in this business and this country,” Dull remarks. “To make it another five years would be epic.” With growth come lessons, and Dull is certainly not looking back on ZZK’s achievements without a degree of realism. “The most important lesson we’ve learnt is that there is no formula, you’ll never know when something is going to hit. Passion and perseverance are everything. There is no finish line, just illusions and dreams,” he says.

While music remains the focus for ZZK, they’re also experimenting with other mediums. ZZK Film will be the home for visual projects, starting with The Nu LatAm Sound, a documentary exploring the roots of the digital music revolution that’s swooped across Latin America.

 

El Remolon

El Remolon

Pibe Cosmo, by El Remolon, was the third full-length release on ZZK, back in October 2008. Earlier this year he dropped the Selva album, his fourth release for the label. “Independent artists would still be poor if they didn’t keep day jobs. Electronic music came to Argentina in the last 10, 15 years, but with the rise of EDM there isn’t a lot of space for the kind of music we do at the moment. ZZK have a very strong international component, which gives releases more visibility. There aren’t many labels with this level of professionalism who are passionate about releasing digital cumbia.”

 

Frikstailers

Frikstailers

Frikstailers are the duo Rafa Caivano and Lisandro Sona, two Argentine artists now relocated to Mexico City. They first encountered ZZK after an invitation to play the Zizek Club during a Buenos Aires installment of the Mutek festival.

“We’ve really grown together. From the start, we added our own individual experiences and turned them into collective learning. That’s where our strength comes from and also how we spread around the globe.”

 

King Coya

King Coya

King Coya, legally known as Gaby Kerpel, hails from the northern Argentine Andes. He is one of ZZK’s most experimental artists, drawing from not only cumbia, but also Argentine folklore and electronic music. “It’s difficult to get younger people to see folklore as cool and use it in the electronic world as an alternative to mainstream music. But that’s also the best thing: it’s a very attractive challenge.”

 

Animal Chuki

Animal Chuki

Animal Chuki, the duo of Andrea Campos and Daniel Valle-Riestra, is from Lima, Peru. They were attracted to ZZK after hearing music from the likes of King Coya and Fauna, and now they’re bringing a renewed youthful energy to the roster.

“It’s really special to be a part of a label with so many great artists we love. We also share a vision of building a much larger and beautiful music community inside and outside of Latin America. In Lima, people are more receptive to new sounds, so the scene is evolving and positive. The best thing for us is the feeling of brotherhood between the artists and the unity that keeps us growing.”

A Match Made in Heaven

Brazil 2014, best new music

The lead-up to World Cup 2014 has been clouded by allegations of financial corruption, and news of mass eviction and clearing of favelas. While sports fans and protestors debate the morality of the impending tournament, there remain a couple of facts that are untouchable: Brazil has always been home to amazing music, and has also produced some of the most exciting football ever (that’s “soccer” to our American readers!). Whether you’re considering watching the World Cup, or possibly raising your voice in concern, Lewis Robinson has compiled a soundtrack to get you in the mood. Robinson runs the ever-dependable Mais Um Discos label, and has just released the extensive Role: New Sounds of Brazil compilation. Here he picks a track from an artist in each of the cities playing host to the Cup.

 

Rio de Janeiro

Mahmundi

Mahmundi

Rio de Janeiro is the home of bossa nova, and the acoustic guitar is central to the city’s musical identity. Mahmundi, a new artist from Rio, uses the instrument as a percussive tool, over which she stretches forlorn vocals to create a gorgeous slice of tropical-chillwave.

 

Brasilia

Silvia Tape

Silvia Tape

Silvia Tape makes androgynous-punk-funk that reflects her upbringing amidst the brutalist concrete buildings located in the blazing centre of Brazil.

 

Porto Alegre

Apanhador So

Apanhador So

Anti-World Cup demonstrators have tuned in to, and adopted, the glitchy and confrontational vibe of “Mordido” by Brazilian alt-rock band Apanhador So.

 

São Paulo

Barbara Eugenia

Barbara Eugenia

Barbara Eugenia is a respected singer-songwriter from São Paulo responsible for two solo albums, and was a collaborator on the Aurora album released in early 2014. This quirky little number, from her É o Que Temos album, shows why she is a cut above the rest.

 

Salvador de Bahia

Lucas Santtana

Lucas Santtana

In contrast to the raucous carnival that his hometown of Salvador de Bahia is known for, Santtana drops a lilting, beautifully underplayed bossa nova track with a subtle electronic edge.

 

Recife

Alessandra Leao

Alessandra Leao

Alessandra Leao, with her grounded, rootsy voice, and partner Cacapa, armed with jangly uplifting guitar, team up as one of the best combinations in Brazilian contemporary folk music.

 

Curitiba

Karol Conka

Karol Conka

The first lady of Brazilian hip hop lets rip over a frenetic double-time percussive beat from hyped Brazilian producer Nave.

 

Fortaleza

Paula Tesser

Paula Tesser

Paula Tesser left Fortaleza to hone her songwriting skills in France. She is now back in her hometown and recently delivered a timeless album of classic Brazilian MPB with a French twist – bien sûr! Photo by Nicolas Gondim

 

Belo Horizonte

Dead Lover’s Twisted Heart

Dead Lover's Twisted Heart

Belo Horizonte is currently a hub for one of Brazil’s most exciting music scenes. “Apocalipse do Amor” is an unashamedly feel-good-brega-funk track, and a certified home-town anthem.

 

Cuiabá

Fuzzly

Fuzzly

Cuiabá is located in the exact center of South America, and is the home base for Fuzzly. The trio have been making heavyweight stoner rock since 2001.

 

Natal

Igapó de Almas

Igapo de Almas

Psychedelic Balearic-folk with a distinctly shamanistic twist, by a mysterious quartet who are at the cutting edge of Natal’s burgeoning music scene.

 

Manaus

Os Tucumanus

Os Tucumanus

The streets of Os Tucmanus’s home city of Manaus are lined with vendors peddling all kinds of delicacies. On “Churrasco de gato” these tropical rock n’ rollers go in search of the rarest of treats: cat barbecue.

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