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Pitom by Yoshie Fruchter and Pitom

Guitarist and composer Yoshie Fruchter is another of John Zorn's recent musical discoveries who works in the increasingly audible - and visible - world of Radical Jewish Culture. Like Koby Isrealite, Shanir Blumenkranz, Jamie Saft, Jon Madof & Rashanim, Eyal Maoz, and several others on the Tzadik roster, Fruchter's dynamic, highly original music is more aptly described as a sort of avant-garde instrumental rock that draws its inspiration from Jewish traditional themes and forms. Though artists such as Sonic Youth, Masada, Bill Laswell, and Frank Zappa are name-checked in Pitom's press packet, the actual result also bears some resemblance to the great mid-1970s Fripp / Bruford / David Cross / John Wetton incarnation of King Crimson that produced over-the-top prog classics such as Lark's Tongues In Aspic, Red, USA, and Starless and Bible Black. Though the similarity is partly due to both groups having the same instrumental lineup, the overall sound concept of the two bands is also similar. Both Fruchter and bassist Shanir Blumenkranz like to play fast and loud, and both use a lot of fuzzy distortion. Violinist / violist Jeremy Brown - like David Cross - prefers a very natural, effects-free tone. Unlike Cross, Brown plays his instruments like a mad Gypsy with his pants on fire. Kevin Zubek's flowing, jazzy, polyrhythmic drumming provides a palpable link to the world of modern jazz, much like Bill Bruford did for King Crimson. Finally, like mid-70s Crimson, Pitom's music is concise, hard-edged, tuneful, dynamic, and surprisingly free of the excesses often associated with experimental rock.

The CD kicks off in a lighthearted manner with the Judaeo-surf rocker Skin and Bones. On paper this looks improbable, but it works. 'Go Go Golem' is, as its name suggests, an ultra-heavy Crimsoid anthem replete with distorted guitars, pounding drums, and fuzz-bass. Blumenkranz gets a gloriously noisy solo in before Fruchter and Brown take the tune completely out into heavy-metal heaven. Like the other heavy-rockin' tracks - 'Minim' (Parts 1 & 2), and 'Robe of Priestly Proportions (Part 1)' - 'Go Go Golem' is blessed with a strong melody, and an interesting non-linear structure. The fact that these guys are superb improvisers only adds to the excitement. Not content to be pigeonholed, Fruchter and his band delve into all sorts of other sounds and rhythms on "Pitom." 'Robe of Priestly Proportions (Part 2)' alternates lyrical Klezmer-like passages with holwling slabs of fuzzed sludge, and Zubek gets to flash his formidable jazz chops on 'Davita', a swift, jazzy, Masada-like tune with a bounding 6/8 meter. On the other end of the spectrum, both 'The Binding of Burning Books' and 'Shikora' have a super-chilled late-night vibe that wouldn't be out of place on one of Tom Verlaine's instrumental CDs. 'Minim (Parts 1 & 2)' explores a variety of rhythms and time signatures at breakneck skate-punk tempos - the duet between Brown's violin and Fruchter's violently shredding guitar is refreshingly visceral. The CD's lone ballad, the bittersweet 'Sadie's Splinter' closes "Pitom" on a gentle, thoughtful note.

Pitom is a first-rate debut CD by an incredibly creative, remarkably capable, and gutsy band that takes musical risk-taking in stride. This CD is a must-have for Tzadik fans and fans of instrumental progressive rock, as well as for those who simply enjoy intense music in general.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Yoshie Fruchter and Pitom
  • CD Title: Pitom
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: Tzadik
  • Rating: Five Stars
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