‘Dance of the Idiots” takes the thrust of heavy metal and slams it together with a Balkan restlessness while maintaining a strong Jewish spiritedness. If you’ve grown up in a musical or cultural blender, this record will make perfect sense to you. If you haven’t, it will strike you as highly imaginative and, more importantly, highly listenable and danceable.
“I love all kinds of music,” says Koby Israelite, who at age 13 moved from Israel to London where he started drumming in Jewish wedding bands. He spent his teens listening to heavy metal — Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Rush — but with time became interested in other music — jazz, funk, African, Frank Zappa and Mr. Bungle, a wonderfully demented band led by former Faith No More frontman, Mike Patton. Diverse influences aside, Israelite points to one event as especially significant in his musical development: two years ago his girlfriend took him to see the Gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks. “This was a turning point for me,” he says. “The next morning I bought an accordion.”
To be sure, not everyone has taken the same musical journey as Israelite. But for many it has been similar, and that’s why this album, strange as it is, is so enjoyable and familiar. “Wanna Dance?” opens with monks reciting Gregorian chants punctuated by atmospheric keyboard noises bouncing off the church walls. Drums drop in, and a fuzzed-out guitar and ominous bass alternate with a melancholy Eastern European melody rendered on some stringed instrument. Several minutes into the tune the bass gets all wet and nasty, and a horn solo hoists listeners to the ceiling while the rest of the band jams so hard you’ll forget how strange the mix is — it just makes sense. “Truah” sounds like the soundtrack to some Blaxploitation/Gypsy chase scene. “Battersea Blues” is underpinned by the low drone of a didgeridoo and a haunting vibrato guitar, while a clarinet and accordion play a gut-wrenching melody that eventually gives way to an ambient interlude of watery sounds and animalistic noises before the guitar and accordion creep back in.
Such compositions run the risk of sounding overly wrought. But from the start, “Dance of the Idiots” is spacious, fun and joyously imaginative. Perhaps this is because Israelite’s mission is not simply to dazzle but to communicate his journey in life honestly and musically: “All I try to do is to create something beautiful. I dedicated myself to beauty, and the outcome might be strange and hectic but this is me as a person.”
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