Yuck’s Max Bloom on the Beauty of Vaadat Charigim’s New LP ‘Sinking as a Stone’
The Yuck frontman weighs in on the Tel Aviv-based, Burger Records-signed band.
Max Bloom—the frontman of London-based band Yuck (pictured below)—loves Tel Aviv-based band Vaadat Charigim so much he wanted to write about them and their upcoming second record Sinking as a Stone. So we said, sure!
Going to Israel always brings back nostalgic memories of family holidays when I was younger: unbearable heat, being bitten by a dog on the beach in Tel Aviv, long car journeys to see my grandparents in Jerusalem. Little has changed about Israel since then, it's still the place I remember—a place of extreme heat and extreme contradiction. Obviously, Israel has been the focal point of widespread debate and outrage in the Middle East, and our choice to play a gig there last year was an unexpectedly controversial move. Although many voiced their disapproval on our Facebook page, this didn't really matter to me, as I knew our decision to perform was far from political, and we knew it would be a really cool and interesting show to do. Another big incentive was we'd be supported by one of my favorite new bands, Vaadat Charigim.
I first heard of them through a short documentary about the band which premiered on Noisey early last year. It was their music as a whole that made me fall in love with them, not where they came from. When we performed with them in Tel Aviv our show took place in an old, dusty warehouse, with an abrasive monitor engineer who closely resembled Jesus Christ. I was filled with excitement and anticipation as Vaadat Charigim walked onstage amidst fluorescent backlights and smoke machines, which made the band look as though they were disembarking from a spaceship. The bassist was tall and gangly, wearing a Jesus & Mary Chain t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. The sound was loud and unapologetic, enveloping the audience in waves of noise, big baritone vocals ominously rung out over the top. It was an amazing sound coming from just three people. When it came to our show, we decided to try something special and invite Vaadat Charigim's vocalist Juval onstage with us to sing our song "Rubber" in Hebrew. We had about five minutes to run it through in soundcheck, but we just about managed to pull it off. It was a pretty amazing moment, and one that will always stick in my memory.
After the show, Juval gave me the vinyl for their first record, The World Is Well Lost. The cover was sky blue, with a huge hole tearing through to reveal what looked like an undiscovered, desolate region of space. It reminded me of something you might see right before the world ends. For the next few months I listened to that record over and over again, from the low hum of "Odisea" to the uplifting sadness of "Mashefot." I was well acquainted with their influences, but their sound gave me something I had never really heard before. The melodies and rhythms were all very simple—nothing was superfluous—but within that apparent simplicity were layers upon layers of complex instrumentation, giving me something new to discover every time I returned to the record.
For the next year I stayed in contact with Juval, eagerly awaiting their next album. And then a few months ago, Sinking as a Stone finally landed in my inbox. The first ten seconds of the record are in some ways the most important. I pressed play and an ominous drone slowly started to seep into my ears (so slowly at first I was confused whether I had pressed play or not). For me the sounds conjured images of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Cymbals rise and then the drums kick in, as the bass steadily maintains one continuous note. Different melodies whisper in and out, slowly rising and falling away. Then the vocals kick in, that same big, blank baritone calling out into a dense sea of haze. The drums are solid underneath the chaos, primitive and instinctual, bringing to mind Sonic Youth's Sister-era Steve Shelley.
For me, the feeling that they put across in their music is one of hope, frustration, and loss. I read on The Fader that their most recent single, "Hashiamum Shakoa" (Hebrew for "The Boredom Sinks In"), is a song about "having hope and feeling like everything is hopeless, an all too familiar inner struggle for anyone living in our region."
As with their last record, Sinking as a Stone requires multiple listens in order to get the full effect. From the gently lilting tide of the Cocteau Twins-esque "Klum" to the anthemic climax of "Imperia Achrona," the album left me feeling like I'd just woken up from an intense daydream. In some ways, not being able to understand the Hebrew lyrics puts you more in touch with the emotion in the music. Like a painting, the message isn't direct, you're left to make your own interpretation of what is being put in front of you.
It's hard for me to not think about my own experiences in Israel when I'm listening to their music. Whether or not their location comes into their songwriting, I feel there's an intrinsic sense of yearning in their music—yearning to escape, yearning to live a life not affected by war, yearning for peace in the country where they grew up. This isn't a political record by any means, but it is the sound of isolation, and proof that in places of political and social unrest, beautiful art can arise.
Sinking as a Stone is out on 5.19 via Burger Records / Anova Music.
Max's band Yuck are on Twitter.