It can seem like every four-to-the-floor house DJ that gets a chance to make their debut album tries to remake Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks. Yotam Avni, on the other hand, has made an electronic jazz album.
He’d been moving in this direction for some time anyway, and Was Here is a playful but sophisticated piece that reflects a serious musical mind. Avni launched his career with the big chords and bigger vocals of “That’s What The World Needs” (fittingly remixed by Terrence Parker) on Jamie Thinnes’ Seasons Limited. Eight years later this feels like a monument, a milestone to how far he’s traveled, both literally and creatively since then.
After the musique concrète intro (obligatory!), we fall deep into the lushness of “Beyond The Dance.” The title is both an advisory and a warning, situated right at the top where everyone can see it and take note. Not that you need to read it to know: “Beyond The Dance” is striking for its ethereal beauty, a Torah-like chant calling out from a cultivated silence. “It Was What It Was” has the techno head buzz of a Gerald Mitchell release. Avni makes tracks that lead you to the point of eruption and then holds it right there and this is a pretty good specimen of how effective it is.
There are a number of striking tracks on here but they do feel like they lean on each other for their soul. “Just Another Day” (featuring dOP and Greg Paulus) is another dance on the precipice of ecstasy and disaster; “Free Darius Now” appropriates the bright and shiny style of production familiar in ’80s commercial jazz. An interesting observation is that some of the more electronic and techno-oriented tracks also sound like they could be played by a live jazz band made up solely of keys, drums and winds.
Just about anyone can make and release a debut LP right out of the box these days. Most of them, if you missed the nuance of the opening paragraph, don’t really cover their creators’ in glory. Yotam Avni on the other hand has worked slowly, diligently — “paid his dues,” they might have once said, and not to other people but to the music itself. It isn’t easy. It isn’t always fun. But that’s the only way to do it — and that’s why this one will be worth coming back to, tomorrow, next year, eight years from now. Yotam Avni was here and it will mean something.
Yotam Avni: Was Here / Kompakt (May 29 2020/2×12″ Vinyl/CD/Digital)
1. Yotam Avni: Intro (00:34)
2. Yotam Avni: Beyond The Dance (06:17)
3. Yotam Avni: It Was What It Was (Album Version) (07:00)
4. Yotam Avni: Free Darius Now (05:20)
5. Yotam Avni: Nature Of Dreams (06:24)
6. Yotam Avni: Just Another Day (feat. dOP & Greg Paulus) (06:46)
7. Yotam Avni: Thoughts (04:37)
8. Yotam Avni: Vortex (05:47)
9. Yotam Avni: Know Hope (06:06)
10. Yotam Avni: 9th Of May (06:35)
11. Yotam Avni: Island Hopper (feat. Georg Levin) (04:37)