Live in Portland May 19, 2018 | Bunk Bar
Yonatan Gat’s previous band Monotonix was known for their wild performances, playing on the floor surrounded
by the crowd, shows that caused so much bedlam–throwing garbage, crowd surfing in trash cans, swinging from rafters– that they were banned from venues in their hometown of Tel Aviv. They instilled an uncertainty around the physical space, but come their breakup in 2011 Gat wanted to explore what an improvisation like that would look like in the music itself. His solo debut, 2015’s Director, is the manifesto, fusing the garage/punk instruments of his past with a freeform jazz execution.
Unlike the more structured songs of Monotonix, his solo work follows a melody, ravages it apart until it is unrecognizable and moves on to the next song. Tracks collide traditional rock instruments with each other, mixing to a static froth, where kick drums and cymbals raise to combative tempos, only to drop out abruptly into a lonesome piano or a breezy classical guitar. Order into Chaos, chaos back into order.
The new album Universalists is exploring those extremes with more than a hint of spirituality taking form as organic, softer sounds. Where Director was a heavy focus on instruments, here we find Gat testing the use of the voice to convey a warm humanity. On “Post-World” and “Chronology,” Gat puts south asian prayer vocals front-and-center, backing them up with droning guitars. “Cue the Machines” begins the album with in-unison throat singing and throughout its three minutes will fold in a speeding snare drum, surf-rock guitars and saxophone, then end at the big ohm that brought us in. “Fading Casino” reincarnates “Casino Cafe” from the last album, adding vocals. It’s this willingness to keep playing around with a sound–even across albums–that gives Gat’s garage/punk influence its jazz edges. It’s music that’s at times a meditation, other times a cathartic release, but always in flux.