‘Electric’ Israeli band delights in Pittsburgh debut
G-Nome Project produces a confounding experience. On display last week in Pittsburgh, the band’s brand of synthesized sounds and recurring pulsating themes — an Israeli livetronica electro-funk kind of affair — aroused listeners to a straddled state of meditation and quake.
For those sitting behind tables or grooving on the floor of Club Cafe on the city’s South Side, the band’s local debut was for many an acoustic awakening.
“When you listen to their stuff you think it’s going to be all electronic, but there’s a big analog component. It’s analog playing electronic; it’s amazing,” said Sruli Broocker of Squirrel Hill, whose band Chillent opened the evening with a 30-minute set.
“In my opinion, it’s just electronic enough,” noted Michael Berger, bass player for The Clock Reads, a psychedelic/jam band KDKA deemed one of five “Best Up-And-Coming Pittsburgh Bands To Check Out In 2016.”
For more than 90 minutes, G-Nome Project delivered a voiceless captivating call. With not a single lyric uttered throughout its set, the four member group guided listeners through a maze-like auditory journey. Beginning with the surging beats of “March of the Mice,” the band interspersed a sonic adventure of rapidity and improvisation with tantalizingly familiar themes, including “Pure Imagination” from the 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and “Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?” from the popular children’s television show.
The mesmerizing thing about G-Nome Project is that they play themes and then “go into a jam from that for a long time then go back into the theme. It’s a really cool thing,” said Jules Coulson, Chillent’s drummer.
“They’re more organic than your normal electronic jam band,” added Berger.
Defining the band’s space within an ever-growing stratosphere of musical genre leads listeners to an interesting dialogue of definitional boundaries. Perhaps more intriguing, though, is a collective understanding of the band’s identity.
“I see the kipah on the guy’s head, but I wouldn’t be able to tell [if they’re Israeli or Jewish],” said Coulson.
“They all look like someone who went to my Hebrew school,” added Berger.
But apart from Zechariah Reich’s covered head and Chemy Soibelman’s pre-show Hebrew announcement — shniah, echad l’hashem, “wait a second, one for Hashem” — as the drummer ran out to smoke a final cigarette before going onstage, little distinguishes the group’s nationality or faith. There are no lyrical acclamations of a homeland, no flags hanging below the lights and, without even a pause between songs, no chance for political discourse.
And while G-Nome Project could easily pass as four musicians conjoined by talent and a similar foreign residence, Soibelman, the spirited drummer behind the band, articulated the group’s state.
After the show, when posed a possible semantic of whether G-Nome Project is a band of Israeli musicians or musicians who are Israeli, Soibelman emphatically elected the former.
“We are Israeli musicians,” the Brooklyn-born percussionist asserted. “Even if we have to fly in 10 times a year, we will. We’re definitely Israeli. Even if we sign a multimillion dollar contract and have to be here every day, we’ll fly back to Israel in the morning.”
“I feel like they can exist in parallel, not necessarily in hierarchy,” explained Reich, the band’s bass guitarist, when asked about the identity-laden grammatical challenge.
Diplomatically removing himself from the puzzle was Eyal Salomon, G-Nome Project’s keyboardist, who said, “Zechariah and Chemy are the spiritual overseers of the band.”
Perhaps like their genre stretching music, G-Nome Project may just be definitionally amorphous. Regardless, their quality is clear.
“I think they got a great groove,” said Berger.
Added Coulson, “They’re great, they’re very loose and the spirit of improv guides them.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.