An Evening with
1811 14th St. NW
Washington, DC, 20009
Yonatan Gat is a genre all to his own. His new opus, Universalists (out May 4th on Joyful Noise in US and Glitterbeat in Europe) sees the New York experimental composer honing his skills not only as guitarist and bandleader, but also as a producer. His sophomore LP sees Gat experimenting with splicing live-to-tape recordings of his genre-bending trio in ways that are as indebted to Kanye West as they are to electric era Miles Davis or Brazilian experimentalists Os Mutantes (with which Yonatan recently released a split 7-inch), pushing the envelope in ways that he can.
Album opener “Cue The Machines” starts with an Italo-Spanish choir – but the voices get manipulated, sampled and chopped into stuttering electronic rhythms underneath Gal Lazer’s merciless jazz-punk drums and Sergio Sayeg’s countermelodic bass. The second track, "Post-World", uses Gat's guitar to reframe a traditional work song from Mallorca into a mysterious, yearning ballad. Lead single “Cockfight” pays homage to Balinese music, and album centerpiece “Medicine” combines Gat’s sound with the Eastern Medicine Singers, a group of Algonquin Native American drummers. Along with Swans’ Thor Harris they create a pulsating, stream-of-consciousness trance.
Universalists lists numerous collaborators, the most intriguing being Silver Jews frontman David Berman credited as album co-producer, particularly since Berman has released little to no new music in the last ten years. Other contributions come from producers such as Calvin Johnson (Beat Happening), Daniel Schlett (Ghostface Killah), and others frequent collaborators from throughout Yonatan's storied career.
Over the previous decade, Gat became known as one of the world's top performers as founder and guitarist of Monotonix, hailed by SPIN as "the most exciting live band in rock’n’roll,” with concerts that quite literally destroyed the border between performer and audience, and were controversial enough to get them banned from playing their home country.
Gat then relocated to New York City. He began recording and performing as a bandleader, and in 2014 released the Iberian Passage EP, a debut that maintained his signature raw energy while switching the focus away from the shock-performance style of Monotonix to a more ritualistic, improvised, shamanic musical exploration. 2015 brought the genre-bending full-length Director. Composed mostly of live improvisations by his trio and field recordings made by Gat, the record was a mind-melting exploration through many different styles of music, from Brazilian psych and Afrobeat to free jazz, surf, and 20th century avant-garde.
Three years in the making, Universalists is a conceptual and crafted snapshot of an artist evolving and experimenting, broadening his musical palette to incorporate vocals, vibraphones, horns, strings and samples, all the while remaining loyal to his live ferocity. Every recording of Gat's band in Universalists was performed (many completely improvised) live, each in a different studio, before they were meticulously edited, rearranged, reframed and reinvented by Gat.
A truly global work set to be released in the hostile political climate of 2018, the album is inevitably charged with a sense of confrontational urgency. But while it is indeed a provocative work, it goes beyond exploring the distress of our time. Universalists goes on to emphasize not the distinction between genres, and by extension cultures, but the complex similarities.
In-depth conversations about the world and our place within await around every corner, in DC at least. Oftentimes these weighty discussions end at an impasse, each side so confident in the rightness of their held position that there is no change. Every once in a while, however, a new perspective on an old belief is born not through entrenched rhetoric, but candid questions. We’ve all heard it, maybe you even said it yourself: “hm, that’s a good question.” Paperhaus don’t have the answers, hell, they’re still looking for the right questions. And that sense of seeking propels their new record—Are These The Questions We Need To Ask?, out Fall 2017 on Pittsburgh’s Misra Records (Destroyer, Phosphorescent, Great Lake Swimmers)—forward, while much of the world is left looking at the past.
Founded in 2006 by Alex Tebeleff (Black Lodge) along with childhood friends Eddie Rivers and Jeff Galfond, and fleshed out by various collaborators over the years—on ATTQWNTA?, Tebeleff has continued the project and is joined by new writing partners Matt Dowling (Deleted Scenes, The Effects, Joy Buttons) and Rick Irby (Den-Mate, Wanted Man, Jau Ocean)—Paperhaus functions as both a band and a creative collective, the latter in the form of their famed house venue (infamously featured on the pilot of HGTV’s DC Flippers). After a tense election season and the loss of a central collaborator to the sun of Los Angeles, Tebeleff felt it was time to change up the project's approach. A steady diet of modular synthesizers, community organizing and collaborative experimentation with aforementioned players emboldened his resolve to ride Paperhaus to its inevitable next stage.
And here we are: now. ATTQWNTA? marks a turning point for Paperhaus. Through a wide palate of psych, kraut, classic pop and noise Paperhaus rips through eight exciting new tracks, each paying service to the album’s whole. The current ensemble shines most on new songs like “Told You What To Say,” “Go Cozy,” and “Walk Through The Woods,” where some of the band’s heaviest guitars mix with a potent, mechanical rhythm section and Tebeleff’s Moog Sub 37, on which many of these compositions were first conceived. The lyrics—penned by Tebeleff and Dowling—reflect the band’s newly matured worldview, infusing their long-held commitment to community with a sense of wide-eyed awe. Settling into a series of studios over the last two years, the final recorded product was expertly engineered & mixed by Peter Larkin of The Lighthouse Recording Studio in Alexandria, VA. All things considered, ATTQWNTA? shows a new band ready to lead their peers out onto the next branch. They haven’t forgotten where they came from, but instead, they’re forging ahead, despite the anxiety of the unknown.
- Peter Lillis