PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Avishai Cohen Mixes Acid-Psych, Ambiance, and Smoky Jazz on 'Big Vicious'

Photo: Ziv Ravitz / Courtesy of the artist

Avishai Cohen's Big Vicious offers a stunning take on Massive Attack's "Teardrop" among other highlights on an album that feels like a jazz version of post-rock.

Big Vicious
Avishai Cohen


27 March 2020

As a bandleader, the Israeli-bred trumpeter Avishai Cohen leans democratic. I don't mean that in the American political connotation of the word – sorry, Biden 2020 campaign – but in the tradition of broad cooperation, of each member of a collective having their skin in the game. Cohen attended the same high school in Tel Aviv as guitarist Uzi Ramirez, and many of the players in the instrumental quintet have collaborated previously. This lends Big Vicious' blend of acid-psych wandering, low-boil ambiance and smoky jazz signatures an interesting type of "band-feel" that's sometimes lacking in projects fronted by a noticeable name. Notice this, too: the Israeli-bred jazz bandleader Avishai Cohen who plays the trumpet, is not to be confused with the OTHER Avishai Cohen, who is an Israeli-bred jazz bandleader who plays bass. Easy to see why you'd get that confused.

The record is, indeed, a mélange, and Cohen, with his admirable breath control, sets the stage for the tone of the record more than he steals the spotlights or chews the scenery. Though the group offers a trippy take on Massive Attack's "Teardrop" that's worth noting, especially for fans of the group, the record's best take comes nearly as the curtain falls.

On "Intent", which is track 10 of 11, Cohen lets loose with his most emotive leads, and Ramirez and bassist Jonathan Albalak build the sonic foundation out of mournful four- and six-strings scented with post-rock scope. The piece, just four minutes and change, could run twice as long, and we'd still be lost in its moon-tide refrains. "The Things You Tell Me", a rather blue and sonorous piece, is an engaging and sometimes enrapturing little ballad packed with remorse.

Elsewhere, the record is a little less effective, though no less adept at setting a mood with ambient colors. "Fractals" toys with Indian scales but takes too long to get off the ground fully. When it does take off in flight, it comes floating down quickly. "This Time It's Different" starts with a great thrum of drum fills and an urban backbeat accentuated with funk-bass, but the band doesn't do a whole hell of a lot with the song's potential. For something with this kind of locked groove to sound so much like its surroundings, it leaves listeners wanting.

The record rarely reaches for climax or crescendo. instead, it simmers and hints at trembling the lid, and there are times – I'm thinking mostly of the six-minute-long "Teno Neno", or the snare-clack at the beginning of "Teardrop" – where everything feels just a little too saturated in reverb and flanger pedals. Then again, there's pure inspiration, even a kind of levity, and those moments are not few and far between, either.

On opener "King Kutner", for example, the dual drummers offer an enthralling little backbone for Cohen's cohorts to unravel dirgy, Creedence Clearwater Revival guitar texture, and even the occasional accent of electronics. In the closing moments of "Moonlight Sonata", the snare-runs go wild as Ramirez again hints at post-rockisms – time becomes relative, and the thing just floats. The record isn't always at its best, sometimes leaning on the familiar more than the fantastic, but what Big Vicious does, it does well.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.


'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.