I first encountered Avital Raz’s music a few weeks ago when she supported Neil McSweeney for his surprisingly energetic Sheffield album launch show. There, I enjoyed Raz’s set, but found the loudness of the audience at the back of the room distracting, and it was difficult to really get into the music because of it. This studio release provides a much more varied sound though, than just Raz herself armed with acoustic guitar; yet that element remains integral to all the songs.
The Fallen Angel’s Unravelling Descent opens with “TV”, a catchy song that blends a Kimya Dawson-esque country guitar line with macabre lyrics and sudden dynamic time changes that are sure to keep the listener interested, and an easily singable refrain to top it off makes it a hard opener for the rest of the album to follow. “Bored Lord” takes up this challenge well, with its darker tone and deeply theological lyrics enabling me to see immediately why she was such a good match for a Neil McSweeney show. Raz’s vocal skill is prominent already, making an obviously good use of her degrees in vocal performance.
“Male Order Bride”, the album’s single, is a novel look at gender equality (or the lack of, therefore) in the wider world, with a repetitive country music accompaniment that enables it to be seen as an easy crowd-pleaser live (and it was her closing song, I think I recall). The spontaneous bursts of other instruments, which seem to become a trademark throughout the album, can be heard exceptionally thoroughly in “The Damn Flood”, which showcases musically an international tour-de-force alongside aggressive guitar strokes and the constant presence of an eerie accordion (Luke Carver Gross).
Raz’s vocal talents are again shown off in the slightly slower “Regarding Angels”, with its celestial interludes interspersed with talk-singing akin to one of the more experimental Patti Smith offerings. It’s not all interesting experiments with instruments, keys, and times though – the album’s title track, for example, remains relatively simple, which is admittedly needed as a change to allow the lyrics and songwriting to speak for themselves without too much embellishment. The middle of the album seems to contain a lot more filling in than the opening tracks did though; perhaps that is just an element of one getting used to her sound, but it still manages to keep the listener’s attention enough to warrant a genuine desire to stick around and hear the last few songs.
The persistent background accordion really compliments “My Lover Is Cold” well, giving it a pleasant Eastern European busking sound as if it was written to be played on a street corner in Odessa instead of a club in Yorkshire. I would actually like to see Raz play songs from the album with a backing band in the future, instead of simply with her guitar, to see if that /changes the live dynamic in a venue like The Harley in Sheffield. The calmly exotic dynamic of “Yossi’s Song” sounds slightly misplaced though; I would perhaps have received it better if it were earlier on the album. Overall though, Avital Raz provides a diverse journey through a range of politically relevant and socially personal comments revolving around displacement and estrangement. The instrumentation is solid and the accompaniments unique; the vocal range is as impressive as her lyric writing. Would I recommend getting this album? Yes, so go and give it a try.
Album Score - 8/10