Political turmoil meets its match on Noga Erez’s Off the Radar

Noga ErezThe connection between music and politics has been seen in many cultures throughout history. Whether overlooked, disadvantaged or plainly disengaged, the people somehow manage to find a voice through music. But when we encounter artists for whom injustice, social unrest, and political uncertainty is an everyday reality, we aren’t just listening to their music... We're honouring their experience. This is certainly true of Israeli-born Noga Erez and her debut album Off The Radar.

Erez grew up in Tel Aviv during a period of political instability following the Gulf War. It's fair to say that this history forms as much a part of her musical identity, as the more Western influences she brings to her startling electronic sound. Names like Björk, M.I.A., Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, and Frank Ocean might give you a tantalising flavour of this album, but without the context of the environment in which Erez grew up, you miss all of its substance.

Off The Radar is a powerful political commentary on everything from women’s rights (in the provocatively named “Pity”) to the manipulation of government through the media in the brilliantly indignant “Dance While You Shoot”. In fact, these two tracks create the driving force of the entire album. They barely contain Erez’s anger and disdain for the stories they hold, as her voice machine-guns over the grimy synth with a force that's both confrontational and uncomfortable. Title track “Off The Radar” is no less gritty, despite its more pop protestations. It challenges a much more modern phenomenon, namely the desperate need for affirmation and approval. This is perhaps just as vital to Noga Erez as a musician as the rest of the album is to her Israeli heritage.

In fact, we have to wait until the perfectly diminutive 29 seconds of “Side Effect”, with its gospel-like qualities, before any real relief is offered from what's otherwise a jarring war march. Tracks like “Quiet One”, “Hit U” and “Muezzin” grind, buzz and slow dive through the darker elements of Erez’s existence, as if to leave us in no doubt that this is an album of statement and message.

Not only is Noga Erez's debut politically intellectual, but well-constructed too. Her voice is as versatile as it is demonstrative, and it pierces through the intensity of the 15 tracks with a maturity that belies her short recording career to date. Together with her partner, co-writer, composer, and producer Ori Rousso, she has set out and achieved something more than an album of genres; though you'll still find her trademark mix of techno, hip-hop, and world music influences that has bagged her universal praise.

Off The Radar isn’t all electro anger and angst. It has more depth than this, demonstrating Noga Erez’s ability to look beyond her reality and create an escape in her work. There’s an honest vulnerability to tracks like “Worth None”, for instance, which Erez approaches with a voice that is stripped of its contempt, now hauntingly elegant and sensitive.

The overall effect is an album that's part-revolution, part-catharsis. It suggests that while you can never truly uncouple your surroundings from your art, you can perhaps provide a place in which creativity becomes its own healing process.

Release: 2nd June 2017, City Slang

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