On Chaim Avital's debut full-length Alive, the Tel Aviv producer's inspired and artful take on deep house music sneaks up on you gradually; the opening cuts, while good enough, feel like teasers for the headier, emotional uplift that arrives soon after. Taken as a whole, however, Alive more than earns its stripes for being a consistently solid collection from start to finish. It's been a long and circuitous journey for Avital, who first soaked up the sounds of electronic music when it drifted into the teen's bedroom from parties going on outside his parents' Tel Aviv home and later experienced another epiphany when he visited New York in the late ‘90s and was exposed to the city's warm and soulful house music for the first time. Alive serves as a more-than-credible calling card.
The windows open during the gently breeze of “Rain” to find sunlight filtering through a refreshing downpour, after which the soulful pleading of Meital De Razon and a breathy background chorus help deepen the melancholy splendour of “U & Eye.” Powered by a pulsing bass line and a relentless house groove, “Everything” takes things up a notch in its raw marriage of piano sprinkles, hyperactive claps, and vocal ping-pong. The emotional drama deepens again during “Love Rehab,” when the seductive rasp of a French-speaking male comes up against the woman's soulful rejoinder “I ain't gonna miss you no more.” It's material such as “Runaway Frequencies” that elevates Chaim's music above the norm. After the tune lunges forth in a joyous, harmonious blend of disco rhythms, cascading piano chords, and pulsating bass patterns, a wistful synth melody suddenly interjects to lend the breezy cut a gravitas it would otherwise lack. While pumping club fare such as the delirious “Don't Shout” and “Popsky” spotlight Chaim's appetite for euphoria, his more restrained side occasionally emerges too. He dials things down a bit, for example, during “Naturalness”—in its opening moments, at least, as its intricate arrangement of synthesizers and percussion grows ever more intense as the track unfolds. It appears that, try as he might, Avital can't suppress his clubby spirit for long.