TRACK: Tamar Aphek – ‘Show Me Your Pretty Side’: introducing a new Israeli swamp-blues guitar talent

Tamar Aphek, photographed by Rotem Lebel

SHE HAS a smokey caress of a voice, she has clear sight, passion and direction, and she can wield six strings with the best of them; ladies and gentlemen, get ready to make some room in your heart for Tamar Aphek, coming at you with the dark, sultry reverb noir of “Show Me Your Pretty Side”, ahead of her debut album under her own name for Kill Rock Stars in January.

She’s a face in her native Israel, being called “Israel’s guitar goddess” by the magazine Timeout Tel-Aviv. She runs the Besides That festival and wrote the soundtrack to the 2016 comedy-drama One Week And A Day, an award winner at Cannes.

But she came to rock music relatively late; she sang in a prestigious choir and took piano lessons for a decade. That all changed at 18.

“It wasn’t until I first heard bands like Fugazi, Shellac, Sonic Youth, Jesus Lizard, Blonde Redhead, Unwound, Slint; Elliott Smith’s Either/Or, that I started diving into history,” she says.

“I was fascinated by the minimalist sound based on asymmetric time signatures these bands had.”

That was a course set. Next stop? A guitar of her own. “I remember when I bought my first really cheap, small amplifier, and my first shitty guitar,” she says. 

“I will never feel so happy about a guitar and amplifier again. Even if I play the most expensive Fender, nothing will compare to that excitement.”

She’s just dropped her first single for new label Kill Rock Stars, “Show Me Your Pretty Side”. Take a listen below. She drapes her smokey tones over twangy guitar which always sounds liking its looking for a new avenue to explore; there’s curls of sax. My betting is you’ll be getting little elements of Polly Jean, of The Gun Club, even a little Khruangbin, in that smokey blues.

“Most of my songs reflect a quest to find an equilibrium between contrasts: either love vs hate in relationships, justice and injustice within society, war and peace between nations and so on, ” she says of the song.

“In my search to find some answers, I was inspired by the Nobel lecture of Martin Luther King [in 1964], who talked about the conflict between material and spiritual realms of human beings.

“My song is an inner dialogue between what I call the ‘good cop bad cop’ which I believe exists in every person, so one person is asking his or her partner to take off the cover which conceals the pretty side.”

And that album name? “I chose the name All Bets Are Off long before the COVID 19 pandemic became part of our life.

“The name’s meant to symbolize uncertainties in life in a way that deepens the cognitive dissonance one feels when inconsistency and contradictions are tackled, either on a personal level or within a society.”

Tamar Aphek’s All Bets Are Off will be released by Kill Rock Stars on digital, CD, trad black and limited violet vinyl on January 29th, 2021, and may be pre-ordered from the label’s shop, here.

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