Album Review: Noga Erez - Off The Radar
Being born in Tel Aviv at the very tail of the 80s, and growing up there during the first Gulf War, Noga Erez certainly doesn't need to prove her toughness to anyone. The fact that she’s fought through those hard times, used them to shape her worldview, and in turn create music and art informed by her surroundings is something to be admired. Noga is evidently proud of her heritage, but keen to shed light on the situation in Israel when possible.
Noga Erez makes her intentions very clear in the opening of her debut album Off The Radar. ‘Balkada’ starts with the lines “Try to take 'em and make them sing along/ And while you grab 'em, make them feel at home,” delivered unwaveringly at the listening audience. As the song then builds up into a complex tapestry of techno and trap-inflected beats and synths, her voice becomes all the more empowered; if this were a staring contest between artist and listener, Noga would win every time. Second track ‘Dance While You Shoot’ is similarly boisterous and cocky in its offhand questioning “can you dance while you shoot?” that is shortly followed up by a deep bass whack and wriggling electronic melodies worthy of Major Lazer. This kind of playful confidence is Erez’s main stock in trade, and drives the album forward, entirely justifying the bombastic in-your-face pop production that features throughout.
There is a weight and a certain fear to a lot of the lyrics here, as you would expect. In ‘Toy’ she sings “I wear a crown with my head down/ Long, heavy gown hides my bent spine”; ‘Muezzin’ repeatedly admits “there's no coming out of this"; ‘Junior’ informs us “their poisonous hand is feeding me/ I’m choked by the same hand that caresses me”; and the title track whirls around on the lyrics “no one hears me/ no one sees me.” Despite these loaded themes, the album never drags or lets up; the ceaselessly bouncing production defies the heaviness of the words. Each of the lyrics mentioned is delivered in conjunction with crisp alt-pop production, and Noga’s delivery is always powerful and often comes with a sneering derisiveness.
Noga is happy to dish out the hard talk too, doing so in a way that is enlivening as well as cutting. On ‘Pity’ she pokes at the meek, “smart, sharp, weary/ but oh so weary/ skinny, skinny, skinny/ skinny cat in a dog’s land.” On the brief ‘Hit U’ she repeatedly asks “what do you want me to do, you want me to just to hit you?” provoking some kind of response out of a passive listener. Even when she slows it down on the blissful ‘Worth None’ where she admonishes “No doubt because your life is worth none of this,” it seems to be more of an encouragement to get out and do something about it than a put down. Similarly downbeat track ‘Global Fear’ soothes as much as it scares, but finishes with an injection of vampiric synths, hammering home the message.
Off The Radar is a covert political record. If you turned it on with no inkling of Noga Erez’s past or origin, you would probably take as a hard-hitting party pop record. And this is probably the intention with the album; first of all to share the sounds that are making people move in the lesser known scene of the Middle East, and secondly to give people a little insight into the attitudes of its inhabitants. Noga Erez has pulled off quite a feat by packing this all into her debut album.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 7th June 2017.