Homage to computer superiority: the wonderful sonic universe of Israeli D.i.y. artist Adi Gelbart.
Musician Adi Gelbart tweeting Photo: Noam Chojno
No, the dull here and now is not the thing of Israeli musician Adi Gelbart. Instead, he creates his own cosmos that is forward-looking in every respect. This is demonstrated by the new album of the Berlin-based sound tinkerer, who cites jazz, classical music and New Wave bands like Yello as influences in equal measure: "Preemptive Musical Offerings To Satisfy Our Future Masters" is its title.
During the interview, Adi Gelbart explains what’s behind the title: "Tomorrow’s rulers are computers. In 20 years, they will be smarter than we are. And probably kill us or else find ways to use us for something," says the artist, who was born in 1975 and grew up in Tel Aviv.
Perhaps not the worst dystopia, because only stupid creatures like us could have created the current state on earth. "In a way, there’s a sad joke behind it. But that’s why I like science fiction: because there are beings living somewhere who are smarter than us. To those beings I dedicate my music."
The specific humor and his philosophy – for example, understanding the existence of the human species as a series of accidents and world events as a series of bad jokes – are key to understanding the work of underground musician Gelbart. But there is by no means a cynic or defeatist behind these views; on the contrary, Gelbart recognizes in his own creative work the main reason for existence: "Our imagination and the ability to create something out of nothing is the greatest gift," he says.
Gelbart: "Preemptive Musical Offerings to Satisfy Our Future Masters" (Gagarin Records/A-Music). Live: May 7, Berlin, Urban Spree, as part of "Pictoplasma."
No wonder he became an all-round artist in do-it-yourself tradition. Besides music, he makes films – for his short film "Vermin" he created aliens out of vegetables – designs T-shirts and is writing a book. "D.i.y. is the most wonderful concept in my life," the artist says.
He records everything single-handedly
As a nine-year-old, Adi Gelbart started playing music on the organ with a friend, and he had his first bands at school. If you like, he grew up with a family triad: his mother was a classical pianist, his father liked jazz, and his older brother showed him indie bands like Bauhaus or the Pixies. Gelbart himself gradually autodidactically acquired a number of instruments – to date, these would be: guitar, piano, saxophone. For his albums he plays everything in solo.
On the latest album, one can clearly hear a preference: library music, i.e. those recordings that are primarily used as stock for film productions. In part, one thinks that the sound of agent thrillers, detective or cartoon series sounds – but in a wacky lo-fi version. Synths and saxophone are the dominant instruments, the rhythm often has something restless, driven.
Until he was 30, Gelbart lived in Tel Aviv, but it seemed to him more and more "like a big commune" – he constantly met acquaintances on the street. So he moved to the German capital in 2005 and became a convinced Berliner: "When I came here, I enjoyed it so much: I could do whatever I wanted, nobody was interested in me!"
Through the electronic meat grinder
In the past two decades, Gelbart has released around 20 EPs and albums. As "The Lonesomes," he played the world’s most spaced-out country ("Cow-Fi"); as "AKA Gelbart," he put the Beatles’ debut album "Please Please Me" through the electronic meat grinder; as Gelbart, he wrote more indie tunes. Discovering new genres of art, playing with them, deconstructing them: All this is important motivation for him.
Commercial interests take a back seat. "For me, it’s okay to have another job to make a living." He does this as a self-employed programmer. That way, he doesn’t have to pander to anyone artistically: "If people come across my music, fine. If not, also good."
The fact that Gelbart most recently released his albums on Gagarin Records fits in perfectly. Hamburg musician and label owner Felix Kubin also stands for experimental retroesque synth music, and both have a similar musical biography. A space pioneer in the label name: Adi Gelbart should also like that.