The whistling on 'Long Way From Home' didn't mean instant appeal. But it grew on me because the tune is strong. However off-putting that pre-release track was some weeks ago, I knew that I had to return to hear all of Far Star rather than run for the hills to never hear these new sounds again because I admire the Israeli Gilad Hekselman (although, tsk, haven't caught him live so far) last heard on this blog on record among the cast of players on Ivo Neame's very fine Glimpses of Truth.
This guitarist has a massive reputation among quite a number of progressively-inclined musicians. He has made records under his own name over the past 15 years or so and increasingly collected fans on both sides of the Atlantic. 'Fast Moving Century' is a driving-in-the-car type turn-up-the-radio-now kind of tune equipped with a displaced beat feel that magnifies the syncopated fracturings that the track thrives on.
'I Didn't Know' has an Americana-flecked complexion, the acoustic side coming through and that aspect and its Metheny-isms in the writing (note, writing, rather than the distinct individualism of the playing) are the most important factors to triage on this fine record. The title track is a quiet ballad and Hekselman writes great tunes and as you'd expect from a virtuoso guitarist has an incredible harmonic grasp. Notable too that 'Magic Chord' is muscular with its big blocks of chords enough to add needed welly.
Personnel on what is a human-scaled rather than over-produced record recorded in Tel Aviv and for other contributions edited in remotely from tracks laid down in the States and France include pianist Shai Maestro, main drummer the great Eric Harland and fellow tub thumper Ziv Ravitz just on one track.
'Cycles' is yearning, the pastoral side of Hekselman's very considerable technique gains traction to translate into pristine melody aided by a chorus of electronics. There is a rootsy, desultory, air to 'The Headrocker' that drew me in. And the Americana Frisellian flavour on 'Rebirth,' the track with Ravitz, is a treat. The naive, in the natural, child-like, sense of wonder the word invokes, that Far Star conjures so well, is a significant factor in Gilad's artistry. Stephen Graham