If you ask Brooklyn-based musician Yoshie Fruchter, the great cantors of the 20th century —Yossele Rosenblatt, Leib Glantz, and Fruchter’s own grandfather — were actually laying the groundwork for a new brand of rock. If these names don’t ring a bell, don’t worry: Fruchter’s album Schizophonia, which reinterprets great cantorial recordings with the help of the electric guitar and plenty of reverb, makes its own way through the most awe-inducing Jewish prayers.
Fruchter’s decidedly un-cantorial voice is a mellow complement to the drama of some melodies, but the most interesting tracks are the ones where the band translates the arrangements of the original recordings entirely into the instrumental language of experimental rock, as with their substitution of the distortion pedal for the pipe organ on “Vehu Rochum.”
Fruchter has good instincts for how to blend just enough old world with new — on one track, we blur back and forth between funky Hammond organ and a klezmerlike banjo — though the blend can feel hesitant, as if he’s afraid of parodying his predecessors. His rock anthem version of “Tzur Chayeinu,” for example, samples Cantor Leib Glantz himself halfway through, the aural equivalent of a perfect photo-bomb, and listeners may wish it happened sooner.
Listen to Schizophonia’s “Vedu Rahum”: