Born in Jerusalem, Idan Altman moved to Berlin in 2010 to work as a producer and engineer in his own studio. With life away from home a challenge, and the city providing little comfort, he recorded debut album Fairydust back in 2015, a melancholic lo-fi collection inspired by the music of Sparklehorse. After a series of demos and sneak peaks, 2017 sees Idan Altman back with his second album, Expiration Date, and we’re delighted to share the record in full.
Joined by Matyas Wolter (surbahar), Chris Murphy (trumpet), Franz Bargmann (ebow guitar) and Amir Sinai Weisglass (electric piano and violin), Altman crafts an experimental blend of folk and ambient music, using synths and vocals to complete the detailed, nuanced sound. In a preview post for track ‘ Heroic Bee’ we wrote how “the song has a peculiarly natural rhythm, cyclical and familiar but also idiosyncratic, packed with small quirks and details which accumulate into a breathing ecosystem,” and the description holds true for the record as a whole. With small deviations from the rhythmic sound, each track explores the continuity of life and death, forming a familiar yet constantly evolving picture within which we all exist. So, while decidedly more upbeat than Fairydust, these songs are no less poignant, finding wonder and sadness and beauty within the natural way of things, as though in accepting our position in the grand scheme of nature we might find comfort in our tiny scale. As he sings in ‘Just Like The Rain’:
“Now I’m a man
I do what I can to be happy
Just like a flower
Just like a bee
I don’t waste my time counting how fast i’m falling
Just like the rain
Just like the leaves on a tree
When its time for me to leave this bag of bones
Someone might say “I can’t believe that he’s gone”
Everything keeps on going no need to cry
In to the ocean
In to the sky”
The song was written while Altman was reading a book by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and activist Thich Naht Hanh, which accounts for the themes of reincarnation and continuity. To further this vibe, Altman created a breathing sound by filtering white noise through two analog filters, both inhalation and exhalation represented. Indeed, thanks to his technical skills as a producer and engineer, Altman employs a number of novel methods and inventive techniques to enhance the sound across the album as a whole. For example, ‘Heroic Bee’ utilises a dazzling array of sound samples and filters, including piano played over a recording from a beehive and then passed through a telephone filter to add age and character. For those interested in the techincal details, Altman writes about his process in depth here and here.
The album can be heard in its entirety below. Due to the immense care taken in regard to themes and sound, we suggest you listen to it in one sitting, with the best headphones or speakers you have.
Artwork by Stefano Campus