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Six13 has always delivered full, throaty Jewish rock with a heavy dose of electronic timbres. Zmanim ranges from heartfelt, to boy-bandish, to Weird Al-style parody, to grandma-approved schmaltz and back again. There’s no denying the creativity and talent involved, both behind the mike and behind the board, but it’s a confusing listen that often trades the immediate for the authentic. Though the individual tracks are often quite good — even excellent — in a vacuum, the album as a whole feels unsettlingly schizophrenic.
As always, executive producer Mike Boxer delivers powerful original music (Tov Lehodot, Kol Han’shama, Hinei Mah Tov) and endless cleverness in his parody lyrics (P-A-S-S-O-V-E-R, I Light It). Combine this with the other members’ excellent contributions and Zmanim easily rates as an extremely creative release, particularly in a world populated by imitative a cappella cover tunes.
Six13’s comprehensive liner notes, complete with translations, are a pleasure to read and a compelling reason to grab the physical product and not just the digital version of Zmanim. This release is also noteworthy for featuring independent Jewish artists like Yitzy Spinner, 8th Day, and child soloist Shmuly Brafman, a particularly unusual and open-minded choice in a cappella music.
There isn’t much in the way of dynamics or phrasing, and there aren’t too many shockingly unexpected moments. But there are loads of rich chords, driving beats and soaring tenors, and for many fans that will carry the day.
With a myriad of styles, half a dozen a cappella engineer/producers, six Six13 members and three alumni, and the guest artists performing, Jewish a cappella enthusiasts won’t find a singular artistic vision, but they will find much to enjoy on the creative and well-sung Zmanim.