Rosh Ballata was the first self-credited release from Malka Spigel, founding member of the '80s Israeli art pop band Minimal Compact. Insofar as the album was written, performed, and produced in collaboration with spouse Colin Newman, it was only nominally a solo effort. In keeping with the genre-bending ethos of the couple's Swim label, Rosh Ballata offers an attractive hybrid of styles and, in many ways, continues the work that the pair began on Newman's late-'80s albums, Commercial Suicide and It Seems. While Rosh Ballata expands on the electronic component of those projects and ventures into both ambient and techno territories, guitars are not entirely forsaken, something that occasionally gives the album a distinctly indie pop flavor. Moreover, as an almost exclusively Hebrew-language release that blends Western and Middle Eastern pop sounds, Rosh Ballata is also imbued with what could be loosely described as a world music sensibility. That merging of cultural traditions works best on more dancefloor-friendly, groove-oriented numbers, such as the up-tempo "Tethnic" and the ethnically nuanced title track. On "Besof Hayom," slower rhythmic patterns achieve a hypnotic effect that's perfectly complemented by Spigel's layered, ethereal vocals. Elsewhere, the emphasis is less on beats as the trancey, droning "Yesitney," for instance, takes a more atmospheric approach that's enhanced by Spigel's almost spectral voice. Nevertheless, Rosh Ballata's strongest material is more directly pop flavored: tracks like the bouncy "Lisgor Sipor Yashan" and "Don't Ask Why." On the latter, the only song in English, Newman shares vocals and brings a mesmerizing, subtly Wire-like rhythmic feel to the proceedings. Although Rosh Ballata becomes a little nondescript in places -- Spigel's second full-length release, My Pet Fish, would prove more consistent -- it is nonetheless an engaging album that anticipates the diverse musical avenues she would pursue with Newman throughout the '90s.
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AllMusic Review by Wilson Neate