Not so much a rock band as a pan-cultural chamber ensemble with rock instrumentation, the members of Minimal Compact are (mostly) Israelis who didn’t see much of a future in their homeland, emigrated to France and signed with Belgium’s Crammed Discs. Their music is tasteful and intelligent but avoids selfconscious artsiness, and they’ve worked with some connoisseur favorites: Tuxedomoon’s Peter Principle, Wire’s Colin Newman (who’s married to the group’s Malka Spigel) and John Fryer (who’s worked with the Cocteau Twins) have all produced them. They served as Newman’s backup band on his Commercial Suicide LP; some of their sleeves were designed by Eno collaborator Russell Mills. Minimal Compact’s records consistently display an ability to switch gears between atmospheric, British-style art-rock, Middle Eastern-flavored folk and Beatlesque pop, while also retaining the ability to rock out with a danceable beat.
Minimal Compact’s first (and, so far, only) American release was an expanded EP. The Next One Is Real contains five songs (including two mixes of the title track) and is a relatively commercial effort, containing hard funk played masterfully by a band whose usual approach is considerably gentler. Both Lowlands Flight (part of Crammed’s Made to Measure series, written in part for a Dutch dance troupe) and The Figure One Cuts show quieter moments and greater versatility; those familiar with Commercial Suicide will recognize the guitar textures and delicate arrangements that gave that LP its unique sound. Minimal Compact may be very refined and mature, but they’re never boring.