Tribecastan’s fourth album New Songs from the Old Country is their best, most focused, and darkest release, one of this year’s most amazingly eclectic and trippy collections. The whole thing is streaming at the group’s Bandcamp page. Their 2009 debut Strange Cousin introduced them as a kitchen-sink band doing genre-smashing instrumental mashups of styles from the Mediterranean to the East Indies and all points in betweeen, employing a museum’s worth of exotic stringed and wind insturments. Their 2010 release Five Star Cave moved a little closer to jazz, while 2012’s New Deli went more in a rock direction. So this is a return to their roots, spread as far across the globe as they are, like a giant magic mushroom. As usual, the band’s brain trust, John Kruth and Jeff Greene take their pick of the choicest, most obscure insturments: mandocello, octave mandolin, yayli tambor, African raft zither, baglamas, charango: the list goes on and on.
Thre’s an awful lot to like here: sixteen tracks in all. The opening number, Bwiti is a dead ringer for Tuatara with its hypnotic clip-clop percusssion and spiky lutes, a catchy blues tune with Asian tinges and a lively horn chart with Claire Daly’s baritone sax anchoring Matt Darriau’s alto. Auto Rickshaw layers a thicket of lutes over Ray Peterson’s slinky bassline and Kenny Margolis’ swirly organ, with a break for sitar and a droll jawharp boinging underneath. Their version of Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1 nicks the Chicha Libre arrangement right down to the bolero rhythm, a wood flute replacing Josh Camp’s Electrovox; still, it’s a great song.
Dance of the Terrible Bear is a characteristically surreal mashup of Balkan brass, dixieland and bluegrass. Corned Beef and Sake does the same with an Irish reel, hi-de-ho jump blues and atmospheric Japanese folk. Communist Modern, fueled by Margolis’ sardonic keyboards and a lushly cinematic arrangement, is a dead ringer for surf rock legends Laika & the Cosmonauts.
Night Train to the Ukraine builds from a suspenseful, drony intro to a darkly scampering, chillingly chromatic woodwind tune. Gordana’s Dream brings back the Tuatara vibe with its gamelanesque, anxiously pointillistic ambience. Saloniki Reb marches along with a haunting Turkish melody played first on baglama (is that a baglama or another artifact from the museum?) and then clarinet, then suddenly the sun comes out and the tune picks up. The band stays on the Balkan track with the lively, pulsing, deviously catchy Road to Koprivnica
Adrian’s Leap is another mashup, this one blending bluegrass, the Balkans and the blues with a bit of an Indonesian tinge and a starkly searing solo on a fiddle of some kind. The Blue Sky of Your Eyes sets a bluegrass baglama tune to a bhangra beat, with bluesy harmonica. Natal Spring takes a bolero to the plains of South Africa, while.Kepaci Rain, the most hypnotic tune here, pairs off Gordana Evacic’s cimbalom against jaw harp and wood flute. Blame It on the Moon is not the jazz standard but a moodily strolling bolero with a lush blend of mandolin, lutes and horns. The final cut, Persian Nightingale, opens as a hypnotically clanging dirge and rises to majestically swirling heights Among similarly inclined global jambands, only Hazmat Modine compare to these guys. Tribecastan play the album release show for this one this Fri, Sept 27 at 7:15 at Drom; advance tix are just $10.