For those outside of New York, Midwood is a comfortable tree-lined Brooklyn neighborhood full of single-family woodframe homes (and unfortunately now, McMansions where some of those homes once stood). It has a robust Jewish population. This blog’s owner used to live there.
There was also a band called Midwood, led by a prime mover in the New York klezmer scene, violinist Jake Shulman-Ment. He’s playing on a killer twinbill on June 15 at 7 PM at Drom, leading his Fidl Kapelye with a global cast of klezmer singers: Zhenya Lopatnik, Sarah Gordon, Margot Leverett and Lorin Sklamberg, Klezmatics trumpeter Frank London‘s Klezmer Brass Allstars, who have become epically symphonic in recent years, headline; you can get in for $20 in advance.
Midwood’s mostly-instrumental album of electrified klezmer art-rock , Out of the Narrows came out in 2018 and is still streaming at Bandcamp. Guitarist Yoshie Fruchter machete-chops acidic, clanging chords as Shulman-Ment blasts through a thornily ornamented chromatic dance melody over drummer Richie Barshay’s scampering forward drive in the first tune, Isaac. Then it’s Fruchter’s turn to wail, scream and peel the paint off the walls
Anxiously allusive violin dances over a spiky, loopy guitar phrase and creepy glockenspiel as the group make their way into the second track, Ansky, Fruchter alternating between jangle and crunch as Barshay supplies a lithely boomy groove. It has a very late zeros/early teens Tzadik feel.
The group follow a slow, broodingly resonant trajectory in Ahava Raba: it sounds like Big Lazy with a violin, no great surprise considering that Fruchter would eventually work with that group’s mastermind, Steve Ulrich. They takes it out with a growling, bluesy Fruchter solo and a splash on Barshay’s gong.
Eléonore Weill sings the bittersweet love ballad Dortn over Fruchter’s starry, wide-angle tremolo guitar. The group reinvent Bughici Nign, a famous Romanian Jewish theme, with a lingering spaciousness but also an expectant unease. From there they segue into the similarly stately Bughici Khusidl: it’s cool to hear a distorted guitar behind Shulman-Ment’s meticulous melismas.
The next track, simply titled Waltz has a familiar minor-key feel, in the same vein as another hyphenated guy, Avi Fox-Rosen‘s work, reaching a scorching klezmer-metal peak. It’s the high point of the album.
Weill reaches for a stern intensity as the band sway precariously behind her in Az in Droysn. The closing cut, Gute Nakht is a gorgeously slow waltz and a good closer to this underrated gem of a record.