New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: album review

A Surreal, Catchy New Stoner Americana Album from Odetta Hartman

You might expect to see someone named Odetta Hartman in a band with people calling themselves Howlin’ Wolf Matsuzaka and Nina Simone Bjornquist. But that’s this singer/multi-instrumentalist’s real name. Her Bandcamp page – where her new album 222 is streaming – is tagged “experimental country club cowboy soul experimental pop future folk new york city.” Auspiciously, it’s available on cassette for seven bucks – cheaper than a download, semi-permanently archivable, safe from phone glitches and hard drive crashes. She’s playing the album release show on October 8 at 8 PM at the big room at the Rockwood; cover is $10.

The opening track is Creektime, a brain-warping mashup of hip-hop and torchy oldtimey blues, with a flurry of shivery strings and a plaintive violin solo when you least expect them. Tap Tap deals with “making deals with the devil,” sparely and nebulously – flitting strings and electronic touches add to the sepulchrally rustic ambience. Hartman runs her banjo through an amp for some tasty distortion on Dreamcatchers, a pretty irresistible and funny return to the oldtimey/newschool dynamic.

Lazy LA – an oxymoron, right? – has a delicate, distantly Brazilian lullaby feel – is that a tenor guitar, maybe? By contrast, Batonebo is a stark, minor-key noir guitar blues. Limoncello is a heavy-lidded, torchy come-on, Hartman’s voice doing that tenth-wave Billie Holiday thing that never seems not to be all the rage among girls with acoustic guitars. The most unselfconsciously attractive and anthemic number – i.e. the big hit – is the oldschool soul-inspired Hard Wired. The album winds up with the surreal Lucky Dog, which may be fueled by the “suspicious contraband” that Hartman alludes to. Throughout the album, she impresses with her dexterity and insightful familiarity with a vast expanse of instruments and styles usually far beyond the reach of most bedroom popsters. Not bad for the scion of an independent New York pizza parlor mini-empire.

Tenor Saxophonist Noah Preminger’s New Live Album Revisits the Fresh, Radical Original Spirit of Bebop

In a lot of ways, the Noah Preminger Quartet’s new live album Pivot is retro to the extreme. It captures the spirit of bebop from back when that music was new and fresh and radical, rather than just a McGuffin to justify a whole lot of pointless soloing. And while some people might say that the Ellington band would never have played half-hour versions of Bukka White songs like Preminger’s regular group does here, that’s wrong. In fact, when they played the blues, the early bop crowd often went back to the same source material that White referenced. The two songs on this album are Parchman Farm Blues and Fixin’ to Die Blues, each captured live in the roughhewn confines of 55 Bar in the West Village, where the tenor saxophonist and his band – Jason Palmer on trumpet, Kim Cass on bass and Ian Froman on drums – are reprising them with an album release show on October 7 at 10 PM. Cover is $10.

The album title refers to the device where a band swings the music without a set meter – again, an old early bop trope. From the first seconds of the carefree, shuffling bass-and-drum interlude that kicks off Parchman Farm Blues, it’s an instant immersion: it sounds like an edit, picking up from where the band just starts to simmer. Calmly and matter-of-factly, Preminger and Palmer expand on the song’s brooding minor-key hook as the rhythm section bubbles along: you could dance to this if you wanted to. Cass keeps things very close to the ground as Froman rides the cymbals and the snare, steady but loose-limbed. There’s a lot of space in the soloing: everyone seems in agreement that there’s plenty of time to get the job done and no need to rush.

Preminger’s smoky blues riffage eventually picks up toward glissando territory, but it’s getting to that point that’s just as much fun as the methodically spiraling crescendos, and even there he plays it closer to the vest than is typical in extended excursions like this. Palmer seems to be charged with the job of Secretary of Entertainment and gets that out of the way; otherwise, he mirrors Preminger’s approach, with a tinge of New Orleans rusticity. And even when Cass gets to take the spotlight as the horns drop out, the swing never stops.

He opens Fixin’ to Die Blues tantalizingly and allusively as Froman almost imperceptibly builds a ghostly swirl, the band following the much of the same trajectory as the first number from there but with a generally more hard-hitting drive. Eventually they reach the point where there’s an exchange between Preminger and Palmer mirroring an old field holller, and a handoff that seems to completely catch Palmer by surprise, so he channels a cool Miles vibe in resistance to the fray underneath. If this album can be summed up in a sentence, it’s that the group never loses sight of the simple fact that this is blues, and as long as they go, they never stray far from that underlying poignancy. The album’s not officially up at Preminger’s site yet, but you can get a good sense of his general purposefulness at his music page.

Dan Trueman’s Crazy, Versatile New Keyboard Software Gets a Workout at le Poisson Rouge

Let’s say you’re a keyboardist and sick of the same old notes: as Wadada Leo Smith would say, maybe you feel hemmed in by the “tyranny of the key of C.” Maybe you want to voice the kind of in-between notes that a fretless instrument can deliver…or you want to go inside the piano a la George Crumb…or you’ve got a fondness for microtones or weird tunings in general. But as much as you’d like to bring in a real piano that you can play around with and/or torture a little, there’s no way it’s going to fit through your doorframe, or up the five rickety flights of stairs to your place…and you can’t afford a crane and a crew to pop out the window and put it back in again. Not to worry: Dan Trueman‘s new Bitklavier software, compatible with any MIDI keyboard, will empower you many times over. To illustrate its many capabilities, Trueman has a new album, Nostalgic Synchronic, played by So Percussion‘s Adam Sliwinski and streaming at Bandcamp. The album release show features Sliwinski and So Percussion, pianist Cristina Altamura playing Bach, and Trueman airing out his chops on the hardanger fiddle this Tuesday, October 6 at 7:30 PM at le Poisson Rouge. There will also be Bitklavier workstations set up for adventurous keyboardists to have fun with. Advance tix are $15.

To what degree is this album a demo reel – lookit all the wild things my gizmo can do! – and how genuinely musical is it? Obviously, Trueman is having a ball with all the echo and backward-masking and pitch-bending effects, and as much as his eight etudes here seeem obviously designed with those things in mind, the music is more listenable than you might expect – and trippy beyond belief. An apt comparison is Vijay Iyer‘s work on the actual acoustic prepared piano on Hafez Modirzadeh‘s cult classic Postchromodal Out! album from a couple of years ago. The first track is minimalist, steadily rhythmic and staccato, showcasing how subtly and intricately echo can be deployed, along with minute changes in pitch that are all the more prominent considering the tune’s static quality. The slow second piece mimics the almost glacial shifts of tidal motion, with gentle variances in rhythm – an important and useful feature of the software – and the decay of notes. The third takes a simple, folksy melody and quickly disassembles it, with dizzying, rhythmically altered echo: imagine an acid flashback experience of slapback reverb.

Track four has creepy fun with a steady raindroplet tune. The one after that, a homage to Norwegian pianist Christian Wallumrød, wastes no time shifting from what promises to be a Beatlesque psychedelic rock stroll and then offers a look at how the software could be applied to blues or jazz riffage. Etude six is especially tuneful, a jauntily echoing, balletesque number exploring the software’s rhythmic effect on counterpoint: the point seems to be, “see, you can play Bach with this.” The seventh piece, an old Norwegian folk melody transposed from its original strange tuning to an arguably even stranger new one, relates to how neoromantic phrases can be cut, pasted and staggered. The concluding etude, slow and steady, offers a delightfully menacing hint at where David Lynch could go with this. Let’s see – there’s a new Twin Peaks series coming up, isn’t there?

CC Carana Opens a Killer Twinbill Sunday Night at the Treehouse at 2A

Noir songwriter CC Carana opens an excellent twinbill at the Treehouse upstairs at 2A with a rare live performance this Sunday, October 4 at around 9 PM. Reliably charismatic, intense ghoulabilly/Americaa/blues crooner/personality Reid Paley headlines at around 10.

Carana has an intriguing, elegant ep, Maybe Because, streaming at Bandcamp. The opening track, Thank You For Breaking Up With Me sets the stage, a slow, slinky, saloon blues-tinged piano ballad with aching strings, Parker Kindred’s brushy drums and Carana’s sarcastic lyrics. It’s something akin to Tom Waits covering Harry Nilsson.

The second cut, I’m Tired is a gorgeously Lynchian, swaying Nashville noir pop number, Carana’s volume-knob guitar fading up and around Tyler Wood’s eerily twinkly piano. With its eerie slapback guitar and spare drum thud, See You Again goes deep into noir blues shadows, Carana’s melismatic, distantly soul-inspired voice flitting elusively through the melody. Nobody Wants to Die blends the best of the two styles, part Twin Peaks ballad, part doomed blues, a tersely vivid look at a “broken man’s dreams.” The final cut is Still a Clown, a sad, soaring oldschool soul anthem in the 6/8 time signature that Carana likes so much. If dark rock is your thing, this is a show worth coming out for on a Sunday night.

Two Sides of Iconic Trumpeter Frank London, Live and on Record

It makes sense that Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars would headline the finale of this year’s NY Gypsy Festival, starting at 7:30 PM on October 4 at the Schimmel Center at Pace University on Spruce St. in the financial district. The iconic trumpeter had already established himself in Balkan music before co-founding the original New York klezmer punk band, the Klezmatics. Since then, London has lent his firepower, wit and erudition to innumerable projects. One of the most quietly impactful and historically rich ones is Italian-born singer Shulamit’s album For You the Sun Will Shine: Songs of Women in the Shoah, which came out late last year. It marks the first release of the work of four women songwriters who chronicled their harrowing experiences, imprisoned during the Holocaust. One survived, two others were murdered, and the fourth is assumed to have perished as well. As you would expect, this is one of the most surreal and chilling albums ever made.

London and pianist Shai Bachar co-produced the album – four of whose tracks are streaming at Shulamit’s music page – recasting these pieces as art-songs. Bachar brings both a neoromantic plaintiveness and also a sense of the macabre that he uses delicately to raise the surrealistic factor. Big Lazy’s Yuval Lion supplies spare, purposeful percussion on a handful of tracks. Shulamit sings in German and Czech with equal amounts expressivneess and restraint: the common link among these songs is a crushing hope against hope.

The songwriter whose work is featured most prominently here is Ilse Weber, a popular Czech broadcaster and children’s author murdered alongside one of her sons in the gas chamber at Auschwitz in 1944..What’s most striking, aside from the heartwrenching, plainspoken lyrical content, is how diverse her songwriting is. London’s bright, blue-sky lines and Bachar’s stately piano channel a distant parlor-pop charm that makes a crushing contrast with the songs’ theme; at times, the band will mirror the crushing sarcasm of her lyrics with a faux-celebratory, martial Teutonic beat. But the forced-march courage quickly gives way to a muted horror, through the twisted I Wander Through Thersienstadt, the Satie-esque lament And the Rain Keeps Falling and a couple of lullabies, one of them an attempt to marshal some calm amidst the horror, and one that doesn’t try to mute the reality of the circumstances under which it was written.

The Czech-born Ludmila Peskarova, who survived and lived to 97, is represented by two tracks. There’s a sad Christmas-day tableau from the Ravensbruck camp, and Moravia, Moravia, the most ghostly and otherworldly song here, evoking an ancient cantorial ambience.

The most savagely sarcastic, despairing number is The Auschwitz Song, attributed to one Camilla Mohaupt, whose fate is unclear. It’s a cover of a 1920 Dutch pop hit with new lyrics reflecting hopelessness and sheer horror amid the squalor. There’s also an ornately classically-tinged miniature with music by Polish composer Carlo Taube and lyrics by his wife Erika: “As long as you aren’t bound by the word ‘home,’ your heart will be free,” a mother explains to her child. These days, one can only wonder how many of the Syrian war refugees feel the same way.

London’s show on Sunday with his band and singer Eleanor Reissa wraps up a tremendous night of music that starts at 7:30 with the Underground Horns, who veer from the Balkans to the Mediterranean to New Orleans, then the similarly eclectic, Ellington and hip-hop-influenced Slavic Soul Party, then the punk-inspired Hungry March Band, the only group on this bill so far to play Madison Square Garden. Considering what you get, cover is a reasonable $20.

Zedashe Bring Ancient Yet Amazingly State-of-the-Art Georgian Harmonies Back to Life

Imagine if you couldn’t rap, or sing old Irish songs, because it was against the law. That’s essentially what the older members of Zedashe had to deal with in their native Georgia before the breakup of the Soviet Union. When the Berlin Wall came down, it didn’t just open up the Iron Curtain nations to plundering American privatizers: it unleashed a torrential cultural reawakening. Zedashe number among the many, many artists who seized the opportunity to resurface with their underground, centuries-old sound intact. They dedicate themselves to preserving and bringing a folk repertoire rarely heard outside their native land – and until recent decades, not heard there either – to a global audience. It’s an ancient, yet strangely almost avant garde sound, considering how alien and jarring their tonalities are, compared with not only western music but the music of the neighboring lands as well. You might think that there’d be some obvious cross-pollination with Turkish, Armenian or Russian music, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least with this particular slice of the Georgian folk tradition. Zedashe are playing just their second-ever US tour. Their first New York stop is at Drom at 7:30 PM on October 1 as part of the New York Gypsy Festival; advance tix are $15. Then they’re at Barbes playing for the tip jar on October 3 at 8.

The group’s seventh and latest album, Our Earth and Water, is streaming at Rockpaperscissors. If stark close harmonies, boisterous field hollers, intricate vocal ornamentation and austere folk hymns for mixed choir are your thing, don’t be daunted by the grand total of 26 tracks: most of them clock in at around the three-minute mark, often less. Most of the songs are for choir alone, with occasional accompaniment from strummy panduri lute, accordion, drums and even bagpipes on the album’s creepiest tune. The men and women of the group tend to belt at full throttle – this is not relaxing, sleepy-time music. The upbeat numbers include a quick shout-out to the ancient Georgian war god along with the expected wedding songs, harvest songs and work songs. But there are some quieter tracks, including a a dizzying yet elegant rondo, a tender accordion waltz sung by one of the women and a plaintive panduri-and-vocal lament sung by one of the guys.

This isn’t all completely serious stuff, either: there’s a bit of quasi-yodeling, some goofy falsetto from the men in the group, a real tonguetwister that sounds like a jumprope rhyme and a suspiciously eyeball-rolling here-comes-the-bride number. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, considering that the group records at the local winery. Take a taste of this and let it take you back to a land that time forgot.

Spanglish Fly Bring Their Hot Spanish Harlem Flavor to This Year’s Chile and Chocolate Festival

Let’s say you’re in charge of a popular annual Brooklyn hot pepper festival. Of all the bands in New York, who would you want to serenade the crowd as the doors open? The Brooklyn Botanic Garden chose fiery, hard-hitting latin soul revivalists Spanglish Fly to open this year’s Chile and Chocolate Festival this Saturday, September 26. Festivities start at 11 AM – that’s when the band hits – and continue til 6 along the cherry tree esplanade, which is a short walk from the Eastern Parkway entrance, just steps from the Eastern Parkway stop on the 2/3 trains.. And if you stick around until 3:15, you’ll get to hear popular 90s Jamaican crooner Everton Blender; then at 4:45 the eclectic reggae/Afrobeat Refugee All-Stars of Sierra Leone take the stage. Admission is $20/$15 stud/srs, kids under 12 get in free. And many of the vendors offer free samples as well.

Spanglish Fly also have a long awaited full-length debut album, New York Boogaloo, just out and streaming at Bandcamp. The band’s Harvey Averne-produced 2010 debut album is closer stylistically to the vintage singles of artists like Joe Bataan or Joe Cuba; the new one is more like those artists live, stretching out the songs with a blazing, brass-fueled salsa dura flavor. If you try sitting still to this stuff, your body will revolt.

The opening track, Esta Tierra, sets the stage: slinky percussion, fat slipsliding bass, smoky roto Hammond organ and similarly sepia-tinged trombones. And then a pause, and Kenny Bruno’s elegantly tumbling piano comes in, frontwoman Erica Ramos (who’s since been replace by the charming Mariella Gonzalez) offering a tour of the hood where these Puerto Rican and Harlem grooves started to cross-pollinating fifty years ago. The band takes it doublespeed from there, fueled by leader Jonathan Goldman’s jaunty trumpet. All this in less than five minutes.

Bump (And Let It Slide) is a real catchy one, a briskly strolling, edgy blend of echoey Rhodes piano, minor-key brass and summery organ spiced with Jonathan Flothow’s baritone sax. Return of the Po-Po is a sad scenario that just about any New Yorker who’s been here since the Rudy Mussolini era can relate to: hanging in the park after closing time? Open container, maybe a smoky treat? Uh oh, 5-0!

Martian Boogaloo is an instrumental, its catchy horn riffage punctuated by a handful of wry percussion breaks: just when it seems that percussionists Machuco Estremera and Gabo Tomasini and timbalero Charly Rodriguez are going to chill and just hit on the clave, they cut loose. The ever-present buzz of the scraper propels Mira Ven Aca, a Johnny Colon hit from 1967 that gets the fullscale psychedelic soul treatment, including but not limited to a coolly precise multitracked keyboard break.

42 (El Cuarenta y Dos) is a scurrying go-go shout-out to longtime Yankees closer and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera – and it doesn’t sound the least bit like Enter Sandman. Love Graffiti Me takes The Locomotion and gives it a deeper, more spring-loaded bounce. Being a New York band, one assumes that Spanglish Fly are referring to the kind of bike you own, rather than rent from some corrupt, bankrupt corporation, in Me Gusto Mi Bicicleta. “Better ride on two wheels!” Gonzalez warns.

The wounded ballad Ciudate Hermana, Bruno’s anguished High Romantic piano underpinning Ramos’ eerily torchy vocals, is an unexpected break from all the party flavor – strangely enough, it might be the best track on the album. The party vibe returns on the final cut, Brooklyn Boogaloo, a hip hop-style shout-out to your neighborhood and everybody else’s. Since Spanglish Fly burst on the scene back in the late zeros, other bands have been mashing up classic soul with classic salsa, but these guys got there first.

If you can’t make it to Brooklyn on Saturday,  Spanglish Fly are at Goddard Riverside Center, 647 Columbus Ave. at 92nd St. on the 29th at 8 PM for $10; take the 1/2/3 t0 96th.

Lorraine Leckie and Pavel Cingl Release Their Enigmatic, Witchy New Album at the Mercury on the 29th

Among rock songwriters, few are as capable as Lorraine Leckie in writing across a vast array of different styles. New Yorkers know her best as the leader of a whipcrack-sharp psychedelic Americana rock band that she fondly calls Her Demons. Yet as straightforward as her work with that group is, her other projects can be much harder to pin down. Her latest album, The Raven Smiled – a collaboration with similarly eclectic Czech violin star Pavel Cingl, streaming at Bandcamp – is her most enigmatic, her most beguiling and arguably her best. She and Cingl are joined by those Demons – lead guitarist and recent Blues Hall of Fame inductee Hugh Pool, bassist Charles DeChants and drummer Paul Triff – at the album release show on September 29 at 8 PM at the Mercury. Cover is $10, and you get a free copy of the cd with paid admission.

The influences on this album, through a glass darkly, seem to be PJ Harvey and Nick Cave, although the music here bears more reflection than resemblance to either artist’s work. As you would expect from the instrumentation – Leckie’s Telecaster or piano paired with Cingl’s violin – the sound is a lot closer to the folk noir of Leckie’s spare 2010 album Martini Eyes. However, Cingl’s judicious production frequently adds misty atmospherics and more ornate textures, in the same vein as Leckie’s haunting 2013 album with Anthony Haden-Guest, Rudely Interrupted.

The opening track, The Man That Walks in the Rain sets the stage, cryptic and mysterious, along the same lines as Dylan’s Man in the Long Black Coat. Leckie has made no secret that she is a devotee of the black arts, so it should come as no surprise that Climb Ya Like a Mountain would be a homage to Aleister Crowley (who, as Leckie tells it, was an avid mountain climber – and a surprisngly buffoonish persona for someone enamored with the dark side).

Leckie explores that light/dark dichotomy from the opposite angle with Dangerous Friends, its triumphant continental party narrative set against a hazy backdrop channeled via one of the unorthodox guitar tunings that she employs so often here. By contrast, the baroque-tinged piano ballad Story of Your Life has a lustrous, minimalist sheen, a homage to Prague, a city whose history and beauty clearly resonate strongly with Leckie.

Awake is even more minimalistic, Cingl’s lullaby violin gently building the somnambulistic ambience. By contrast, That Ain’t Nice is a launching pad for Leckie’s dissociative, noisy guitar explorations in tandem with Cingl’s blizzard of glissandos. Witches Heart tersely mashes up early PJ Harvey, witchy mid-70s Marianne Faithfull Britfolk and 80s goth, enhanced by the eerie close harmonies of backup singer Lisa Zwier. “My little doll, you were born under a broken star, I am sorry,” Leckie intones with a cool inscrutability as the album’s most distantly ominous track, Medicine Man, gets underway. The title cut, an enigmatic piano vignette, closes the album on a decidedly unresolved note. As with the rest of the songs here, there’s charm, but also menace, the defining characteristic of this allusively intriguing collection.

A Darkly Glimmering, Cross-Pollinated Masterpiece from Saxophonist Ochion Jewell

In prosaic terms, tenor saxophonist Ochion Jewell‘s second album, Volk – streaming at Bandcamp – is Ghanian music reinventors the Bedstuy Ewe Ensemble playing moody third-stream jazz. And it’s often as far from that group’s joyous exuberance as you can possibly imagine. The band’s multicultural personnel – Moroccan pianist and Dawn of Midi founder Amino Belyamani, Persian-American bassist Sam Minaie, and Pakistani-American drummer Qasim Naqvi – join their bandmate in a magnificently ambered tour de force. The album’s backstory is troubling, but has a happy ending – more or less – taking inspiration (and financed by the settlement Jewell received) from a police brutality lawsuit stemming from a harrowing brush with death at the hands of an undercover NYPD narcotics squad run amok a couple of years ago. Drawing on idioms as diverse as Persian classsical music, pensive Keith Jarrett-style improvisation and elements of noir, it’s one of the best albums released this year in any style of music and should draw a wide listenership that transcends a jazz audience. These tracks unwind slowly, allowing for plenty of carefully considered improvisation: this album is all about building a mood and maintaining it. The complete ensemble are playing the album release show on Sept 23, with sets at 9 and 10:30 PM at at Cornelia St. Cafe; cover is $10 + a $10 mininum.

The album opens with a triptych of sorts, the interaction between Jewell and Belyamani gradually developing from a brooding coversation to more agitated and then back again as Naqvi’s toms prowl tensely, the piano adding a Rachmaninovian undercurrent. Jewell opens the third section, Kun Mun Kultani Tulisi with a plaintive, dusky, blues-drenched riff and variations as the dirge behind him rises to macabre proportions and then subsides. His rain-drenched, wee-hours black-and-white streetscape sax as the piano’s rivulets rise and fall, bass and drums adding rustling suspense, is vivid to the extreme.

The band picks up the pace with Give Us a Drink of Water, its frequent rhythmic shifts, funky syncopation and lively sax constrasting with murky piano riffage, Minae stepping out with a dancing solo mirrored uneasily and opaquely if energetically by Jewell. Likewise, they shift between dancefloor exuberance and a knifes-edge tension fueled by Belyamani and Miniae as it winds out.

Pass Fallow, Gallowglass reverts to moody, wounded piano-sax interplay, Naqvi’s elegant cymbals and toms again enhancing the sepulchral ambience. They continue the theme with Radegast, eventually rising to a briefly stomping interlude, flutters and squawks returning quickly to the shadows, driven by Belyamani’s sinister low lefthand. Guest guitarist Lionel Loueke’s tersely bending David Gilmourisms open The Master, a hypnotically bouncing mashup of North African proto-funk and bluesy minor-key rusticity. He also joins a similarly hypnotic if much more spikily energetic sonic web on Gnawa Blues.

While folk themes here are a frequent inspiration, they seldom rise to the surface to the extent they do on the take of Oh Shenandoa, a Matthew Brady early-morning post-battle Civil War tableau in sound.  The album ends appropriately with a wee-hours solo sax take of Black is the Colour (of My True Love’s Hair).

Fanfarai Bring Their Edgy, Fun Mashups of Balkan Music, Funk and the Middle East to Drom

Fanfarai is a pun, a mashup of “fanfare” and “rai,” as in the slinky groove music from North Africa. What does this multicultural, Algerian-born, now Paris-based brass band sound like? Like Balkan brass music, with some occasionally different if similarly tricky tempos and frequent detours into both Middle Eastern and western grooves. Which makes sense, considering that the roots of a lot of Balkan music can be traced back to Turkey and from there to Egypt and what’s now Algeria and Tunisia. The group’s latest bitingly edgy, chromatically-infused, surprisingly elegant album Tani is streaming at soundcloud, and they’re playing a New York Gypsy Festival gig at Drom on Sept 23 at 9 PM, $15 advance tix are available at the club.

The opening track, Goulou L’rim has one of those classic, pouncing two-chord Balkan minor-key vamps, over which the band layers both a balmy trumpet arrangement as well as an eerie, otherworldly Ethiopian fiddle break. The second number, Raba El Haraba is a real trip, kicking off as a snaky rai groove before morphing into roots reggae with elements of both Balkan music and deep dub: the influence of Mahala Rai Banda immediately comes to mind.

The briskly strolling Achdah a Taous, built around a classic Egyptian maqam riff, features some nimble oud-and-percussion flurries along with the precisely soaring, hefty horns. There’s a similarly dynamic pairing between tuba and flute throughout Saissi, a pulsing early 70s psychedelic funk tune. Touchia Zidane reimagines an ancient Andalusian classical piece as a distant, darkly microtonal dirge, violin and flute taking turns leading the slow procession as it gathers steam up to a majestic peak – and then goes for a sprint. It’s the most stunning track on the album.

Waye Lahbib El Ghali brings back a wry psychedelic soul strut, with North African syncopation and the tuba’s dancing lines taking the place of, say, a clavinova or funk bass. Metrics aside, it’s not hard to imagine this in the Ramsey Lewis or Isaac Hayes catalog. They hit a hypnotically dancing gnawa pulse with sintir lute, flute and bright horns in Elmima, then a scampering clip-clop beat on the upbeat Zwit Rwit, equally informed by New Orleans brass, Mexican banda music and American funk. The album’s last track is Zina Hlima, a steady, bouncing number that’s equal parts funk and vintage Khaled rai, with an unexpected detour into Ethiopiques. If you love Balkan music, or Middle Eastern music, or just dance music in general, you can’t go wrong with these guys.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 187 other followers