New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Tag: dub reggae

A Second Sick, Reverb-Drenched Disc of Holiday Dub from Super Hi-Fi

Super Hi-Fi play live dub reggae. Their signature sound blends the twin-trombone frontline of Rick Parker and Curtis Fowlkes (of Lounge Lizards/Jazz Passengers fame) into a moodier, sometimes noir-tinged take on vintage Lee Scratch Perry or what the Skatalites were doing in their quieter moments during the golden age of Jamaican ska. When the band started, they had more of an Afrobeat feel, no surprise since bassist/bandleader Ezra Gale led first-rate, second-wave Bay Area Afrobeat band Aphrodesia. These days, they’re a lot slinkier and more low key. From their doomy and seriously excellent debut album, Dub to the Bone, you’d have no idea just how funny this band can be…unless you also know the follow-up to that, Yule Analog Vol. 1, a snarky collection of dub versions of Christmas carols. Sure enough, when the band went into the studio, they did enough of those to fill not one but two cds  – four album sides, considering that the band is known for their vinyl releases – of this shit. And they’re back, with Yule Analog, Vol. 2 – streaming at Bandcamp – and a show in the front window at the intimate, laid-back Bar Chord in Ditmas Park on December 19 at 9.

The previous collection opened with a theme that Jethro Tull was known for pilfering – are you laughing yet? This time it’s Simon & Garfunkel. OK, not a Simon & Garfunkel original, and not with the samples or the antiwar message. What it does have is tons of reverb on the guitar, gently oscillating organ, a rhythm section that sways rather than skanks along and meanderingly goodnatured ska-jazz trombone solos. It sets the stage: the most recurring joke here is the cat-and-mouse game about what song they’re playing and how far they go with it.

O Come All Ye Faithfull (with the double L in “faithfull” – oldschool 90s stoner humor?) doesn’t do that as much, and after awhile the carol has you reaching for the fast-forward. The Christmas Song takes a very, very, very familiar Irving Berlin theme toward swing, with a wry Mitch Marcus tenor sax solo that fades just when it seems like there’s a serious punchline on deck. But the Tschaikovsky theme is killer: who else would have thought to wring Jamdown noir and ambient noise from the Nutcracker?

Gale and drummer Madhu Siddappa keep What Child Is This very close to the ground for a bit until the screams from Jon Lipscomb’s guitar signal another chorus: it’s not hard to imagine this epically delicious plate emanating from the Black Ark in a cloud of ganja smoke circa 1976. They follow that with a funny ska song, Please Santa Bring Me an Echoplex, the album’s only vocal number.

The rest of the tracks are versions of the early songs, and each is an improvement. O Come All Ye etc. gets a black-hole spin through the Echoplex. The Tschaikovsky grows into a mind-altering blend of the baroque, King Tubby and postbop jazz. There’s also the noisy What Version Is This?  [memo to self – isn’t there a carol called It Came Upon a  Midnight Clear?] and a brief Echoplex Reprise. The joke works better before or after December: as heavy disguises as these songs wear, it’s hard to avoid reaching holiday smarm saturation point this time of year. Unless you do your grocery shopping and other retail stuff where this blog travels – in that case, that means salsa, bachata, reggaeton and Polish hip-hop. All of which have never sounded better than they have this month.

Trippy, Creepy Surf Rock from France’s La Femme

If there was a surf band in Blade Runner, or in Jabba the Hut’s lounge, it would be La Femme. The French group sound like no other band on the planet – or maybe the universe. While many of the tracks on their latest album, Psycho Tropical Berlin – streaming at Youtube – are instrumentals, the band’s latest shtick is to have a mystery woman guest as vocalist on many of the tracks, appropriate enough considering what the band call themselves. They’re at Glasslands on March 23 at 11ish for $12.

Their basic m.o. is to surround their often creepily Lynchian, twangy surf guitar with all kinds of layers of synths, some of them weirdly offcenter and adding to the uneasy ambience, some of them pretty cheesy. Their French lyrics often aim for humor, with mixed results: the music is the point here. The album’s opening track, Antitaxi, sets the stage: noir sci-fi keys speed up to a motorik spy movie theme of sorts, which gives way to shivery faux organ and eventually the Ventures-in-space guitar kicks in. Amour Dans le Motu makes a creepier cousin to that number, an organ-fueled baroque surf number with an unexpectedly atmospheric mellotron interlude midway through.

The band’s titular song is funk-pop with tremolo-bar guitar: on one level, it’s totally 80s, on another it’s completely original to this band. A slow Lynchian tone poem simply titled Interlude is next, followed by the equally Lynchian reggae of Hypsoline and Sur la Planche 2013, which takes early Ventures noir forward fifty years in time with synth bass and a big shuffling drum crescendo.

They go back to reggae, with some scary dialogue (in French) seemingly from a Chernobyl documentary, and then some bizarre but good boogie-woogie piano, in From Tchernobyl With Love. They mix up spy surf with cheesy dancefloor electronics in Packshot, then shift to a moody minor-key reggae/trip-hop mashup with Saisis La Corde. Le Blues de Francoise drifts along on a swooshy organ grove, a tale about a girl with problems.

With a grand total of twenty tracks, the album thins out as it goes along. The good stuff includes some more baroque spacerock and then a hypnotically murky dub version, some ominous trip-hop and a stab at Orbison noir through the warped, synthesized prism of new wave. On the downside, there’s one song that nicks the Modern Lovers’ Roadrunner, another that’s an overlong attempt to remake New Order’s Temptation, along with ripoffs of Blondie’s Heart of Glass and Berlin’s The Metro, a Missing Persons soundalike, some halfhearted Chuck Berry gone hi-tech plus a considerably more techy, purposeless remake of one of the songs on their previous release, Le Podium. Still, when this band is on their game, the ambience they create is as genuinely as it is offhandedly sinister.

It Takes a Lot of Nerve to Call Your Band 10 Foot Ganja Plant

Oldschool dub reggae connoisseurs 10 Foot Ganja Plant celebrate the release of their thirteenth album, Skycatcher, with a rare live show at the Sinclair in Boston on Sept 20. The band plans to have the record “in all good record stores” by Sept 24. One thing that distinguishes 10 Foot Ganja Plant from the other dub groups is that they encompass the entire world of classic dub, from the tail end of the rocksteady era through Lee “Scratch” Perry, on forward to King Tubby and then their own main group, John Brown’s Body. The other is the songwriting: the tracks here are all actual songs, not just two-chord vamps where everything drops down to just the bass, or the keyboard, or the drums…you know the drill. Unless you’re high, that stuff gets old fast. This draws you in and keeps you there all the way through, an eclectic mix of oldschool Jamaican riddims and riffs, instrumentals and vocal numbers.

The first two tracks set the stage: instead of doing the song and then the version, they open with the version and then follow with the fully fleshed-out song so you can see the whole thing coming together. It’s a cool idea. As with the best dub, it’s the little touches that keep it interesting: wisps of melodica, a rattle, reverby conga hits and even wah synth like in the old days of John Brown’s Body back in the 90s. Jay Champany, whose raspy voice has sung many of this group’s songs over the years, carries the song, which doesn’t neglect crafty little elements like the echoey snare riffage in the background, and a fat bass break.

The anthemic Collect the Trophy sounds like Harry Chapin Cat’s in the Cradle done as dub reggae – and is this about the Cannabis Cup? Like most of the tracks here, Sounding Zone is anchored by a wicked bass hook, set against a casual, emphatic sax vamp, punchy brass in and out against woozy synth. State of Man has JBB founder emeritus Kevin Kinsella’s falsetto channeling the Congo’s Cedric Myton all the way through. The title track makes a stark contrast with its ominous minor-key harmonica and distantly austere, spacious vibe, then gets fleshed out with Kinsella on the mic.

Champany sings the angry, biting, minor-key Hypocrites in Town , “a warning to all deceivers,” the full band nimbly weaving in and out. The poppiest track here, Sometimes We Play reminds of vintage Marley, circa Kaya – again, it’s the bass hook that drives it. Champany returns to take the album out on a high note on the lively rocksteady of Sing and Dance. As is this band’s custom, there are no musician credits: these guys like mystery, in the real world as well as the musical sense.

Sly and Robbie Bring It Down to the Roots

Sly and Robbie played a deep, purist set of roots reggae grooves at Metrotech Park in downtown Brooklyn yesterday, arguably the highlight of an otherwise lacklustre, ostensibly “R&B” themed weekly summer series booked by BAM. What kind of axe does legendary roots reggae bassist Robbie Shakespeare play? A standard issue Fender Jazz model. He stuck to the hooks he’s famous for, holding down the low end, a couple of times reaching down for boomy chords during one dub interlude. No slapping, no Jaco-style showboating, just soul. Behind his drum kit, Dunbar was much the same. He kept the one-drop going, having fun during the dub sections firing off hypnotic, steady volleys of eighth notes rather than any kind of gratuitous showmanship. No wonder these guys are considered one of the greatest rhythm sections ever.

They opened with a long series of instrumentals, backing a simple, direct, rock-solid trio of musicians: a trombonist who doubled on vocals and dancehall toasting, harmonizing with the keyboardist and edgy guitarist who contributed a single aching, searing, sustain-driven solo early in the set. They went down into dub a lot, oldschool style, dropping instruments out of the mix and back in again, pushing the echo fader up and down again, the keyboardist adding the occasionally blippy flourish. The band stuck mostly with minor keys, enhancing the dark, hypnotic ambience. The best of the early grooves first sounded like a dub of Burning Spear’s Old Marcus Garvey but then turned out to be On Broadway: it’s amazing how far you can get with just two chords. The biggest hit with the crowd was a long, murky jam on Dawn Penn’s reggae noir hit No, No, No. The high point of the show, with its gorgeous bassline, was a dub take on Freddie McGregor’s Revolution.

Third World’s 66-year-old frontman Bunny Rugs, who spent five years driving a cab in Brooklyn before joining that band, came up to sing for the remainder of the show. Third World were in the studio with Gregory Isaacs during his last session, so they played Night Nurse as a tribute to the late crooner. Rumors of War morphed into a scattering of bits and pieces from Third World hits like Reggae Ambassadors, Now That We’ve Found Love and Committed. Surreal moments abounded.

Bunny Rugs told the crowd that since he’d forgotten the lyrics to a number from his solo album, he was going to make some up on the spot, but that didn’t matter, he explained, since “Di riddim wicked!” The second he sang the line “this chair is empty now,” a concertgoer abruptly stood up from his and left it for someone else – thanks, guy! In the middle of a long, dissociative cover of Randy Newman’s Baltimore, Bunny Rugs turned “hooker on the corner” into “cop around the corner” and then went off on a long, rambling shout-out to Jamaica, where he, Sly and Robbie were when all this stuff gained critical mass. His comment about the music reaching a global audience without any help from big corporations was wrong. Columbia Records spent a fortune promoting Bob Marley, just not when he was alive. The crowd reflected how far reggae has come since it was the first world’s favorite esoterica: daycamp kids and their caretakers in the back, a sleepy lunchtime office crowd nodding their heads and swaying in unison, with the hippies and a small but vocal Jamdown posse up front. For a country of 144 square miles, at least for a couple of decades, they turned out more great musicians per capita than anywhere else in the world.

How Many Times Can You Hear the Same Reggae Song Before You Go Insane?

When Romanian gypsy band Mahala Rai Banda recorded their hit Balkan Reggae a few years back, it was an appreciative shout-out from one hot ghetto band to the thousands of others in another time zone who may have inspired it. Now the song’s come full circle with the Balkan Reggae Remixed compilation, a bunch of Jamaicans (and Jamaican soundalikes) doing their own  thing with the song. From a 2013 perspective, the original seems a lot less surreal: a brooding roots reggae groove with a cimbalom? Why the hell not?

By that standard, the new mixes are even trippier – a New Yorker would call this “Mehanata music.” What’s coolest is that most of them are so different that you forget that underneath, they’re all the same song. La Cherga’s version has a vocal cameo from Adisa Zvekic that starts out pretty cliched but then gets reprocessed with a weird, ghostly tone-bending effect. Nick Manasseh’s version has Gregory Fabulous’ skibbitty-doo skanking and constant call to “soundboy” for no real reason at all. Jstar does a fabulously trippy job of stripping the song to its accordion roots and then back, adding silly stoner synth bass and video game-style EFX along the way. Mad Professor starts very subtly and then gets very unsubtle with the echo and the sequencer. G-Vibes gives newschool crooner Errol Linton a bit of funky wah guitar but otherwise pretty much leaves the song alone.

The Vibronics pretty much phone in their take; Koby Israelite add singer Annique’s jaunty, jazz-tinged vocal track. Kanka go for a wickedly echoey oldschool Scratch Perry vibe. By the time the last track, which doesn’t add anything, comes around, it’s time for the original, which ironically isn’t on this mix. Who is the audience for this, other than the limited number of people who plug their phones into a sound system and call themselves DJ’s? Probably anyone who’s in the house listening to those playlists.

Jah Wobble and Keith Levene Revisit New Wave History with Their First Full-Length Album Together Since 1979

The musical core of classic-era Public Image Ltd., bassist Jah Wobble and guitarist Keith Levene, reunited memorably last year, touring and then releasing then their Metal Box in Dub ep. Today marks the release of Yin & Yang, Levene’s triumphant full-length comeback album with Wobble, drummer Marc Layton-Bennett, trumpeter Sean Corby and a handful of guests. As a paradigm-shifter, Levene’s influence cannot be underestimated: echoes of his overtone-drenched style extend from the noiserock of the 80s through dreampop. It is impossible to imagine Sonic Youth, or for that matter, My Bloody Valentine, existing without him. This new album is a mixed bag – not all the songs stand up to repeated listening – but those that do are a fond reminder that Wobble and Levene can still conjure up the magic and menace of their corruscatingly iconic work together thirty-plus years ago.

Wobble remains one of the most brilliant, incisive, adventurous bassists around: here he leaves the Middle Eastern and Asian sounds he’s become so adept at in exchange for a tersely murky pulse over brontosaurus drums. As with the songs on the iconic 1979 PiL Metal Box album, most of the new tunes are long and slow, Wobble’s deep dub drive anchoring Levene’s paint-peeling, incendiary, achingly acidic washes of sustain, distortion and overtones. He’s the rare guitar god who relies more on space than speed, minute timbral shifts more than rapidfire riffage. And yet, his sonic assault remains one of the most brutal in any style of music.

It’s ironic that for all its bleeding upper midrange guitar and some wry quotes from PiL’s Memories, the title track – a one-chord jam, basically – evokes the stadium-rock PiL as much as it does that band’s classic new wave era incarnation. Over a dirty, distorted reggae bassline, Strut layers Levene in terse acoustic mode, adding darkly Brazilian-tinged lines, muted strings radiating feedback – this guy basically invented skronk. A long and completely unsarcastic tribute to British racing green, Jags and Staffs has the feel of a good outtake from Metal Box or Commercial Zone with swirly dub production, Levene unleashing poisonous, rising and falling waves of sound behind Wobble’s geezer-rap vocals.

Until the song’s almost over, you’d never know that Mississippi was these guys – the vintage soul-infused southern travelogue could be the great lost sarcastic track from White Light/White Heat until Levene finally starts squeaking and skronking over a shuffling vamp. They brilliantly reinvent the Beatles’ Within You Without You as twisted raga rock in 7/4 time, Wobble wryly referencing And Your Bird Can Sing on the bass as Levene eases his way in and then careens around with the drums. The album’s most intense track is Back on the Block, a slow, tense, impatient, distantly menacing reggae groove that owes as much to Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack noir as it does early 80s Jamaican dubsters like Niney the Observer, Levene’s wailing, spark-shedding riffage contrasting with swoopy synth ambience.

The heavy-handed fake funk of Fluid reaches for an electric Miles Davis vibe, unconvincingly, followed by Vampires, a brief dub interlude featuring a marvelously deadpan vocal cameo from noir cabaret legend/dub diva Little Annie. The album ends with the Metal Box reggae of Understand, with a lame vocal cameo from one of the guests; the dub version, which closes the album, is far more enjoyable, if closer to one of the dubs from the Clash’s Sandinista than anything that ever came out of Jamaica. The album’s out from Cherry Red in the UK.

Haunting, Original, Rootsy Ethiopian Sounds from Dub Colossus

Dub Colossus’ 2008 debut In a Town Called Addis was one of that year’s most original and enjoyable albums, a trippy blend of roots reggae and bracing 70s Ethiopian sounds. This blog didn’t yet exist at that point…and slept on the band’s follow-up, Addis Through the Looking Glass, when that one came out at the end of last year. So it’s good to see that it’s been reissued. Where its predecessor was more heavily produced, with a vintage dub feel, this one juxtaposes rootsy reggae grooves with edgy, modal Ethiopiques vamps, often fleshed out with a rich, jazzy complexity by a polyglot cast of Ethiopian and British musicians. As with a lot of this stuff, the shadow of pioneering Ethiopian jazz composer Mulatu Astatke towers over this music. While this might be the last project you might expect to be spearheaded by Transglobal Underground founder Nick Page, he absolutely excels with it, not only as a reggae bassist but also as jazz guitarist and impressively dubwise producer. In case you’re wondering, this is about as far from dubstep as Lee “Scratch” Perry is.

The title cut sets the stage as it grows out of a pensive Samuel Yirga piano line to a swaying, intertwined Nerses Nalbandian style brass arrangement featuring the Horns of Negus. Much of the best Ethiopian music utilizes otherwordly, overtone-packed minor-key modes and this is a good example. The second track, Dub Will Tear Us Apart, is no relation to Joy Division – although Ian Curtis probably would have liked it, being a big reggae fan. This one blends noir tremolo guitars, Farfisa organ, melismatic vocals and swirly keys into a vortex of dub, then leaves it there.

Tringo Dub starts out with a brisk sway as the singer leads a call-and-response over a thinly disguised reggae beat that eventually hits a high with a trippy, staccato Joanna Popowicz piano solo. Yirga’s waterfalling, jazz-tinged piano lights up a slow, bolero-esque ballad sung plaintively by Tsedenia Gebremarkos Woldesilassie. The track after that blends Farfisa, loud rock guitar and a jaunty brass arrangement over a hypnotically circular triplet rhythm. They follow that with a darkly insistent funk tune and then a slow, bluestery noir groove that might be the album’s strongest track. The album winds up with a rustic song for krar harp spiced with light electronic dub flourishes, a haunting, slow reggae jam and then a lush, lively Ethiopian swing jazz piece.

There are also two covers here. The first is a faithful version of the Abyssinians’ Satta Massagana, where the irony of hearing an Ethiopian woman trade verses with crooner Mykaell S. Riley,  in a song written by Jamaicans who’d never left the island, manages not to get in the way. The other is an amusing Ethio dub version of Althea & Donna’s Uptown Top Ranking which is a lot rootsier than the original. As with this crew’s first album, there’s a spontaneity and intensity here that’s often missing from more reverential or derivative cross-cultural collaborations. Here’s hoping they keep this alive and make another album somewhere down the line.

Get Lots of Brighton Beat – It’s All Good

The Brighton Beat are at Spike Hill in Wiliamsburg tonight, Nov 24. Not only are the band’s studio recordings both up as free downloads at their Bandcamp page, but they’ve also got a treasure trove of live recordings at their main site. Smart move: one taste of this will hook you for life if the most psychedelic side of Afrobeat or reggae is your thing. The eleven-piece band’s songs are long, going on for as much as ten minutes at a clip in the studio and longer onstage. Their formula is unhurried yet very tightly focused: introduce the hook and then follow that with slowly unwinding, casually crescendoing solos. Nobody overplays, and much as everybody in the band takes his time getting where he’s going, the point is that they all get there: this stuff doesn’t sound anything like Phish. For that matter, it doesn’t sound much like anybody else either. Washington’s Elikeh come to mind, but the Brighton Beat are much more of a jamband, and on the occasion that they go deep into dub, they’re very good at it.

The latest studio album opens with a trickily rhythmic, hypnotically Ethio-flavored number with elements of vintage ska. Zach Kamins’ echoey Rhodes piano solo switches to organ and then back, Mark Cocheo’s guitar goes growling and then hands off elegantly to Mark Zaleski’s alto sax. The second track, Changing Elevators is more of a straight-up Afrobeat number that vamps and meanders and then suddenly comes together out of a long Jon Bean tenor sax solo with a snarling minor-key phrase. Then the guitar does the same thing. As with several of the songs here, they band gracefully fades it down.

By contrast, Giraffe is a balmy, loping tune driven by Ryan Hinchey’s catchy bassline, raging alto sax contasting with the organ as Kamins wiggles the tremolo. Capture the Flag builds with solos from baritone sax and guitar ove a lush Isaac Hayes-style soul/funk vamp, while the darkest track on this album, The Paradox, pairs off uneasy chromatics from the keys and guitar against the horns’ fiery Ethiopiques. The album ends with twelve minutes of Indian Summer, a hypnotic, trippy dub anchored by very cleverly shifting bass beneath layers and layers of swirly atmospherics, ominous guitar and sax lines.

Be aware that some of the live shows are big files (the Ryles Jazz Club gig from this past August is practically 400 mb); you’ll want to make sure your wifi is screaming and you’ve got enough space on that flash drive.

Super Hi-Fi Puts Out the Best Reggae Album of the Year

Meet the best reggae album of the year – and it doesn’t have any lyrics. Brooklyn band Super Hi-Fi’s new album Dub to the Bone is all instrumental. Essentially, it’s live dub – to an extent, they’re doing live what Scratch Perry would do in the studio. But this album keeps the studio wizardry to a minimum and focuses on the songs. Theyv’e got an oldschool echoplex, which they use judiciously and absolutely psychedelically, but it’s the tunes and the playing that make this psychedelic. Since this was recorded as a vinyl record for Brooklyn’s excellent, eclectic Electric Cowbell label, there’s an A-side and a B-side.

The band keeps it simple and catchy as they make their way methodically from one hook to another. A lot of reggae is verse/chorus/verse/etc. and this isn’t, which keeps it interesting while maintaining a fat groove. And while a lot of dub is an endless series of textures echoing and fading in and out of the mix, the band does this live without missing a beat. Bassist Ezra Gale’s songs lean toward the dark and menacing side: some of this is absolutely creepy, as the best reggae and ska can be.

The opening track, Washingtonian works trippy variations on a dark reggae vamp, the occasional vintage newsreel sample adding snide commentary on the military-industrial complex (is that Eisenhower?) The tightness of the twin trombones of Alex Asher and Ryan Snow reminds of classic Skatalites, or Burning Spear’s peak-era band with the Burning Brass.

There are two versions of Tri Tro Tro here and they couldn’t be any more different: they’re basically two separate songs. Which is the coolest thing about dub – the first builds to a carefree Will Graefe guitar hook over the equally catchy bassline, the second begins as a new wave guitar song before the reggae riddim kicks in and morphs into a soukous tune. The third track, Neolithic, runs from a twin trombone hook to a wickedly catchy turnaround, wailing guitar giving way to the swoosh of the echoplex and then an unexpectedly balmy, jazzy interlude.

The best track here is the absolutely Lynchian We Will Begin Again with its noir trombones, creepy, lingering guitar and shapeshifting melody. Q Street drops the individual instruments in and out over an Ethiopian-flavored groove, while Public Option – another political reference  – centers its echoey orchestration around a moody minor groove and Madhu Siddappa’s hypnotically boomy snare drum. The final track, mixed expertly by Victor Rice, somebody who knows a thing or two about classic dub, is Single Payer, the most psychedelic, Black Ark-style plate here, the veteran ska and reggae producer having fun matching the bass and drums against the guitar and trombones and vice versa. The album release show is at Nublu at around midnight – you know how that place is – on Dec 13, and it’s free.

Edgy, Original Balkan Dub and Reggae from Kottarashky and the Rain Dogs

Balkan reggae has been done before by everybody from Gogol Bordello to Balkan Beat Box, but Sofia, Bulgaria’s Kottarashky & the Rain Dogs are different. Their recent album Demoni is a bracing mix of virtuosity and punk-inspired irreverence. Kottarashky, a.k.a. producer Nikola Gruev, assembled the project since he’d grown sick of dj sets. On some of the songs, you can definitely tell that they’ve been cut and pasted, although the deeper they go into dub, the less it matters. Gruev is obviously having a good time adding various woozy textures to tracks provided by guitarist/keyboarist Hristos Hadziganchev, clarinetist Aleksandar Dobrev, bassist Yordan Geshakov and drummer Atanas Popov. Occasional brass, strings, flute and accordion enhance the dark Eastern vibe.

They establish the trippy, sometimes scary mood right off the bat with Aman Aman, the clarinet trading eerie, shivery lines with the violin and eventually building to a psychedelic thicket of textures. The second track is a soul groove set to a trip-hop rhythm, sort of a Balkan Thunderball as the woozy synth, trumpet, funk bass, clarinet and then organ filter into and then out of the mix. Pancho Says works its way from gypsy punk to trippy modern gypsy jazz, while Begemot goes back to trip-hop, but more creepily.

Slavyanka Blues isn’t a blues; it’s a twisted, echoey dub waltz. The band keeps the sinister ambience going with Trans 5, a raw, lo-fi minor-key reggae tune with some cool contrasts between mysterioso clarinet and clattering percussion, rising with an ominous guitar solo. Ungroovie works the same terrain, but more weirdly, bluesy lead guitar trading off with gypsy clarinet: it’s about as far from Jamaican roots reggae as you can get, but at the same time it’s incredibly cool.

Babo works a killer Balkan bass clarinet groove for all it’s worth, while Put a Blessing On takes a surprisingly effective detour into new wave rock with reverbtoned Arp synth, clanky guitar and growling, trebly bass. It’s hard to keep track of everything going on in Blatoto – are those twin clarinets, or doubletracked guitars? Whatever the case, it finally builds to a burning crescendo with distorted guitars and pummeling drums. By contrast, Vlasti is the most psychedelic tune here, taking a rather haunting folk melody through the murky chambers of dub. The album winds up with the jaunty title track and its artfully arranged exchanges between the clarinet, accordion, synths and drums. This ought to catch on with the gypsy rock crowd as well as the reggae/stoner rock contingent. And those lucky people in Sofia get to see these guys live!