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Tag: new york gypsy all stars

Haunting, Angst-Fueled Anthems and a Drom Show by Philly Art-Rockers Barakka

Philadelphia-based Turkish art-rock band Barakka deserve to be vastly better known than they are. Even though the majority of their lyrics are in Turkish, their relentlessly intense, mostly minor-key anthems are memorable and often haunting, transcending any language barrier. They’re playing at Drom on Oct 2 at 7:30 PM, opening for another more psychedelic (and controversial) Turkish rocker, Ahmet Muhsin. Advance tix are $20 and very highly recommended because the diaspora comes out in full force for shows like this.

Barakka’s brilliant album – streaming at their Reverbnation page – is titled Uzaklardan, meaning “far away” or “from a distance.” It’s a feeling echoed in the music’s persistent unease and frontman Baris Kaya’s recurrent themes of longing and loss. More often than not, the lead instrument is Roger Mgrdichian’s incisive, rippling oud, joining in a rich interweave with Kaya’s web of acoustic and electric guitars, William Tayoun’s elegant piano and Chris Marashlian’s kinetic bass. Multiple drummers contribute to the project, including the band’s current stickman, Jim Hamilton and the New York Gypsy All-Stars‘ Engin Gunaydin.

The opening track, Agit sets the stage, piano paired against the oud as the lithely dancing minor-key intro gives way to a crunchy, intense, anthemically swaying drive: as it crescendos, the band creates a dynamic that’s both towering and eerily rustic. The second track, simply titled X builds to a similarly angst-driven peak out of a strummy acoustic waltz. Kayip is the most American-sounding, and ironically the least musically dynamic track, winding down to down to the piano over Joseph Tayoun’s clip-clop darbouka groove.,

The bittersweet Gri Sokaklar is the gentlest number┬áhere: once again, Mgrdichian leads the band up and the piano follows. Hedye kicks off with a flurrying darbouka solo and quickly builds to a moody, haunting anthem with a tricky tempo, the wounded ache in Kaya’s voice echoed potently by Mrgdichian’s tense, upper-register oud solo. The steady, precise Yalniz Kahraman is every bit as haunting, with Kaya’s spare, echoey, bell-like guitar accents behind the oud’s stoic intensity.

Sairin Celiskisi sets anthemic mitteleuropean angst to a catchy, unexpectedly tropical pop tune with a little Middle Eastern spice. The stomping, vamping, crunchily hypnotic Hey On Besli pairs the clattering darbouka with bagpipe-like guitar – it’s the most Mediterranean-inflected track. The slow, pensive Son brings back the grey-sky anthemic ambience.The album’s final cut, Hit & Run has a metal-tinged, chromatically-charged intensity, Kaya’s eerie fuzztone lines matching the menace of the lyrics. As lushly and intricately arranged as these songs are, they sound like they’d be real showstoppers in concert.

Psychedelic Balkan Grooves from Choban Elektrik

Choban Elektrik made some waves last year when they debuted as Electric Balkan Garage, a psychedelic keyboard rock band playing traditional Balkan melodies. Since then keyboardist Jordan Shapiro and bassist Dave Johnsen (both formerly of Zappa cover band Project/Object) and drummer Phil Kester have made a mind-warpingly original album and have continued to play live around New York, with a gig this Thursday the 15th at 7:30 PM at Littlefield opening for the Debutante Hour, who’re doing their album release show. Choban Elektrik’s album is creepy and intense and like nothing that’s been made since probably the late 70s, maybe earlier. And the acts who were playing this kind of stuff back then, like Estonian acid rockers Suuk, were basically metal guitar bands. Music doesn’t get much more original than this.

And this isn’t fusion: it’s rock. 95% of the time, Shapiro carries the solos: no slaphappy Dave Matthews bass, no retarded brontosaurus drums. While the tempos here are sometimes cruelly tricky, Kester keeps it steady: he could go in a metal direction if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. Likewise, Johnsen plays warmly and melodically, sometimes doubling the keyboard line as the band hits a crescendo on a turnaround, occasionally firing off deep, earthtoned chords or tremoloing a note for extra menace. Shapiro is a monster player: fast and precise when he’s playing a clarinet line as he does on the album’s tenth track, dark and murky on the organ, surreallistically bright and edgy on Fender Rhodes. He also plays murderously slithery, roaring Balkan metal guitar on the album’s fifth track, similar to Eyal Maoz’s adventures in this kind of music but with a more nimble rhythm section and more of a corrosive noiserock edge.

The opening track sounds like the New York Gypsy All-Stars (or similar Turkish or Bulgarian electric gypsy jazz outfit) on opium, basically a one-chord jam with Shapiro’s organ doubling guest violinist Jesse Kotansky’s biting lines, the violin throwing off microtonal sparks before going off what sounds like a Macedonian tangent, the organ taking on a funky approach like Jimmy Smith gone to the Balkans. That’s just the first song on the album, by the way. A similar track later on begins with accordion carrying the melody and winds up with┬áthe organ swirling around.

Eva Salina Primack lends lush, otherworldly vocals to the echoey, dub-flavored second track, wah-wah electric piano giving way to sweeping organ and then back again. She also sings the poignant eighth track with aching but intricate microtonalities as it morphs from a pastoral violin tune, to funk, to echoey, prickly psychedelics. The darkest track here is amusingly called Mom Bar, trippy atmospherics rising to a torrential organ crescendo and a noisy outro that’s downright macabre. Their version of Steve’s Gajda, by Raif Hyseni goes from burbling to blippy to biting with a surprisingly bluesy organ solo and then downwardly spiraling violin, steadily speeding up to where everything eventually collapses on itself: it’s the most metal moment here. There are also a couple of bouncy Mediterranean-flavored numbers, one with trippy gamelanesque sonics, the other a funk song with growling bass and wah-wah Rhodes piano. The album ends with what’s essentially a big roaring powerpop instrumental with a tricky Balkan tempo. Right now cdbaby has it; watch for an album release show sometime this spring.

The New York Gypsy All-Stars Bottle Their Magic

The New York Gypsy All-Stars’ new album Romantech was worth the wait: it’s been a good five years since they did a studio recording. As you might expect, this is a good approximation of their incomparable, sizzling live show: in a city full of exciting bands, they are one of the best. As you might also expect from a band with members from Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Manhattan and Brooklyn, what they play is modern-day gypsy music, like what you’d hear in a club in Sofia or Istanbul, with electric bass and keys behind the lightning-fast, adrenaline-rush attack of clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski and kanun (Middle Eastern dulcimer) player Tamer Pinarbasi. Who knew that this project, originally put together as a house band for the first New York Gypsy Festival by impresario Serdar Ilhan, would still be thrilling crowds almost ten years later?

The title track takes a bouncy traditional tune and after a lusciously ringing Pinarbasi intro, fills it with spicy, lickety-split clusters of chromatics. Rather than indulging in Dave Matthews-style funkdaddy cliches, bassist Panagiotis Andreou swoops up elegantly and holds the notes, anchoring the song as Lumanovski spins and dives acrobatically, rising to a warily shimmering microtonal crescendo at the end of a verse. They segue into the steady, swinging Smiles, by Lumanovski, Jason Lindner’s distorted keys mimicking an electric guitar, Lumanovski sailing apprehensively over elegant kanun until the two join forces. Lumanovski’s blistering solo here is just one of many: to say this is a feast of scorching reedwork is an understatement.

Pinarbasi’s Cross Winds is more balmy yet also more moody, Lumanovski negotiating the thicket of tricky rhythm with uncanny ease, Pinarbasi adding suspense as they take it down to just the kanun and up again. Another one of his compositions, Revival is a darkly swaying, polyrhythmic anthem juxtaposing biting kanun with drummer Engin Gunaydin’s steady groove and Lindner’s lush Dr Dre. synth textures. A Lumanovski original, Balkan Bollywood is basically a hypnotic two-chord jam, banjolike kanun against a swaying backbeat and an elegant conversation with Lumanovski as it winds out.

The album’s only cover, Orhan Gencebay’s Sen Sev Beni (Ciftetelli) manages to be laid-back and biting all at once, with a murderously fast, unhinged solo by Lumanovski (one of the world’s most effortlessly exhilarating players on any instrument) contrasting with the precision of the kanun and Lindner’s Bernie Worrell-ish synth. Live in concert, it’s a real showstopper and even more intense than this version. Another big audience hit is the traditional Macedonian tune Butchers, this version including an unexpected salsa piano solo, Lumanovski reaching for heights that eventually deliver stinging layers of overtones as he takes it to a sudden false ending. Pinarbasi’s funky NY9 features Lumanovski at his most aching, packed with circular breathing, ominous atmospherics and a torrential rainstorm of a kanun solo. Outcry, another Pinarbasi tune, builds from a wary, Middle Eastern flavored solo clarinet improvisation to a slinky groove anchored by Andreou’s smartly boomy chromatics, Lindner matter-of-factly buildling a long launching pad for the kanun and clarinet to spiral away from deliriously, ending on an unexpectedly majestic note. The album ends winds up with Lumanovski’s EZ-Pass, a vivid motorway scenario. A cynic might say that the band made this because they needed more merch to sell at shows: if that’s the case, they’ll run out of these sooner than later. In the meantime, this is your chance to grab it before it ends up on every music blog’s best-of-2012 list. The New York Gypsy All-Stars make Drom their home base: watch this space for upcoming shows.