There is an amazing label in Israel, Auris Media, putting out delicious, noisy, mashed-up fusion music. I got my latest fix this week, so let me give you all a quick rundown as I get ready to spend more time listening. I'll also put up links as to how to get these—the Auris Media website is the latest of my favorite vendors to suffer misfortune. In their case, most of the most recent CDs are not listed (or order-able online), although there is an active concert listing for those in Israel. I should also mention that if you purchase physical media, you are getting beautiful packages. This label is a labor of love. For those of us who treasure non-commercial music, Auris Media is a treasure.
Long-time readers of this site will be familiar with "Kruzenshtern and Parohod," a punk/avant-garde-ish band from Tel Aviv. More on them, anon. Most important at the moment is that they have completed two recent EP recordings with fellow-travelers, Vialka, from France. The combined band is know as the "KiV Orchestra." I love it! Each of these recordings contains only five songs. It's as if the US punk-klezmer-balkan band, Golem moved even more extreme (and lost the klezmer), or if soulmates "Painted Bird" likewise amped up the noise and added French and Russian. Heck. "After Hostilities Ended" from Extension could have come from Daniel Kahn if they'd only sung it in Yiddish! KiV is a noise circus coupled with the amazing vocals of Marylise Frecheville. From the press release: "… a twisted version of Berlin 1920s cabaret into broken tango chansons, outsider's music from the Balkan and traditional Russian prisoner's songs. All these different styles and flavors mixed together with tons of black humor and a tough punk attitude." Get your recordings on iTunes, or from the Vialka website: www.vialka.com. Whatever hyperbole follows about other recordings? It may be true, but this is what has captured my listening time since its arrival. Extra kudos for "This is Not Tradition" on the LaRoue EP. You can also get most of the contents of the two EPs on a new release on LP/MP3: Whole.
Igor Krutogolov and his fellow Tel Aviv-niks have been busy. I captured a short set of theirs a couple years ago on the KlezmerShack channel on YouTube which contains some material ("Koshka") from the most recent release, Hidden Album. The band (the origins of whose name resides in Russian irony; no duo, no Kruzenshtern, no Parohod) is now up to four members since the addition of accordionist Boris Martinovsky, the "Michael McLaughlin of the Israeli avant garde." What they haven't lost is intensity. Going back a bit further to what is new to me is Noize 2005. With one song arranged by John Zorn, and that aforementioned intensity (and even without Martinovsky's accordion) the band reminds me a lot of my local Boston homies, Naftule's Dream, with an eclectic avant garde, anarchic-sounding intricately-arranged set of boundary-pushing punk-inflected soundscapes. That may be the longest string of compound adjectives I've used in a while. This isn't simple music (nor music for simple people ;-)). But unlike a lot of such music, these guys have their instruments attuned to something special. I may be listening to KiV Orchestra more, this week, because it is entirely new, but these two CDs will stay out with their brothers for a long while. Get your copies directly from iTunes, or from band camp.
Russian rapper/singer Psoy Korolenko is a treasure. In his second outing with Israel's premier klezmer band, Oy Division, Psoy Division / Dicunt he spreads anarchy and good feelings far and wide. It is easy to imagine, in fact, a delightful concert featuring this lineup and the earlier-reviewed KiV Orchestra. I'd go a long way to hear them all live. This is a reasonable place to listen in the meantime. As on his earlier recording with Daniel Kahn (just a few sentences from now), Psoy is mashing up Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, klezmer, and rap, all to wondrous effect. There is even an excellent cover of Daniel Kahn's recent "Love Lays Low." But, here he is messing more directly with traditional folk traditions, ranging from Russian to Hasidic. I have attitude. I love it when really good musicians mess with things. For those who need their "messing" more political, I've had Daniel Kahn, Psoy Korolenko, Oy Division / The Unternationale in the "listening, must review soon" pile for a couple of years, but haven't gotten a mention online. More shame, me. From the echoes of "Sympathy for the Devil" on the opening "Rakhmones afn tayvl" in Russian and Yiddish with its brilliant klezmer sound, this recording is delightful. The irony of sitting in Jerusalem and refighting the battles between the Zionists and Bundists (exemplified by a cover of the 1931 Beregovski recording, "Oy, ir narishe tsienistn"), plus the usual counterspin on life, politics make this a recording that is not just fun to hear, but fun to listen to closely Psoy's anti-cleric rap in the middle of the traditional Russian "Ekh Lyuli Lyuli" is worth the price of admission all on its own.
If you have stuck it out this far, you must be wondering if the KlezmerShack is ever going to review, say, klezmer again. Is there something on my review pile that is just plain pleasant to listen to, but also worth listening to? So, I'll conclude today's mini-reviews with a mention of Le Freylekh Trio / featuring Goulash System". As Tim put it in his most recent nudge, "One of the coolest bands in Paris. Klezmer-Gypsy-Balkan-African...
The sounds of Menilmontant and La Goutte D'Or!" Easy for him to say. He's featured on this recording. If you like Django Reinhardt and jazz that swings, if you like Gypsy and klezmer music, if you just like great guitar and playing, plus wonderful vocals, then this is the recording to listen to. On this recording, the basic guitar-fiddle-bass are joined by a host of others. You can check out the recording on soundcloud.
Okay, now I have mentioned Tim Sparks, the amazing guitarist who, among other accomplishments (more in a minute) has released several tuneful and entirely un-avantgarde Jewish music recordings on Tzadik. Listening/watching him play is one of those special pleasures. There is a warmth to his playing (and an amazing speed to his fingers) that always blows me away and makes me feel good inside. On this 2009 release, Time Sparks / Little Princess, Tim channels crazy man Naftule Brandwein. In Tim's fingers, Brandwein's emotionally complex clarinet solos become instrumentally complex guitar heaven. Ben Bresky interviewed Tim about the album back in 2009 if you want to know more. But me, I'd just get the recording. Right. I have it. Now I've told you about it and you can do the same ;-).
As well as he plays klezmer and other Jewish music, Sparks is better known for covering early 20th century blues and jazz. As he describes in the liner notes to Tim Sparks / Sidewalk Blues, 2009, the early 20th century is when "American Roots music crystallized and was transformed by the effects of recording and radio.…" This is actually the music I loved before I encountered klezmer (and Stockhausen—but that's another story), and this recording is spankin' great. You can get your copy right off his website, along with his guitar transcriptions, books, and instructional DVDs.
3 Leg Torso / Animals & Cannibals
is a delight through and through. As was true on previous recordings (and especially 2003's Astor in Paris
), the band starts out from the tango, but I think it is probably truer to describe them as a chamber music group that starts with great (mostly) dance music (including, on this recording, the whimsical "According to Chagall" plus an intriguingly fun "Frailach #1) and explores. For me, this is great listening music, great music for sharing, and surprisingly great music for working. Like the Tim Sparks recordings that reminded me that this is on the "review me now, dammit" pile, there is a warmth and rhythm to the ensemble that makes it easy to focus when I really need to focus, and a freedom from "thumpa thumpa" that lets me smile when I come up for air. As has been true for everything I've written about this afternoon, this is music that I love. But especially in keeping with with the Freylekh Trio, Tim Sparks recordings, and here, this is music that is gentle, tuneful, and compellingly intricate. You're a click or two away from your own mp3 copy from the band's website
(physical CD available from amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and fine purveyors everywhere). Enjoy.
Well, some of the piles are a bit shorter now. Thank you for giving me the excuse to spend the afternoon listening to some of my new, and older favorites, all of which needed to be shared.