Beyond the Pale / Consensus

nice duotone of the band in concert

Beyond the Pale

Borealis Records, BCD165, 2004

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Beyond the Pale is a lovely, graceful combination of world accoustic music. This live recording captures them at a typical high point.

The bands roots are in klezmer and other Eastern European folk traditions, and having assimilated those musics they are busy creating new ones. As they demonstrate on the opening song, "Diaphonous Charms", they have moved with facility to the creation of a new world folk music that seems at home in any tradition, yet belongs exclusively to none. Their treatment of Dave Tarras tunes, on "Tarrastaman" melds klezmer with a hint of reggae creating something new, easy on the ears and still interesting, while the "Moses Nign" does capture both the spirit of Hasiddic nign and the soul of something new. The balkan and jazz intricacies of "Variatiuni Lautari" and "Enosereh" are no less fascinating to listen to on the CD than to watch live.

Visiting troublemaker Josh Dolgin provides some wonderful links to the world folk music fusion of the bands' parents and grandparents. "I Like She", classic Second Avenue and classic Aaron Lebedeff, becomes a wonderful, even wonderfully zany excusion into Yinglish and love, as does the Moishe Oysher chestnut "Skalavaye" (originally, "Alavaye"). Dolgin has also recorded these songs with his main band, Shtreiml. It is fun to see how the slightly different context of different bands makes for slight changes, albeit no change in the wonderful intensity of his singing. Dolgin's post-modern scepticism also adds an intriguing dimension to "Sha Shtil" in a duet with Yeva Medvedyuk. The song is already poking fun at the Hassidim, here a distance comes across that pokes fun at the poking fun of Hassidim—a music playing out (in a slightly twisted way) of the story about the Baal Shem Tov who would go to a specific place in the forest and say a particular prayer, and then later generations lost the forest, then the prayer, but never the intent.

The emphasis on fusion doesn't mean that the band eschews dance rhythms. The aforementioned "Tarrastaman" retains a good dance beat, and "Calusari Dance", likewise (although the wild bluegrassy—or Romanian—break will likely get in the way). Their version of "Mesecina" may be less loud than that we all memorized from the never-ended brass band assault in the post-Dayton accord classic Yugoslav movie "Underground".

But my favorite parts of the album may be in the intricate interplay on songs such as Martin van de Ven's "Whassat" or bandleader Eric Stein's "Reunion", the latter fusing a variety of klezmer tunes into something intriguingly new. This music sounds like what would happen if Dave Grisman were playing from Jewish roots, rather than merely accompanying them, as he did with Andy Statman years ago. Instead of mere "dawg" music, think of the result here as Jewish-Balkan post-klezmer music in a style that befits a city, Toronto, hailed by the UN as one of the most culturally diverse in the world. The result is sometimes borrowed, sometimes blue, sometimes old; always new, and always a pleasure.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 10/15/04

Personnel this recording:
Bogdan Djukic: violin/percussion
Bret Higgins: bass
Milos Popovic: accordion
Eric Stein: mandolin/mandocello
Martin van de Ven: clarinet/bass clarinet

Special Guests: Josh Dolgin: vocals/piano
Yeva Medvedyuk: vocals


  1. Diaphonous Charms (Bret Higgins) 3:44
  2. Tarrastaman (Dave Tarras; arr. BtP) 4:58
  3. Oy I Like She (Aaron Lebedeff; arr. BtP) 5:10
  4. Variatiuni Lautari (Arsene Paulic; arr. BtP) 5:15
  5. Enosereh (Martin van de Ven) 3:59
  6. Moses Nign (Eric Stein) 4:03
  7. Bulcharescu (Eric Stein) 3:41
  8. Calusari Dance (trad.; arr. BtP) 3:26
  9. Sha Shtil (trad.; arr. BtP) 3:22
  10. Whassat (Martin van de Ven) 7:07
  11. Nevestino (Ljubisa Pavkovic) 3:27
  12. Reunion (Eric Stein) 6:08
  13. Nign 107 (trad.; arr. BtP) 2:22
  14. Skalavaye (Moishe Oysher; arr. BtP) 2:26
  15. Mesecina (Saban Bajramovic; arr. BtP) 6:00

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