This is one of the few albums I’ve heard that successfully marries ‘traditional’ forms of musical expression with contemporary dance styles without simply cashing in on the current trend for quirky ethnic sounds. There is genuine expression here, both in the themes and lyrics of the songs, and in the rich and varied soundscape that is explored. The music touches on modern dance genres rather than basing entire songs around them, ranging from the gentle breakbeat of ‘Refugee’ to the rolling house backdrop of ‘D’Ror Yikra’. Sequencing is kept to minimum, with live drumming preferred on most of the tracks – essential for the more complex rhythms used, such as the 7/8 in ‘Ladino Song’. The use of the clarinet and trumpet add extra dimensions to the sound, and the rich 4-Hero-esque string arrangements are particularly effective on tracks like ‘Od Yeshoma’.
The band demonstrate their Jewish roots with clever use of the Klezmer musical tradition – you can hear plenty of accentuated 4th notes and subtly worked harmonic minor modes, but this never clashes with the more contemporary harmony. I’m no expert on Klezmer but the singing seems to me particularly authentic, and evokes the folk tradition well. Their use of Hebrew, Hungarian and other languages is a brilliant vehicle for the soft, reflective lyrics; in some tunes the words are repeated in English, as if to emphasize their relevance in a modern context. The playing in general is rock-solid throughout, with interest continually generated through fluid basslines, clever use of percussion and and a rich harmonic spectrum. This album pushes back the frontiers of ‘crossover’ – I’d definitely recommend it.