Black Ox Orkestar
For as much attetion as the gypsy-punk cartoons Gogol Bordello receive for revitalizing klezmer music, it’s too bad some of the focus can’t be shifted to the far superior Black Ox Orkestar. While the group’s debut Ver Tanzt? showed unfinished promise, it laid much of the groundwork for this truly spectacular second album. Delving back into a rich catalog of Eastern European folk traditionals, the group ekes out a darker, more brooding and more celebratory niche in a somewhat neglected genre. Beginning with “Bukharian,” a wordless trudging chant over escalating, furious instrumentation, the disc presents its twilight musings first. “Az Vey Dem Tatn,” the most emotionally rich and musically textured track on the album again builds in minimalism, gathering steam with boiler room percussion and mounting hard-worn Yiddish choral vocals. To call it ‘epic’ is an understatement.
Without completely losing this autumn hue, the handful of instrumental tracks range from the comparatively restrained “Violin Duet” to the almost free-jazz explosion from a guesting horn section on “Ratsekr Grec.” There’s a melancholy joy found in its driving rhythms, a strength and desire for celebration in spite of circumstance. Taken in the midst of the more omnious lyric tracks they answer the question posed in the title of their previous album. Who dances? They do. By a wide margin, contender for album of the year.
Constellation Records: www.cstrecords.com