May 6, 2010

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Balkan Beat Box, Blue Eyed Black Boy
NatGeo Records, April 27

It may not be weird enough for you that BBB’s drummer/programmer Tamir Muskat dragged his two bandmates away from their New York comforts to record their newest LP in downtown Tel Aviv, but some of this was also recorded in Belgrade, and you guessed it, there were anti-Kosovo riots going on at the time. This urgent, inescapable humanity somehow bled into the record, lending an amazingly lively shimmer that makes it seem more urban than maybe anything you’ve ever heard. Two things that might dissuade people from investigating this are Muskat’s one-off with Gogol Bordello and the reggae element that flows throughout, but BBB are adamantly not gypsy-punk nor are they dancehall hacks with a spurious ethnic edge. Ori Kaplan gets world-beating shtick out of his sax, one minute mocking up the sounds of Iranian pop-radio blasting out of a 1980 Chevette, then weaving in and out of hip-hop, dance and rock beats, evoking things Yiddish, then Armenian, then Egyptian, then salsa — it literally demonstrates once and for all how closely knitted all ethnic music is. If Elephant Man soundtracked Raiders of the Lost Ark it might be something vaguely similar to this, if that helps. AEWS