Les Yeux Noirs

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Balamouk Review

by Chris Nickson

Think of Balamouk as gypsy/klezmer/pop. It's rootsy and beautifully played (just listen to the opening title cut to hear the level of virtuosity, for example), but all with a modern sheen and some changes and harmonies that could only be contemporary, as on "Tchaye" or "Lluba," with a voice over earnest electronic textures which veer toward the liturgical. The mix of klezmer and gypsy music is perfectly natural (going back in history, there was much musical crossover between the two), amply reflected in the frequent similarities between the two genres, shown here on "Joc De Loop" and "Yiddishe Mama." Brothers Eric and Olivier Slabiak are outstanding on violins, but then again the whole group can stop and turn on a dime without ever missing a beat. The inclusion of cello is somewhat mold-breaking, but it works, offering a sighing heart to the sound (as well as the occasional chamber music feel of "Lodz"), while guitar introduces a jazz element that conjures up faint visions of the gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt. It's not hardcore music, by any means, but welcomes open-eared listeners with open arms and is the kind of playing that brings a smile to the face.

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