Lo'Jo is one of the best examples of the new France -- multicultural, adventurous, but still ineffably Gallic at heart. Bohême de Cristal, their first American release, has all the qualities that have made them a global success on the world music circuit: the existential lyrics of singer/keyboard player Denis Péan, along with his gruff, Serge Gainsbourg-like voice; the North African harmonies of the El Nourid sisters, whose contribution shouldn't be understated; and rhythms and melodies that can veer from Central European gypsy to West Africa in a heartbeat. It all comes together most perfectly in "Señor Calice," recorded in Mali, where the band's striking textures are thickened by the appearance of Benin's Gangbé Brass Band, sounding like the Memphis Horns after a riotous night with added West African rap. But then, nothing on this album is straightforward -- it's like a walk through a secret garden, where every turn in the path brings new and unexpected delights. "Mon Amour," Péan's solo piece, is rivetingly spare, while "Le Piano" pays hot jazz homage to Thelonious Monk, and the opening, "Brûlé La Mèche," captures the band in full flight, the accordion and violin flying, while Yamina and Nadia El Nourid stir up a vocal sandstorm. Utterly original and mining a seam all their own, this is an album that does the band full justice.
AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson