golem disk 88 298.
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Fresh Off Boat
JDub Records has thankfully been investing its efforts in acts that mix traditional Eastern European shtetl sounds with more contemporary ones from Manhattan, where the label keeps its offices. The most successful act currently on their roster is Balkan Beat Box, the Gypsy folk breakbeat ensemble with European world music festival bookings set up through the fall. Also making waves is Golem, a ferocious and tight post-klezmer act that takes cues from punk rock.
Golem is comprised of a six-piece acoustic orchestra fronted by co-lead vocalists Aaron Diskin, who is slightly more nervous and remarkably more rabid than David Byrne, and the panache-drenched Annette Ezekiel. The band's third album, but the first one recorded under the auspices of JDub, is the new Fresh Off Boat, an especially fierce romp. The disc's signature frantic tracks include the opening "Ushti Baba" and "Mazel," as well as "The Rent"; the energy never lets up until the final moments of the closing "Le Mariage."
The belligerent "Klezmerke" is broken up by a monologue listing the embarrassing transgressions of various family members, including a little brother who "picks the pockets of hipsters on the L train" - a segment of the New York subway that serves the melting pot of Williamsburg. Strengthened by guest contributions from Phish bassist Mike Gordon and Patti Smith electric guitarist Lenny Kaye, "Golem Hora" opens with standard "Siman Tov" and "Hava Nagila" folk treatments but soon descends into alternate lyrics, with Diskin asking "where is the lime and salt" and unconvincingly promising himself that he'll have "just one more."
Three artists out of Boulder, Colorado's blooming post-Hassidic community recently combined forces to become Bat Kol, an ensemble that mixes standard Western songwriting with some half-baked adventures in Eastern instrumentation. The group's name refers to a para-prophetic voice of God that can reveal His will even in times of limited prophetic vision.
Inspired by the teachings of Boulder's Rabbi Tirzah Firestone and Jewish Renewal movement founder Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (who both appear here with short monologues), Bat Kol's new debut album PrayerSongs is anchored by the core trio's guitars, keyboards and vocals. However, PrayerSongs is brought to life thanks to Indian tabla percussion and instruments from Arab lands like the ney and oud (Yair Dalal even appears on two tracks).
The songwriting found on PrayerSongs is not as novel as its concept, but there are some memorable melodies. Introduced by a spoken-word piece that wonders if the need for romantic love is just a refraction of the need for communion with the Infinite, "Ani Ledodi" is a duet between vocalist Michelle Ayalah Wolf and guest Ladino contributor Ricardo Pena. And with its deliberate meter and harmonic feel, "Kaveh el Hashem" has wisely been used as a closer.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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