Monday, March 25, 2013

Slavic Soul Party on Electric Cowbell Records

Imagine nine people in a band, on tour, jammed into a van. Crisscrossing around the country, sharing hotel rooms…tetris-ing every free square inch of space on that vehicle for the giant cases holding trombones, accordions, trumpets... Slavic Soul Party might not have to worry about electronics and amps, but I can’t imagine that relationship dynamics are any easier than most three pieces out there, although maybe they’ve hit just the right number of people to be able to just about get to know each other by the time the tour is over. The ensemble describes themselves as a Balkan soul gypsy funk and these two tracks take that indescribable combination and apply it to original compositions on Electric Cowbell Records.

A-Side, "Jackson" on vinyl comes off like a giant, gleaming operatic number, a crazy marching band trick that turned into jazz with a dizzying trumpet solo that flies out of the punchy bursts of lower end tubas (?) and bleating horns. It's just crazy tot hear this kind of a dedication and skill, the sheer number of people, all in line coming together and making this happen, not to mention this isn't exactly garage music… where are you even going to rehearse this?
The opening of the horn section all in a row, sliding and waiting for a punchy, off kilter rhythm to take over with rolling snare's and timid ride cymbal taps while the midrange brass section picks up the main melody. The rock structure is all here, but this is an entirely different animal… just to hear all these moving pieces is exciting. Reexamining the very idea of contemporary compositions and big band/jazz groups doing this real modern stuff, it's mind-boggling. I have a huge respect for the talent at work here, and it’s like stumbling into the middle of a back alley street fair in Louisiana, an underground celebration that isn’t for the general public…or center field at half time. The way they insert these little bits of funk and soul, the melody seems to gradually gets a looser. I imagine those spontaneous street bands walking by your house in the lower 9th ward (I really have no idea what I’m talking about) and people joining in this funk marching band, elevating it with soul military precision… pretty nuts.

"Gangsta" has that lower end section working opposite this squeaking upper horn section and even with this title I can’t help but hear a kind of gypsy sound like Gogol Bordello or Beruit. Even if this has a jazzier, more pronounced melody, there was never going to be any room for lyrics the way they have this instrumentation working in every crevice and sonic wavelength. It’s slightly Middle Eastern with this clarinet solo at the end here and if you're looking for it, it might have a klezmer swagger you could say, a real tough kind of attitude here. It should be like a scratchy old record, but it's new and clear, bursting at the seams, real powerful stuff that ends up loud as heck in the these grooves…confounding to all generations.

The band is currently on tour, coming to Joe's Pub on the 28th and then up through Maine...I'm jealous but glad it’s them and not me.

This one is available from Electric Cowbell.

The band says:

“Jackson” is a karşilama (9/8 rhythm) that was the result of sitting around on a couch with a little old Casio keyboard, in the tiny village of Jackson, PA, contemplating the global reach of the king of pop: Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson might be the closest thing to “world music” if you mean music that the whole world has heard. It seems impossible now to ever appeal to that many people again at the same time. But what if Michael Jackson had grown up Roma in Serbia?

“Gangsta” is a tune of unknown origin (to SSP! anyway) that was a big hit in the southern Serbian brass band scene a few years back. We first heard it when we were hanging out in Vranje with Ekrem Mamutović; he led his band through it at a rehearsal and we fell in love with it instantly. The next day we asked him to teach it to us, and he said he couldn’t – it’s their hot new tune, and he couldn’t give away the trade secret. We definitely respected that. The next day in the car, we put on the latest Boban and Marko Marković album, and there was a version of the tune on the album, attributed to Marko. With competing claims as to whose hot new tune it was, we decided it was open season and whipped out our recording of the rehearsal. Peter Stan said with wonderment, “that tune is so gangsta”, and lo it had a title.

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