Balkan Fever London – Mind the Brass
Green Queen 0205557GQM
Full Price (66 mins)
This new compilation of UK bands is the latest in a long line of localised gypsy or Balkan scenes sprouting up across the world. What is remarkable about these scenes is that the musicians tend to be homegrown, treating the music as a style and sound – not attempting to emulate the gypsy greats but using it as a springboard for something original. This album, connected to the annual London Balkan Fever festival – put on every year by fearless promoters Kazum – features many bands that will be new names, and many tracks are previously unreleased. Gypsy Hill – named after a bit of South London – open proceedings in style with ‘Balaka’, trading reggaeton drums and bouzouki guitar licks with samples from Hungarian greats Besh O Drom; elsewhere one of Europe’s most underrated klezmer ensembles, Shekoyokh, let rip on ‘Bendi Glendi’, and Deathray Trebuchay bring gypsy riffs, the Welsh language and punk rock attitude into a riotous collision on “Number 6”. It’s not easy to choose standout tracks: The Baghdaddies, stalwarts of the UK scene, bring a tasty hard ska backbeat to ‘Shri’; Ghettoplotz tear up Mickey Katz with old school house beats on ‘Babyschlep’, and newcomers Sam and the Womp whip up a storm of brass, funk drumming and Roots Manuva style sound effects on ‘Bom Bom’, which would have been magnificent with a sharper pair of digital scissors. On this evidence the UK sound has a freshness and original style that make this record worth seeking out.