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Jaro Milko & The Cubalkanic

Cigarros Explosivos!

(Asphalt Tango; US: 1 Apr 2014; UK: 7 Apr 2014)

The title and the blurb both stress the band’s uniquely exciting eruptiveness—“Overdriven cumbias simply make your ass want to move”—but the eruptions are, just faintly, not there. The ideas are there, the ideas are fine. The different Balkan and pan-American styles have been fitted together with flourishing aplomb and well done on that ingenious notion. But Jaro Milko’s voice is too indie-flat and the repetitive elements in “Misaria” are too tame when they should be jab-jab-jabbing the audience, and the chorusing at the start of “El Perro” should be fresh as ice but it isn’t. These are showboating styles they’re playing with here, and they need to either knock you dead with skill or else subvert the whole notion of skill. Instead I’m left sitting here with time to wonder if this Euro-American mixture was a calculated decision to mop up the Balkan-slash-something audience and the Cuban-Etcetera dance audience in one fell swoop. Don’t give me time to wonder that. A live album might put their strengths in sharper relief.

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