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Amsterdam Klezmer Band


(Essay; US: 18 Apr 2006; UK: 17 Apr 2006)

For the uninitiated (colour me that shade of ignorant), klezmer music is a form of music that developed in Southeastern Europe and is also associated with Jewish celebrations. There are very particular instruments linked to this musical genre, such as the violin, clarinet, and trombone. One apparently does not usually tie this music in with synthetic dance beats, rub-a-dub reggae, and rap. That is, until now. The concept behind this release is to take a number of klezmer tunes as written and performed by the Amsterdam Klezmer Band and experiment with them until they have a very contemporary feel. Such luminaries as Shantel and DJ Yury Gurzhy (nope, me neither) have taken the reins and attempted bring this style into the 21st century. The result is Remixed!

The album feels a little disjointed. It is neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring. If you are looking for a collection of klezmer tunes, then I suggest you keep on hunting because there is nothing to fulfill your need here. The performances by the Amsterdam Klezmer Band (that are almost obscured by the remixers) give you some idea about how entertaining they almost certainly are as a live act.  However, the original tunes are reworked and jazzed up for the MTV generation, often leaving little impression of the original. Yeah, well, that is what happens on remix albums, right? 

Where it works best is ironically where the premise fails. The numbers that retain their intrinsic traditional feel are the ones that stand head and shoulders above the rest. For example, all that appears to have been added to “Terk” are some sequenced beats, and as a result we have quite a funky tune that still sounds connected to its roots, albeit somewhat beefed up. The same goes for “Constantinopel Babes” [sic]; it has a phat beat attached, but still it sounds like it could be coming out of the window of the window of a Jewish wedding.

“Ludacris” is a fine example of this teetering on the edge of being neither one thing nor the other. It begins as a 1970s cop show theme, blends into a Brechtian nightmare of a woodwind solo, and then invites us back to the streets of San Francisco once more. It is simultaneously unsettling and preposterous but strangely compelling. As a matter of fact, the previous sentence sums up the album quite nicely. As it is difficult to find a box to put it in, you are left feeling that you are missing something.  Or perhaps that is indeed the problem; because this album cannot be easily categorised, I am left with the feeling that something is not quite right with it but in fact the problem lies within my own bias.

Actually, the fact remains that after repeated listens it really is the kind of record that you would play if you were hosting a house party or had a long drive and you wanted something to keep you awake. Nevertheless, you must stick with it for a while, as it can be a little bit of a confusing listen.  Moreover, this recording can make one yearn for the un-re-mixed versions so that one can enjoy this band the way nature intended.


Marc A. Price was born in Peterborough, a tiny little backwater in the east of England and is a graduate of American Studies (BA, University of Sussex & University of Texas in Austin) and Contemporary History (MA, University of Sussex). He resisted the urge to get a third degree and moved to the Netherlands where he works for a well known STM publisher. He takes photos a good bit these days and struggles with his Internet addiction on a daily basis. He has been writing for PopMatters on and off since 2006. Marc A. Price would like to point out that he is not "Skippy" from Family Ties.

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