Farmer's Market

Surfin' USSR

by Stuart Henderson

30 April 2008

 

The most interesting musical shift in contemporary jazz has been toward the embrace of the eastern European folk idiom. Much of this is, of course, due to the powerful influence New York-based multi-instrumentalist and prolific composer John Zorn has held over his colleagues. His work, especially with Masada, has emphasized a melding of musics from many traditions, exploring the limits of “jazz” while simultaneously reinvigorating the instrumental folk scene. Zorn’s wide influence can surely be felt here, on Norwegian combo Farmer’s Market’s energetic “Surfin’ USSR”. A conflation of Bavaria, Israel, Bulgaria, and downtown New York, Farmer’s Market offers a daring mosaic of sound, color, texture, and tradition. It’s exciting, dense, and full of humor—but there is an emptiness here, too. While Zorn’s Masada has continued to explore the possibilities created through a jarring collision of genres, Farmer’s Market appears here, on their fourth record in almost fifteen years, to be pitching shtick. Freely borrowing from James Bond themes, Deltones-esque surf, and some fairly well-trod gypsy-jazz territory, the outfit seems content to make us smile at the oddness of their creation, instead of awing us with their inventiveness. And, didn’t Paul McCartney already make this joke about surf music and the Soviet empire? Anyway, if live samples available on YouTube are any indication, this is one hot live act—give the record a miss, but catch them if they ever make it to your town.

Surfin’ USSR

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