Music

Boban Markovic Orkestar: Boban I Marko -- Balkan Brass Fest

Gypsy Flores

Boban Markovic Orkestar

Boban I Marko -- Balkan Brass Fest

Label: Piranha Musik
US Release Date: 2004-02-10
UK Release Date: 2003-10-27
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Sometime in about 1981, a friend of mine gave me a cassette tape of Serbian brass band music that he had just brought back from his travels in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. He just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Happy Birthday. I think this is something that you will really like." Well, he wasn't wrong there. I played that cassette until it literally wore out. I despaired that I would never find anything like it again, but I was persistent in my search for more of this amazing music. I now consider Balkan brass band music to be at the top of my list of favorite musical genres. There is something about it that just inspires one to get up and dance, be merry and down a glass of Slivovic or rakia.

There are many great Balkan brass bands such as Kocani Orkestar and Jova Stojiljkovic "Besir" and His Brass Orkestar, but shining high above them all is the Boban Markovic Orkestar. Indeed, they are stellar artists and have won first place for "best brass band" and "best trumpet" at the Guca festival in central Serbia so many times that they do not even compete anymore. Listen to their recording Live in Belgrade on Piranha Musik and you will hear why. Listen! Hah! I dare you to try to sit still and listen. Whether you know how to cocek, U'sest, and ruchenitsa or not, you will be up dancing away. They play "Hava Naguila" like you have never heard before. Theirs is the definitive version of "Mesecina", too -- that infamous song that the crowds derisively sang over and over during the downfall of Slobadan Milosevic. They are probably best known, though, for being the brass band in the rather surreal Emil Kusturica film Underground.

With the release of their latest CD, Boban I Marko -- Balkan Brass Fest, they prove that not only are they the preservers of the Rom tradition of brass band music, but they, like all Rom musicians, know how to incorporate influences from all over the world and make it uniquely their own, such as in the Latin tinged "Sanja Samba". (Although myself, I feel more like doing an "Argentine milonga" around the room rather than a "Brazilian samba".)

Boban Markovic has to play the sweetest trumpet around and his only upcoming rival is his son Marko. Marko joined the band shortly after the recording of Live in Belgrade and although only 15, he definitely has "the chops". Boban is quoted in the liner notes of this CD as saying about Marko, "when I listen to his solos, I wonder were they mine or his." The two of them exchange little trumpet dialogues throughout the recording as if peers rather than father and son. One wonders if Marko should ever form his own band and competes at the Guca festival, how many years in a row he would win "best trumpet" before he finally retires from the competition.

Boban I Marko -- Balkan Brass Fest contains many guest artists including Frank London's Klezmer Allstars on the track "Magija". This, of course, is not the first time that the two bands have recorded together. Boban and his orchestra recorded with Frank London's group on their CD Brotherhood of Brass, also on Piranha records. Frank London wrote some rather wild liner notes on Live in Belgrade comparing Boban Markovic Orkestar with "funk music" and all night parties. Yep, they have that kind of energy -- funk, rock, and, of course, jazz. But even more so, they have the free-spirit and open mindedness of Rom musicians who are technically perfect and so darn creative that they play with all out madness.

Although most of the music is instrumental, Boban Markovic is also a very fine vocalist and sings in Serbian on "Od Srca" (translated as "From the Heart"). Guest vocalist Svetlana Spajic Latinovic is featured on the title track "Balkan Fest" and also sings in Serbian.

The recording ends with a sweet trumpet solo on "Biseri Srbije part 1" ("Pearls of Serbia") and then slips into a slow moving dialogue between trumpet and violin played by guest artist Dejan Kostic and accordion with guest artist Sasa Zivic. We are now in the 10-minute long final piece "Biseri Srbije part 2" with virtuoso trumpet, accordion. and violin backed by percussion and tuba getting us up and dancing again.

If you have never heard Balkan brass band music, then my gosh, where have you been all this time! I suggest you run out to your local music store and buy this CD right away so you can start enjoying this amazing music without delay.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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