Music

Shantel: Bucovina Club Vol. 2

Tim O'Neil

I find it remarkably difficult to judge whether or not this album is an exercise in crackpot genre-bending or legitimately visionary postmodernism.


Shantel

Bucovina Club Vol. 2

Label: Essay Recordings
US Release Date: 2005-06-21
UK Release Date: 2005-07-11
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Once in a while I am surprised. Although you might think us music critics to be infallible and unflappable, sometimes we let our guard down and end up flummoxed. Much to my chagrin, Bucovina Club Vol. 2 has flummoxed me.

I remember Shantel from the late '90s and very early '00s, when he was a second-string producer in the same mode as Kruder & Dorfmeister and the Thievery Corporation, producing a handful of interesting but unexceptional albums in the downtempo vein. 2001's Great Delay saw the producer recording in Israel with the aid of singer Efrat Ben-Zur. Apparently the years since Great Delay have seen Shantel dive even deeper into world music, because Bucovina Club Vol. 2 is a compilation of Eastern European Gypsy music... which I was not expecting.

Now, I would be lying if I said there was any single genre of world music which I was less familiar with than the music of the Balkans. I wouldn't know a balalaika from a baklava. As such, I find it remarkably difficult to judge whether or not this album is an exercise in crackpot genre-bending or legitimately visionary postmodernism. To my ear, the concessions to Western musical convention are almost totally overwhelmed by the foreign flavor of the Balkan material. There are house beats and perhaps the slight occasional nod to hip-hop, but there are also strange brass sections, odd tempos and unfamiliar languages -- Greek? Bulgarian? Serbo-Croatian?

So, um, I don't even know what to call this. Gypsy-house? Balkan-hop? It's interesting, I'll give it that. But is it any good? Will I want to listen to it again? That's probably not so clear.

Something like Shantel's own "Ya Rayah" seems more or less typical of the entire project. You've got a distinctive Balkan melody and shuffling Gypsy beat, with a slight hint of a hip-hop beat inserted to add some "oomph". It seems less like a hybrid than merely a slight modernization -- and as such its appeal is probably limited to those who already dig the genre in question.

At its best, on tracks like the Haaksman & Kaaksman Soca Bogle mix of Shantel's "Bucovina", the album succeeds in conjuring up the feel of strangely updated indigenous music heard in surreal settings -- like, hip-hop salsa heard on a passing car stereo. Pop music has always made strange hybrids with "traditional" forms -- what we now consider pop evolved itself out of indigenous musical forms of North America, after all. Taking a traditional form and simply welding it to club music with no real thought given to the overall purpose is an old trick that gets trotted out every now and again: we've all heard the Native American chants with the cheesy house beats under them used in bad commercials. What is less common is taking the old form and finding an authentic medium for a common discourse.

Does Bucovina Club Vol. 2 count? Without a more nuanced knowledge of the music as it actually exists in its natural form, I can't say whether or not this is revolutionary or superfluous. Anyone with a more accomplished mastery of the music of the region should probably judge for themselves, because it baffles me.

5

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image