Lucid Culture


CD Review: Beyond the Pale – Postcards

This is one of those great multistylistic Balkan-flavored bands which seem to be popping up all over the place. On their third excellent cd, Toronto-based Beyond the Pale (not to be confused with the Irish band of the same name) mix elements of klezmer, Eastern European folk and bluegrass for a completely original sound, alternately sizzling and haunting. String players Alekasandar Gajić and Bogdan Djukić and accordionist Milos Popović are Serbian; clarinetist Martin van de Ven is Dutch, bassist Bret Higgins and bandleader/mandolinist/cimbalom player Eric Stein (who also runs Toronto’s excellent Ashkenaz Festival) are Canadian: an unsurprisingly syncretic lot.

The dances here set frequently blazing, modern solos with an occasional rock edge flying over rustically-flavored melodies (Stein is particularly adept at this). There are two tangos, one more upbeat and intricate than the other, yet both share the clever interplay between instruments that pervades most of the album. There’s also a fluttery, heartfelt original arrangement of an old Jewish ngunim (liturgical melody) and a couple of noirish, klezmer/cabaret vocal numbers, one with a bracing cimbalom solo from Stein.

Katarina, with its staccato violin, bubbly clarinet and wistful accordion plays over some tricky changes, building to a nostalgic crescendo of strings. Gajic’s Back to the Beginning, written under the bombs in Belgrade is swinging but stark, with a jazzy, somewhat Jean-Luc Ponty-esque feel. One of the cleverest numbers here, Turkish Delight is actually a cover, a strikingly captivating, haunting reworking of a Levantine-inflected dance tune by 1950s schlockmeister/innovator Irving Fields originally released on the legendary cassette-only album of cruise ship instrumentals Melody Cruise Around the World. The album winds up with a darkly atmospheric accordion tune, a Balkan dance, a traditional doina and a brisk minor-key klezmer number. It’s fun, it’s pretty dark in places and you can even dance to much of this. Beyond the Pale have friends in high places (they played Theodore Bikel’s birthday party at Carnegie Hall); watch this space for New York dates.

August 11, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment