Review: Jack Foley
DESCRIBED by the band itself as 'the soundtrack to 1001 Urban
Nights', Oi Va Voi's debut album, Laughter Through Tears
is a quietly affecting collection of mood music, which showcases
the arrival of another hot prospect.
Oi Va Voi first burst onto the music scene in 2000, when the
six members who comprise the group decided to team up and draw
on their separate musical experiences.
Trumpeter, Lemez Lovas, started out DJing leftfield jazz, Latin
and hip-hop, while drummer, Josh Breslaw, had hit the fatback
beat in hip-hop and rock outfits.
Sophie Solomon played out as a drum 'n' bass DJ, as well as
gaining praises from Nigel Kennedy, among others, for her talent
as a violinist.
And although they started out by taking old klezmer tunes and
giving them 21st Century beats, the group soon broadened out their
sound, dipping into everything that they heard around them (one
early suggested title for this album was Magpie Music).
Hence, comparisons have been drawn with everyone from Massive
Attack, Morcheeba and Nitin
Sawhney to even bands such as The Pogues!
The album is at its smartest during the sophisticated ballads,
which bring out the finest in the sultry vocals (whether they
be from KT Tunstall or Judith Ne'meth), and which play down a
lot of the more Jewish influences.
Hence, opening tracks such as Refugee, or the soulful
A Csitari Hegyek Alatt arrive like skillfully executed
soothers, which would provide an ideal backdrop to one of those
trendy London bars that punctuate the likes of Camden and Islington.
It is during the opening tracks, in particular, that the band
remain most commercially viable, and deeply laidback, evoking
those strong comparisons to Zero 7 and Sawhney, et al.
Once they have you hooked, however, the wide spectrum of influences
kick in, ranging from the Jewish traditional klezmer sound, to
the flamenco/African crossover mix of music which marks D'ror
Yikra as a break away from the norm - vocals on this one come
courtesy of Tunisian vocalist, Ben Hassan.
It's an assured album, rife with a desire to explore as many
different musical and cultural avenues as possible and, as such,
won't be to everyone's taste.
But given that it was produced by KeVin Bacon (who has worked
with Bowie and Finlay Quaye), and programmed by former Sawhney
collaborator, Tony Economides, you can perhaps understand why
everything sounds so polished and accomplished.
Oi Va Voi is a band which, after all, received two nominations
in the 2002 BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards for their live performances
before they had even put out an album, which explains why so many
people are clamouring to work with them.
We suggest you clamour to find out what the fuss is all about
as, on the strength of this, album number two should definitely
be worth getting excited about.
2. Yesterday's Mistake
3. Od Yeshoma
4. A Csitari Hegyek Alatt
5. Ladino Song
7. D'ror Yikra