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Oi Va Voi - Laughter Through Tears


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.

 

Track listing:
1. Refugee
2. Yesterday's Mistake
3. Od Yeshoma
4. A Csitari Hegyek Alatt
5. Ladino Song
6. Brothers
7. D'ror Yikra
8. Gypsy
9. Hora
10. Pagamenska

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