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29 November 2008

Review: STriCat- rats & gentle people

rats & gentle people

A fresh approach to music is always a good thing, and STriCat is a shining example of what can happen when the constraints of musical expression are removed. At first blush, the band’s composition of Trumpet, Accordion, and Cymbalom would seem somewhat unlikely, but any reservations are overcome once you hear them. The result is some of the most unique music that I have heard.

The music is truly original, with each of the band members contributing original compositions. In fact, the band is listed as the Producer on the album credits. So, these guys show a level of commitment not often seen today. Composing, arranging, performing, producing. They do it all.

But what does the music sound like, you ask? They put out a lot of music for being a trio. I would describe the sound this way: relating to a jazz combo, think of the Trumpet as, well, the Trumpet; think of the Accordion as the Tenor Sax; think of the Cymbalom as the rhythm section. It’s an uncanny combination. Levelt (Trumpet) and van Tol (Accordion) to me sound like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The parts fit exactly the way they should, and the harmonies are there, too. Vink (Cymbalom) really drives the group, and sets the style whether it be swing, Bebop, a fast Balkan Sirba, or a slow Hora.

The opening track, Driving Madness is an American-style contemporary big band tune. It has a great melody, excellent Trumpet break/solo, and even an a capella shout chorus. It serves to whet the appetite for all that follows on the album.

Lay Dee “p” is a slower solo by Trumpeter Levelt with Accordion accompaniment. It is the shortest track, but shows the introspective side of the group.

Asphalt, my favorite track, could be the title track for the album. With a strong Bebop influence, the combination of muted Trumpet with Accordion works well and shows that you can really swing on any instrument! I like the a capella coda, too.

Toni is the most Balkan styled tune. While still jazzy, it follows closely with much of the Balkan Brass music I have heard. And check out the great Accordion solo by van Tol.

Have A Seat and Hear My Degu A Comin’ are stylistically similar, with both using the short Balkan trill as part of the melody. Very interesting tunes, one fast and the other slow. I keep singing Hear My Degu to myself when no one is around. You will, too.

Dracula is an interesting contrast in styles. While the Accordion and Trumpet solos are the highlight here, this track has a most interesting melody. Take a Blakan theme and cross it with Lee Morgan’s A Sidewinder, and you have the essence of STriCat.

The two Sirbas on the album, Sir Bah and Sirba Voor Susanna are STriCat’s vision of the traditional folk song, the latter played on muted Trumpet.

The sound quality is excellent. I had good results on everything I listened on- car, computer, and home theater. The Trumpet is clearly the lead instrument, but you never lose the Cymbalom or Accordion in the mix. Great engineering by Micha de Kanter.

The CD package has no liner notes, only the track listing, personnel, and credits on the back cover. There are some great photos of the band members on the foldout. The web site has more info, including sound and video clips.

I can easily recommend Rats & Gentle People. This is truly World Music, and STriCat has hit on a fresh concept that should gain a wide following.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

rats & gentle people
Karnatic LAB records (KLR 012)

Bokkie Vink - cimbalom,
Theo van Tol - akkordeon,
Gijs Levelt – trompet

Track Listing:
Driving Madness 6:09
Have A Seat 4:18
Lay Dee 'p' 2:49
Mohawk Territory 5:07
Sir Bah 5:50
Loose Ends 5:45
Asphalt 6:11
Toni 5:33
V 5:23
Hear My Degu A Comin' 7:02
Dracula 5:27
Sîrba Voor Susanna 3:26


Karnatic LAB

15 November 2008

Review: DeLeon

Review: DeLeon

DeLeon is the self-titled debut album of the Sephardic Indie-rock band led by Dan Saks. The group’s progressive sound is instantly ingrained on the listener from the first note of the album. The concept of the album is fresh and distinctive, while still managing to retain the essence of the Sephardic experience. By using complex Spanish and middle-Eastern percussion and electronic rhythms along with Ladino, Hebrew, and English lyrics, DeLeon brings the Sephardic culture to the forefront of the urban Jewish music scene. By changing languages within the songs, DeLeon not only appeals to a broader audience, but also adds authenticity and respect for the culture behind the music.

I was immediately drawn to this musical genre so well defined by DeLeon. While the vocals are great, I like the way the Electric Guitar lines mix with the Keyboard electronic effects, the strong Percussion rhythms, and Spanish-infused Trumpet.
The opening song, Yodukha Rayonai, is the probably the best known on the album. It is Percussion-driven and sets the tone for the album right from the opening notes in the Electric Guitar. This is contrasted nicely with the Piano lines between the vocals.

If there were a title track for the album, I would have to say it would be La Serena. For me, this song gets to the heart of DeLeon. It has all the elements that make the group great. It again starts with strong Percussion, Ladino and English lyrics, and Guitar. Then Trumpet is added to reinforce the rhythm. Toward the end the song changes style completely. There is a harmonized vocal, and 80’s style keyboard effects with matching trumpet licks.

Later on the album, La Ner V’Livsamim very cleverly opens with a Nign of Yodukha Rayonai and adds the main theme to it. Then the lyric takes over along with Guitar and Keybord. I liked the cool echo effect on the Vocal, too.

My favorite track of all is Be Still, Angelino. It is in 6/8 time and has a Spanish modality, plus a strong hook in the chorus along with some great Trumpet and Guitar lines. The band takes over near the end, with the Guitar and Drums building right to the last note.

Almond Trees is all in English and has more of a Pop song style. Saks carries this song off very well with the tag line “For you I would give my life.” I keep singing it to myself even after the song is over.

Shifting gears, Rahelika Baila adds some cool Keyboard sounds and a remixed vocal. It has the sound effect of an old scratchy 78 record. The Ladino lyric is matched in the Guitar and nice Bass line.

The band exchanges Banjo for the Guitar on the lively La Vida Do Por El Raki. The fast tempo and signature Spanish harmony combine to make this another favorite song. I like the stop time section in the middle, too.

Sa’ Dawi is the most unusual song. It is an instrumental piece that features the Guitar. The first section feels middle- Eastern, then after a short Nign in the middle switches to a contemporary feel for the rest of the song. DeLeon is very good at style changes within the songs. It keeps the listener involved in the music by implying “If your attention wanders you’ll miss something cool.”

Ok, I have to admit to another favorite track. Porke Yorach has all the elements of a great song. It is a ballad sung in both Ladino and English, and features the beautiful voice of Amy Crawford. She and Saks deliver rich, flowing vocals, with beautiful harmony. Just the right amount of electronics in the accompaniment along with a very tasteful Trumpet solo adds to the emotion of this love song. For me, this is the centerpiece of the album.

The audio quality of the album is excellent. The attention to detail is evident, and the instruments and vocals are well balanced. The vocal effects give DeLeon its special flair, with long tail reverb and echo used in a very artistic way.

I like DeLeon very much. The combination of languages in the lyrics and changing musical textures makes this a very enjoyable album. The musicianship is at a very high level and you can tell they are having fun performing the music. I highly recommend this album. DeLeon is on to something special and I look forward to seeing what direction they will go in the future.

Keith Wolzinger
Klezmer Podcast

JDUB Records

Track List:
1. Yodukha Rayonai
2. La Serena
3. Adio Querido
4. La Ner V Livsomim
5. Be Still, Angelino
6. A La Una Yo Naci
7. Almond Trees
8. Rahelika Baila
9. La Vida Do Por El Raki
10. Sa'Dawi
11. Porke Yorach
12. En El Cafe

Band Members:
Dan Saks - Vocals, Guitar, Banjo
Kevin Snider - Bass, Vocals
Justin Riddle - Drums
Amy Crawford - Keys, Vocals
Andrew Oom – Trumpet


14 November 2008

JDub Presents Jewltide: A Hanukkah Bash- Saturday, December 20, 2008 in Los Angeles, CA

Saturday, December 20, 2008
in Los Angeles, CA
Jewltide featuring DeLeon, The Sway Machinery & Festival of Rights
8:00 PM

JDub Presents Jewltide: A Hanukkah Bash
The Troubadour - 9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Valet Parking available


Featuring live performances by
Deleon – 15th Century Spanish indie rock
The Sway Machinery - Cantorial afropop and blues from members of Balkan Beat Box, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Antibalas
The night kicks off with PJA’s Festival of Rights multi-media menorah lighting

Plus, dredyls, gelt, latkas (until they run out), and a free JDub compilation CD with every ticket!

Made possible through the support of the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles

Sponsored by Progressive Jewish Alliance
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