Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Balkan Beat Box

  • Balkan Beat Box [JDub, 2005] A-
  • Nu Med [JDub, 2007] A
  • Nu Made [Remixes] [JDub, 2009] Choice Cuts
  • Blue Eyed Black Boy [Nat Geo Music, 2010] A-
  • Give [Nat Geo Music, 2012] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Balkan Beat Box [JDub, 2005]
Former Gogol Bordello horn man Ori Kaplan moves in with Big Lazy's Tamir Muskat, the Israeli-born drummer who faced down Gypsy punk Eugene Hutz in J.U.F. last year. Everything else is friends and programming, with a party feel more relaxed than expected despite the fact that their CVs assuredly include weddings. The drumbeats remain edgily electronic. But the bass lines propelling the dance, and the horns and vocals flavoring it, are sweeter than in Gogol Bordello or Big Lazy--with a discernible sensuality putting flesh on the fun. Ethnically, and politically, the idea is that Morocco and Bulgaria are one place--a lie longing to become a dream. A-

Nu Med [JDub, 2007]
More Balkan, less beat box, very Brooklyn, ex-Israeli masterminds Tamir Muskat and Ori Kaplan dispense with the yť-yť girls and give their touring band some on a truly pomo Gypsy brass record--asses freed in a corkscrew kind of way, minds likewise. Couldn't tell you where or whether they stole Kaplan's fetching tenor line on"BBBeat" or Uri Kinrot's fetching guitar line on "Habibi MinZaman." But they sound like looted treasure that will soon help the guys wire much-needed cash to the old country from a newer, happier home. In this fifth year of our imperial horror show, anybody who can lay such a benign aura on a province of America, even rebel Brooklyn, should get a Congressional Order of Merit. Unable to suss what MC Tomer Yosef believes "intelligence be tellin' gents," I hope we get to find out. A

Nu Made [Remixes] [JDub, 2009]
"Ramallah-Tel Aviv" Choice Cuts

Blue Eyed Black Boy [Nat Geo Music, 2010]
Give these Brooklyn immigrants credit for holding off on album three till they had enough songs to put meat on their Israeli-Palestinian-Gypsy world music of the mind, and enough ideas to lift its spirit. Instrumentals called "Kabulectro" and "Balcumbia" triangulate their ambitions. There's live Gypsy brass and fabricated Gypsy brass. There's an anti-racist reggae and an anti-gun reggae and one called "Buhala" that's haunted by chants from some souk at the end of the unmarked road. There's even a love song: "Dancing With the Moon." Sashays along over organ and castanet sounds. Ends with dubbed-up horns. A-

Give [Nat Geo Music, 2012]
An add-on at first, rapper Tomer Yosef has moved to the center of what initially presented itself as an Israeli-American Gypsy brass band making nice to a Stateside shaabi shaabi market that existed only in its dreams. Now Ori Kaplan's horns surface regularly, but doing hook duty, with the drummed and synthesized beats Tamir Muskat throws up around Yosef's militant raps providing core musical identity. Something has been lost, but what's left beats most "world" hip-hop a kilometer, and the hooks help--as do the likes of "Money," "Enemy in Economy," and "Urge to Be Violent" keeping the wordplay simple but not simpleminded. A-