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The Bay Bridged – San Francisco Bay Area Indie Music

Review/Photos: Japonize Elephants, Zoyres, Killbossa @ The Rickshaw Stop 8/25

August 30, 2010

Oakland’s Killbossa is a 7-piece that plays beefed up Tropicália standards (60’s era Brazilian music with a political bent). The vocals are clean, the backbeat hard, and the guitar a bit grungy. The bassist and guitarist brought some heat, it seems that when they are practicing Tropicália they are running through Rage Against the Machine songs in their basement.

The band is on-point, they play tight until they fall into a free-form section where the divergent sums equal a strong whole; all the players were endlessly capable. They play standards in such an inventive and original way that I longed to see what they could do with their own material.

Zoyres Eastern European Wild Ferment began their set with a raucous, cymbal-heavy drum intro. Though going by such an explicit name, Zoyres’ heavy Balkan influence is just one side of the coin — you can hear styles that span the spectrum.

Horns over drums is nothing new, but they are able to inject enough juice to leave you reeling. Their music is played with enough emotion to make it feel narrative, and their arrangement and instrumentation is wild and exciting. While the amplified tuba was battling the prog drums, you may have thought you were listening to a Radiohead cut if you kept your eyes closed.

Japonize Elephants is a bit different than the bands it shared a bill with that night. While the other bands played music that you have heard before but in a way that you have never heard it, Japonize Elephants took two disparate styles of music, left them fairly untouched, and then mixed thoroughly. Both approaches felt new, and were undeniably successful.

Japonize Elephants mix country and western bluegrass with klezmer (but, of course they let a lot of other influences sneak in, too). Their sound is powerful, bolstered by big group vocals. Like the other two bands the playing was impeccable.

These three very different bands are brought together by a respect for traditional music, and a devotion to mastery that is commendable. The bands were all from the Bay Area, they all shared players, and the crowd seemed initiated. Fresh music that takes cues from around the globe is alive and well, and it lives in our town. I know I feel lucky.

The Rickshaw Stop Wednesday (8:30, PM $10)

Sweet and Saur

By Hiya Swanhuyser

Klezmer party music has been surprising hipsters around here for the past couple of years — it&’s so … cool, in a way that traditional music traditionally is not. Biggish-band klezmer jazz sounds such as those made by Zoyres Eastern European Wild Ferment are routinely referred to as “dance music,” with good reason; saxophones, clarinets, tuba, trombones, and the drums to take them all on — this is loud. At the band’s Reunion Show and Sauerkraut Sampling, the musicians show off their other old-is-new-again obsession — acid, salt, live cultures, and organic matter, or in other words, fermentation. They’ve been known to arrive at their concerts bearing kimchi, pickles, beer, wine, and as here, kraut. Is it a metaphor if you can eat it? Zoyres pulls from drum ‘n’ bass, rock, and folk musics to nourish its overarching devotion to improvisational, John Zorn–style jazz, just as the cabbage joins its spicy brethren in the vinegar mix; your call on the metaphor thing.

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Local klezmer act Zoyres is no sour pickle

2:25 pm Thursday, March 18, 2010 by emily savage
zoyres_portrait_360

Just can’t get enough klezmer? Fear not, dear readers, this week I talked to local klezmer act Zoyres Eastern European Wild Ferment and – lucky you – they have two live shows this week:

1) Zoyres, Seth Augustus, & Emperor Norton’s Jazz Band
Thursday March 18 9pm start
Starry Plough
3101 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley (near Ashby Bart)
$7

2) Zoyres Eastern European Wild Ferment
Friday March 19
7:30 doors/8pm show
Red Poppy Art House
2698 Folsom St, San Francisco , CA
$10-15

*Excerpts from the interview:

j. weekly:When and how did Zoyres begin? Why play klezmer music?

Zoyres:  Zoyres Eastern European Wild Ferment began around 2003 with the intent of approaching klezmer and Eastern European folk music from both a “traditional” and rootsy perspective, as well as a stretched out and experimental one.  A huge inspiration back then, and still, was Naftule’s Dream, a Boston based band that compellingly bridges traditional klezmer music with way-out experimental and jazz improvisational forms (think of the perfect band if Frank Zappa were to be Bar Mitzvah’d).

j: Do you craft your own tunes or play classic klezmer songs, or a mixture of both?

z: Zoyres’ repertoire includes traditional klezmer tunes as well as traditional Balkan folkdance tunes from countries such as Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, etc.  We also write our own compositions both in and out of those styles.  Our approach is to mix the “traditional” with sounds that catch our own ears and reflect our broad listening experience.  The results vary, some tunes might sound quite like a 1920’s recording of a folk musician, while others have clear reference in traditional music, but are played in wildly different settings.  And then we write tunes and improvise in ways that don’t fit into any neat categories.

Here’s a bit more on the conceptual framework of the group’s aesthetic:
The name “Zoyres” derives from the Yiddish term for fermented vegetables, “zoyers.” These foods have been transformed by culture and community (of the microbial sort) through incredible biochemical fermentation processes. These “cultural” transformations underlie our own cultural development, as humans have relied and reveled in fermented foods for millennia. Zoyres’ music represents the geo-social analogue to the biochemical ferment. Our music, of Eastern European origin, brined in the contemporary cultural milieu, is akin to the pickle, still evident in its cucumbral origin, but with a taste and texture transformed.

j: What is the audience’s reaction to your music generally?

z: Audience reaction is typically positive.  Our sound appeals to a wide audience, that includes folkdance aficionados, jazzheads, experimental music lovers, and everyone in between.  The band is packed with real solid players and we put a lot of intention into developing arrangements, both of which make a powerful statement.  Sometimes we play for folkdancers, which is a lot of fun for us, and hopefully for them.  We often surprise them with new takes on old folkdance favorites, so they can’t always dance by rote, but need to be up on their toes!  For those interested in traditional folk music, what we play might stretch their ears a bit and we’ve gotten some funny feedback in that regard, especially from our Youtube videos.

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Zoyres Eastern European Wild Ferment

Biserka!

Klezmer has enjoyed cachet in the jazz world since clarinetist Don Byron’s 1993 album Plays the Music of Mickey Katz. The centuries-old Eastern European form is, after all, incredibly catchy — a fact one might attribute to the up-tempo rhythms and Middle Eastern harmonic scales, which are, apparently, the bedrock of everything funky. Five Bay Area musicians took this idea to heart when forming their own Eastern European ensemble, Zoyres East European Wild Ferment. Set up as a folk band but equally influenced by jazz, Zoryes offers fascinating interpretations of ancient Balkan and klezmer songs, plus some original material that adds weird meters and jazzy horn solos to the old song structures. Zoyres advertises itself as a dance band, partly because of the tautness of its rhythms, and partly because it sounds a lot bigger than it actually is. But the band’s real selling point is that its members have real chops.

Zoyres’ second album, Biserka! features eleven tracks, including five traditional folk songs, two minute-long improvisations, and five new compositions by saxophonist Mike Perlmutter, Boston-based accordionist Michael McLaughlin, and the band’s original clarinetist, Olivier Hamant. Perlmutter’s two songs are interesting in that they draw heavily on old traditions. “12 Bonds” is the jazzier of the two; “Papa’s Dance” sounds almost indistinguishable from its 16th-century precursors. Hamant’s “Rue St. Jean,” takes more liberties with the form, particularly in the romantic, dissonant harmonies that comprise its middle section.

But the real payoff comes with McLaughlins’ dirge-like “Afterwards,” which pairs a convulsive drum rhythm with a horn line that sounds almost like a chorale. It’s simply wonderful. (Zoyres)

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