Muskat and Kaplan return to milk their newfound cash cow by releasing Nu-Made, a...
Chris White 2008
Israeli-born but based in New York, Tamir Muskat and Ori Kaplan are the brains behind Balkan Beat Box, one of an increasing number of Eastern European-influenced bands to have emerged in the U.S over the past few years, but listeners should be wary of pigeonholing them as part of a broader movement.
While the self-styled 'gypsy-punks' Gogol Bordello and the more subtle, restrained Devotchka and Beirut use largely organic textures, Balkan Beat Box combine live instruments with a riot of frantic electronica, hip-hop and dancehall. What's more, their sonic template is much more global than the aforementioned artists, with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean elements almost as prevalent as the more frequently cited Slavic horns and klezmer. Like the UK's Asian Dub Foundation or Belgium's Think Of One, the Brooklyn residents cook up a bewildering and intense mish-mash of styles to create something uniquely alive in its own right.
Last year's excellent New Med album earned Balkan Beat Box widespread attention for the first time, which seems to have encouraged Muskat and Kaplan to further milk their newfound cash cow by releasing Nu-Made, a collection of remixes, some unreleased tracks and two short films, one a live performance of Hermetico, the other a longer piece following the band’s 'homecoming' to Tel Aviv.
As is invariably the case with this kind of project, Nu-Made has the unmistakeable feel of a commercial rather than an artistic venture. Most of the remixes offer few fresh twists to the already musically disparate, one might even say slightly cluttered original tracks, although rookie producer Puzzel (who is included here as one of the winners of a Balkan Beat Box remix competition) gives Digital Monkey an effective, dub-heavy overhaul. New song Ramallah Tel-Aviv, with its politically charged lyrics in both Arabic and Hebrew, is a worthwhile addition to the group's repertoire, as is Red Bula, a radical reworking of Romanian jazz/folk practitioners Mahala Rai Banda.
As for the films, Hermetico does what it says on the tin, while Kind Of Home offers (distinctly unilluminating) interviews with the BBB guys and some interesting insight into how they integrate local musicians into their act while on tour. Overall though, unless you're an obsessive completist there's little reason to buy this album if you already own Nu Med.