Kocani Orkestar, L’Orient Est Rouge

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

There's nothing to beat the powerful punch packed by a Balkan brass band, and Macedonia's Kocani Orkestar delivers a real roundhouse on L'Orient Est Rouge (the title comes from a Chinese Communist song which was a big Balkan pop hit!). With a pair of trumpets, three tubas, sax, clarinet, the local oboe called a zurla, percussion and accordion, they frantically negotiate their way through music in complex time signatures in a style that seamlessly mixes Gypsy and Oriental music. Led by remarkable trumpeter Naat Veliov, they keep pushing each other further on pieces like "Doise," where the solos are thrown down and picked up like challenges. However impossible it seems that they can hold the ensemble work together on the tricky "Ibraim Odja," they manage it, playing with a wildness that's barely short of madness. But the entire album is a thrilling white-knuckle ride that raises your adrenaline just by hearing it. The two real dance pieces, "Sunet Oro" and "Dervid Oro," manage a manic grace, while the epic "Ederlezi Avela" almost traces its Gypsy roots back to India in its melody and execution. Masterful, and often ridiculously virtuosic, this is music where borders of culture and state really don't exist.