Barbez = Big Lazy + Firewater + Masada
I spent quite a bit of time around the New York Balkan brass/gypsy punk scene in the mid-00s. For all of the fake mustaches and ornately decorated vests in the audiences, there were several impressive groups performing within those circles to offset the peacocking. I recall hearing about Barbez, with their impressive lineup and credentials, though they don’t necessarily fit either of the aforementioned descriptions. Along with the first album, Bella Ciao is the only other I’ve heard of the five they’ve released. This record is billed as "A Celebration of Ancient Roman Jewish Music and The Italian Resistance Movement." Yet it avoids feeling like an academic historical musical exercise. I enjoyed the instrumental pieces quite a bit, whereas those featuring readings of poetry—by figures such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alfonso Gatto—however integral to the album’s theme, didn’t really do anything for me. "Umevi Goel" is recommended as a reference track. –T.H.