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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Les Yeux Noirs

By Tom Orr
Published December 19, 2006


Led by violin virtuoso brothers Eric and Olivier Slabiak, Les Yeux Noirs takes their gypsy/klezmer foundation a few giddy steps into left field on their latest release, Tchorba. Named for a Turkish soup that doesn’t skimp on savory ingredients, the disc is tasty, too, mixing deft exuberance and airy melancholy. The opening title instrumental spells out the strategy, featuring nimble fiddles straddling an arrangement that veers between hi-hat-laced funk and a kind of Yiddish rockabilly. Stompers like “La Belle Amour” and “Le Voyage” are plentiful, though breathing space is provided by slower, sweeter songs (“Reve,” “Trado Trado”). Also basking in the broth are zesty bits of reggae, rock and Andalusian seasoning, a little Serge Gainsbourg-style drama and some very restrained programming and sampling. Still, it’s the Roma/Jewish cultural duality that really gives these songs their strength. From the often poetically wistful lyrics to the varied emphasis of traditional instruments like the cimbalom, Les Yeux Noirs understands that there’s power in knowing when to stay rooted and when to take the music to another level.