“..a smouldering record..”

There’s a tension in opening medley, Beregovski Sher / Honga / Freilicher Yontov, between a smooth café-orchestra take on standards and a profound percussion-driven originality. A little later, in Hora De La Munte, Zivorad Nikolic’s febrile accordion and simple stark patterns picked out on guitar and violin, splinter and sway us quietly back to an earlier tradition. Throughout the album, in fact, this is the story of a restless band who keep taking in the next horizon, and the next one, becoming one of the more unpredictable of klezmer ensembles in the process, but also achieving a rare majesty of sound.

Such wandering, of course, is authentic. For fourteen years now, the various band members have journeyed, collected, studied, experimented and honed through a myriad of other projects and skills and influences and countries, reconvening every few years to spark. Last time out, on the assured and exciting Buskers’ Ballroom album, their influences were confined more or less to the music of east and south-east Europe, stretching historically and culturally into the traditional music of Turkey, this latter further explored here, with real verve, in the oddly serious goat- inspired dances of Teke Zortlatmasi.

This is a deeper and stranger journey than the band have attempted before, featuring a preoccupation with spirit in a constantly wide-eyed adventure. There’s manouche and menace in the Romanian Tiganeasca De La Pogoanele, for example, while the desperate Greek lament, Selanik Türküsüis, a love song about illness and imminent death, ranges, as it should, from a fraught quietude to a primal clarinet wail, Çigdem Aslan’s cracked and elegiacvocals caught in a perfectly honest moment.

Location is much more than a place for She’Koyokh, and the band are a convergence point for the wandering wedding musics of the world. After numerous extra-curricular projects, including Susi Evans playing through a brace of atmospheric albums by her other band, London Klezmer Quartet, and a set of storming reviews for Aslan’s luminous rebetiko release a few months ago, comes this smouldering record. The whole is an unsentimental but graceful deconstruction of the familiar, allied to emotional and story-telling vocals and inquisitive and daring playing, through waltz and high drama, almost into revelation.

John Pheby, fROOTS