Les Yeux Noirs,
(World Village, 2005)

Here we have a French mixture of Gypsy and Yiddish music. Les Yeux Noirs is led by two violin-playing brothers, Eric and Oliver Slabiak. In the CD's promo material, Eric says that they were influenced by Supertramp and David Bowie.

"tChorba" is a Turkish soup with many different ingredients, so it is certainly an appropriate title for this CD. The question is how all these different influences fit together. The answer is, quite well.

The members of Les Yeux Noirs are not trying to be purists. That is obvious right away from the instrumental title track, where a Gypsy-sounding instrumental is played against a funk rhythm. Oliver uses samples and programming throughout tChorba.

There are English translations for the lyrics of all but one song in the CD booklet. Except for two in Yiddish and two in Romani, the rest are in French. One of the songs, "Le Voyage," is a poem by Charles Baudelaire set to music. There is a pronounced French feel to the music as well. There are many romantic ballads and a bit of accordion. The fast-paced guitar and violin often recall the "Le Hot Jazz" of Paris.

The production, done by the band, is smooth and balanced. The only problem is with Marinel Miu, who plays the cimbalom, which is a large zither/dulcimer of the Hungarian Gypsies. Its sound is quite soft, so it cannot be heard well except when the other instruments step out to let Miu play solo.

Les Yeux Noirs creates many different moods in the 14 songs, which add up to about an hour of music. There are four instrumentals, lively enough to evoke visions of dancing around a Gypsy campfire. On the other hand, there are the wishful traditional Yiddish songs "Yankele" and "Vos Iz Gevein." The first is about a boy who is going away to religious school, and the second is about the regrets of old age.

This is a fine CD of a type of music not heard often enough in the U.S.

by Dave Howell
29 July 2006

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