Toronto-based acoustic group Beyond the Pale has released a new recording titled Postcards (Borealis Records), which explores Jewish and Balkan music combined with jazz, rock, bluegrass and funk. "Our music coalesces around a kind of amorphous and scrambled geography" explains Eric Stein, group founder and mandolin maestro. "Each song is like a snapshot, a postcard from one or another of the far-flung realms in our eclectic musical universe."
We have our roots in a lot of folk traditions, but we try not to fetishize authenticity," says Stein. He and Dutch-Canadian clarinetist Martin van de Ven bring Jewish music bonafides to the group through careful study of scratchy 78s of old-time Klezmer bands, and copious research into obscure musical manuscripts collected a century ago by east European ethnographers.
That foundation is shaken and stirred by violinist Alekasandar Gajic, accordionist Milos Popovic, and percussionist Bogdan Djukic, a trio of Serbian virtuosi who, as Stein puts it, are flexible and fearless. "These guys have an incredible knack for intertwining classical ideas with gritty folk energy and even pop aesthetics."
Held together by the pulsating groove and jazzy swing of bassist Bret Higgins, it all blends effortlessly into one. The group’s complex arrangements leave ample room for improvisation and intricate dynamic flow, all the while maintaining a rare depth for such an eclectic fusion. "We strive to make it about more than just taking elements superficially from different world music traditions and slamming them together haphazardly."
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