Mood swings: Barbez delves into Gypsy exotica.
Merry Cyr


Barbez is a whirlwind of Old World energy, a picture postcard suffused with smoky moods and late-night cabaret. Like Gogol Bordello getting a makeover from the Dresden Dolls, Barbez mixes Eastern European folk styles from gypsy to klezmer with a Weimar/Kurt Weill fascination, and flavors the sound with a theremin virtuoso and a chugging, rock-driven rhythmic undercurrent. The theremin is no mere gimmick, but a vital aspect of the sound, offering a haunting, insistent wail to the swooning ebb and flow of the arrangements, which approach free jazz skronk for sheer vibrancy. Russian lead singer Ksenia Vidyaykina's deep, accented vocals -- in both English and her native tongue -- contribute to the band's exotic, expressive nature. They have an operatic quality that, while meshing well with the music's dramatic sweep, may not appeal to everyone. Indeed, the band's wintry Left Bank idiosyncrasy at times overwhelms the band's musical qualities, which includes some great instrumental churn.


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