Swiss group Jaro Milko & the Cubalkanics seemingly pride themselves on being musical oxymorons. A self-described "Cumbia/Cuban/Balkan hybrid," Milko (a former member of the post-punk band Firewater) and his quartet fill Cigarros Explosivos!, their debut LP, with Columbian rhythms, Cuban chants and (their secret weapon) Balkan brass. Coming off like a less-punk, sunkissed version of Gogol Bordello, Milko's tracks, "Music, Rum and Cha Cha Cha," "All the Past" and "Cumbia Orientale" don't just rely on their novel song structures, as surf guitar, ska beats and Asian melodies give these songs their wobbling, bulbous shapes.
After a trip to Cuba, Milko began writing songs that reflected the country's lavish musical scene, culminating with 13 tracks that surprisingly sound both culturally relevant and musically rich. Although Milko's vocals come off coarse and grimy at times, the Cubalkanics have created a colourful punk tapestry to lovingly envelop it all. On Cigarros Explosivos!, Jaro Milko & the Cubalkanics haven't completely reinvented the genre, but their unrelenting efforts certainly don't go unnoticed. (Asphalt Tango)