Shukar Collective Urban Gypsy

The title Urban Gypsy may sound like some Putumayo compilation, but this is not "music guaranteed to make you feel good” — it's quite the opposite. This is one of the few examples of electronic world beat that plumbs emotions beyond gentle, blissful zoom zoom. Starting with a clatter-y break beat and hoarse, abrasive vocals, the Shukar Collective don’t lay back into an easy groove. This is an ambitious take on "Ursari,” music, a rough-hewn gypsy style played on spoons, wooden barrels and hand drums. The programming is choppy sounding, with swirling violins and manic spoons to bolster it. There is a pronounced drum & bass influence, too, as if Roni Size had never stopped pursuing his New Forms direction. Many tracks seem to bear the influence of the British Asian Underground, which makes sense, since the Roma originated in India. There’s even an industrial feel to certain tracks — the first 3 minutes of "Bar Boot” could've been on a Laibach album. Urban Gypsy isn’t urban in the sense of wanting to capture booties and minds in some generic super-club; it's about grey landscapes, smoky social clubs, and tough, proud old men who don’t take shit from anyone. This is a superb collection of futuristic productions of earthy music, and includes a killer dub track "Gipsy Blooz,” as its gritty calling card. Highly recommended. (Riverboat)