Various Electric Gypsyland 2

The title isn’t precisely an inspired introduction to this fantastic album — reminiscent of a host of catch-all discs that tout mostly lame electronic manipulations of blatantly appropriated materials. Fortunately, this truly inspired two-disc set leaves all of those trash-basket albums openly declaring, "We’re not worthy!” The law in Gypsyland is thus: take songs from four classic Balkan Gypsy bands (Koçani Orkestar, Taraf de Haïdouks, Mahala Raï Banda, and Zelwer), and give them to a whole host of "notorious fusionists” to play with (Oi Va Voi, Smadj, 43 Skidoo, and more). The results are thrilling — some keeping the original material right up front, others breaking it apart and piecing it back together like an electric mosaic. For instance, the opening track "Homecoming” by Tunng tosses the shattered bits through all of the sonic space, moving the melody back and forth through the stereo spectrum in such a way that you find your eyes following the sound in your headphones. And the best thing? You get to hear where it all came from. The second CD is of all the original tracks the artists worked from. So subtleties of texture shifting and pitch manipulation suddenly become evident when the remixes/reinterpretations are compared with their natal materials. It’s a part of the tradition of Balkan Gypsy music to incorporate the musical influences of its surroundings. So this album is not a resuscitation of dead material — it’s a reincarnation. A whole new life, with the same soul inside. (Crammed)