Ahilea Café Svetlana

This disc is maddening because of one single element in the music that almost ruins everything. Rarely have vocal interjections been so distracting to the enjoyment of otherwise intriguing beats. I admit that I'm on the fence with Balkan joie de vivre, but if someone tells me to party hard with enough gusto in the right context, I'm down with it. These vocal interjections are pure high energy cornball, while the uber-diva vocals on "Spiritus Tango" make Eartha Kitt seem shy and retiring. It's a shame because these beats don't need any encouragement to get over. Ahilea, from Macedonia, take on Balkan ingredients, from manic cimbalom to filter-swept brass sections, and manage to pinpoint and enhance simple grooves within blazingly complex polyrhythms. The production is outstanding throughout, taking a tip from Essay label boss Shantel, but perhaps getting a little freakier. But just as soon as a righteous brew of accordion, tambourine and acoustic bass is cooked up, the mixture is over-egged by party killing drivel. Fortunately, other vocal contributions work better, like the weary soul of "Let Me Show You More And More." (Essay)