Luminescent Orchestrii, Too Hot To Sleep

Take some traditional gypsy fiddling, soup it up with the energy of an aggressive rock band, throw in some hip hop rhythms and no small amount of general whackiness, and what you have is the Brooklyn-based Luminescent Orchestrii. This band puts on an impressively creative live show, featuring songs and tunes from their most recent CD Too Hot To Sleep. The focal point of Luminescent Orchestrii's sound is the fiddle and vocal interplay of Rima Fand and Sarah Alden, joined by Kaia Wong on most of the disc and Julianne Carney on the rest of it. Sxip Shirey hammers away on a guitar with a distinctively choppy sound that fits the band's anarchic arrangements remarkably well, and he also writes some really off-kilter songs. Aaron Goldsmith provides a solid bottom on his guitarron, the giant Mariachi equivalent of a bass guitar.

Too Hot To Sleep effectively captures the energy of a Luminescent Orchestrii live performance. They show off their instrumental chops in their frenzied arrangements of Balkan instrumental tunes like the medleys "Freilach/Rabbi in Palestine/Warsaw" and "Cohen Kolemeike." The band's silly side tends to be reflected more in their original compositions. The unsubtly suggestive "Knockin'", written by Shirey and sung by the women, gives a slightly different meaning to the phrase "show me the money." Fand's funky instrumental "She's A Brick" features a human beatbox and, in a performance that has to be heard to be believed, Shirey playing a harmonica through a bullhorn. The Luminescents can be melodic when they want to be as well; the opening song "Amaritsi" and the traditional (I'm guessing Hungarian) tune "Mahala" are my favorite tracks on the disc. My one real complaint is that a few of the tracks sound a bit messy to me, lacking the tightness and precision they displayed when I saw them perform. For that reason, while I like Too Hot To Sleep, I'd recommend checking them out live before getting the CD if you have the chance. (For those of you in the New York City area, the next chance will come on July 12 at Joe's Pub, in a double bill with Ljova and his newly-formed Vjola Contraband.)

Overall grade: B+

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