Luminescent Orchestrii, Neptune's Daughter (Nine Mile Records, 2009)

When last we left Brooklyn's Luminescent Orchestrii, they were touring with their second album Too Hot to Sleep. The band had recorded that album as a quintet, but by the time I saw them live they were down to a quartet with new bassist Benjy Fox Rosen joining original members Rima Fand and Sarah Alden (both fiddle and vocals) and Sxip Shirey (guitar, melodica, vocals). Most recently I caught them last year in Huntington, making them the first of the City's many really good Balkan-inspired bands to make it out to Long Island (at least that I'm aware of). Now they're back with a new album called Neptune's Daughter, once again merging folk music from Bulgaria and Romania with Brooklyn street sensibility and a penchant for some rather goofy original songs.

As usual, Luminescent Orchestrii's biggest strength is their musicianship. Fand and Alden are superb fiddlers, and they really shine on instrumentals like "How to Play Romanian," a combination of a traditional tune and a piece composed by renowned New York klezmer clarinetist Andy Statman, and "Militsa," a raucous Greek traditional tune. They also do a nice job handling Bulgarian women's singing on "Mur Stojmeno." While Fand and Alden do most of the singing, the men contribute as well. Shirey sings two of his characteristically off-kilter songs, the hip-hop flavored "Nasty Tasty" and the nautical title track which closes out the album, while new member Rosen's interpretation of a Yiddish ballad called "Di Zun Vet Aruntergeyn" is a pleasant surprise. While the band's overall sound doesn't stray too far from what they've done the past, they do add some drums and a couple of tracks, and spice things up a bit with a rendition of a Cuban song called "La Tarde."

But while the band excels on the traditional material, I didn't feel that their own compositions on Neptune's Daughter quite reach the same standard. The quirkiness of their songs loses its novelty after a while, and none of the new songs here really add to what the band did on Too Hot to Sleep. Still, Luminescent Orchestrii are first-rate musicians, and an excellent example of the kind of quality globally-flavored music you can hear in the five boroughs.

Overall grade: B

reviewed by Scott

Luminescent Orchestrii performing "Jarba," a Gypsy song off their new album.

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