La Cherga

Fake No More

Asphalt Tango CD-ATR 1708


Full Price (56 mins)

Originally published in Songlines.

Asphalt Tango, home to many fine Balkan and Gypsy releases including the wonderful series Classics From a Bygone Era, have always tried to push the boundaries of modern styles. Austrian based collective La Cherga, largely made up of musicians from former Yugoslavia, is an interesting addition to the roster: mostly 90s Everything But The Girl style electronica plus trumpet, saxophone and accordion licks a la Balkan Beat Box, and laid-back English vocals from singer Inna Karamarkovic doing her best Dido impression. It’s the kind of record that works best at a bar in the background: pleasing melodies, good dubby grooves and a lead vocal that is always easy on the ear. When you listen closer though, cracks begin to appear: the acoustic instruments lack punch, the drum programming is not always as crisp as it should be and if the lyrics – eg “This groove always makes you stupid, let your hips just move so freely” – are meant to be ironic, the joke has got lost somewhere in translation. La Cherga try hard to go beyond the Balkan stereotypes, but they are at their most convincing when they do just that, for example on the headbanging, four to the floor, trumpet ska of Rembetiko. “We are going nowhere,” sings Inna Karamarkovic repeatedly on opening track Cooking Dub comes to a close. Well, I wouldn’t have put it so harshly myself, but she has a point: overall this is a promising but incomplete debut from a good band in need of a sharp pair of digital scissors.

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