Who were this amps-on-11 NOT-showy NO-horns 90s Balkan band?
April 30, 2021 4:10 PM   Subscribe

I checked an album out from the Ann Arbor District Library in the 90s that has been haunting me ever since. It was a three- or four-piece band: clarinet, electric bass, and if I remember right electric guitar and/or American drum kit. They played very fast, very loud instrumental Balkan tunes, with no Gogol Bordello/wedding-band-type showmanship. No horn section, no accordion, no vocals, no hand drums, no hip-hop or EDM production, no sampling, no toasting or shouting between verses, seriously just a small electric band playing tunes with their amps all the way up.

I remember thinking they were playing Albanian music, but I have no idea if that's accurate or if that was just the first country that popped into my head when I heard it.

I vaguely remember them as being from New York City.

It is possible that they had some connection to John Zorn, but they really were playing folk tunes (I'm not misremembering Masada or something like that), and they didn't include any big names — if Bill Laswell or Arto Lindsay or Bill Frisell or Marc Ribot or whoever had been on it, I would have remembered.
posted by nebulawindphone to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
'Balken Metal' site lists some bands of that era.
Do you know the title of any Balken instrumentals? That would go far in your search.
posted by artdrectr at 4:49 PM on April 30

shot in the dark but Estradasphere was a (mostly) instrumental genre-hopping band that did a lot of Eastern European tinged stuff from the the late 90s til 2010.
posted by mannequito at 10:43 PM on April 30

Maybe the Tiny Bell Trio?
posted by nonane at 5:19 AM on May 1

Probably not Immigrant Suns, since many of their songs have vocals. But it's worth a shot, and if you like this sort of stuff, you probably won't be sorry to discover them.
posted by aws17576 at 9:21 AM on May 1

Could it have been Slavic Soul Party?
They definitely have a Zorn connection, as I happen to know because an old friend is one of the band members. And they're based in NYC.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:13 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]

Have you contacted the library to ask if they can help? I’m guessing they don’t have electronic records of checkouts from the 90s, but they might be able to get you a list of say, CDs that they owned in a particular genre.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:55 PM on May 1

Hey there! I work at AADL and I searched our old catalog records but didn't come up with any leads. However if it was withdrawn before 2005 we wouldn't have any record of it anymore.

Was it maybe Traband?
posted by ulotrichous at 8:04 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Whoa! Hi ulotrichous! Thanks for searching!

None of these are what I'm remembering (imagining?), but they're great recommendations.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:44 AM on May 4

Response by poster: OH! BUT! Looking at related acts and side projects for some of these turned up something promising. There was apparently a New York Balkan jazz scene in the 80s and 90s that had connections to the Knitting Factory, and some of their stuff sounds a lot like what I'm remembering. The details aren't quite right, but I'm wondering if it was something by the Paradox Trio or Pachora, who definitely have the sort of energy I'm remembering, including heavy electric bass and at least occasional electric guitar.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:57 AM on May 4

Response by poster: I guess I should say they have moments with that energy, but still.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:13 AM on May 4

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