Robert Soko ‘Balkan Beats SoundLab’ – album review

Robert Soko ‘Balkan Beats SoundLab’ (Piranha Music)
CD/LP
Release Date 30 October 2012

This is a strange, if slightly endearing animal.

According to the release Sheet, Robert Soko is the inventor of the Balkan Beats genre. What is it? Well, as far as I can establish, it’s the remixing of Balkan dance tracks of the moment.

Taking traditional Bosnian and gypsy sounds, he tries to mix them with disco, techno and even dub. Does it work? Not always, but, for the majority of the album it’s very interesting, and, to be fair, I couldn’t ‘not’ play it all.

Take Sing Sing Cocek by Slavic Soul Party. I wouldn’t call them soul, more fast jazz if anything. It’s actually pretty clever – a pretty speedy affair, loads of brass instruments all over the place over an upbeat Latin American beat.

There’s a track on here called Sex, Drugs, Berlinskibeat – how could you resist. Some ‘oompah, oompah’s’ in the background. An accordion. A trumpet. It sounds interesting, and, it is. It does however border on throw away pop, there’s nothing wrong with this per se, the music industry is full of it and if there’s a market…………

On first listen I hated the version of I Like To Move It. On second listen, I hadn’t changed my mind. I just think it’s a little disposable. If dancing to daft songs at your Aunt and Uncle’s Ruby Wedding Anniversary is your thing then you’ll probably love it. Several shots of vodka may also help to make Los Colorados a little more bearable. Balkan Bettie by Tommy Dollar is just plain silly.

The album closes with Georgian Lessons 1-6 where trumpet, harmonica, guitar, voice, etc… are introduced one by one. I found this both interesting and a little throwaway. The idea behind the remix is a good one, and, for the majority of the album, I think that’s the key. Robert has taken some very ordinary songs and tried to make them a little more interesting. To be fair, you can’t knock what he has done. The original songs he has remixed aren’t particularly spectacular, but, he seems to have really given them the Soko treatment, and, attempted to update them for the Western market.

Four On The Flo is pretty good. Dubbed out guitars and voices. A funky little thing with some saxophone and trumpet thrown in. A bit of scratching and sampling. It’s very listenable.

Similarly, Kad Ja Podjoh Na Benbasu is a relaxing little reggae number, and, probably one of the best tracks on the album. It’s also by Robert Soko himself. As a standalone track it also works, in fact, I’d actually quite like to listen to an album of his original material. If you’re into dancing and in your town centre club at 2am on a Sunday morning, then you might like this album. Your 3 year old daughter may also find it fun. What I’m trying to say is that it will have an audience. I just don’t think I’m one of them.

The danger with the album is that it could lapse into Eurovision/Barbie Girl mode at any time. It comes close sometimes, but, thankfully steers clear.

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Born and bred in Lancashire, currently residing in the Rossendale Valley. Father, Husband, Blogger, Home-Brewer, Poet, Chicken-Keeper, Tweeter, Socialist - @hiapop. Keen to be green. Childhood ambitions to be a pop-star thwarted due to being unable to sing. Instead, began listening to music of every type. Everything deserves one listen, but, not necessarily a second. Only (ex-Community) DJ to ever play Nat ‘King’Cole followed by Nine Inch Nails, and, eat Fish and Chips live on air. http://www.hiapop.com

2 COMMENTS

  1. I love people who can articulate their opinion. Thank you for these very honest words and opinion. Best regards. R.

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