The Crooked Fiddle Band
Take a deep breath. Now imagine (musically speaking) a kamikaze gypsy wagon hurtling earthward through the stratosphere in flames towards your loungeroom. This might vaguely describe the intensity of this young four-piece from Sydney, who forge a fiery blend of various violin traditions with punk intensity and the raw finesse of crazed street virtuosos. This is not an easy-listening recording - what it is, is a short fast slab of hardcore gypsy passion, essentially showcasing the delirious (and award-winning) violin of Jess Randall, with a rock-solid rhythm troop of Gordon Wallace (guitar, bouzouki, mandolin), Mark Stevens (double bass, charango) and Joe Gould (percussion, drums). Lost In Transcription kicks in with an almost celtic acoustic guitar intro then hurtles headlong into the barely reined-in chaos of the speedthrash gypsy that indicates (mostly) the tone of this EP. Searing violin and breakneck rhythm switches pretty much sum it up. The second track, 44 Gallon Drom is a collide-a-scopic masterpiece of death-defying genre-twisting. Country hoedown, Romanian blitzkrieg, surf instrumental and lowbrow swing are mashed through the mincer and blended at high speed to produce something akin to tearing through a high speed surrealist computer game where the rules change with split second precision. For a moment your ears think they can settle into middle Romania only to be yanked violently into some good ol' barnburnin' and back again. Absolute precision and (musically speaking) boisterous buffoonery rule supreme - it will leave you breathless. The Drowned Sun is a more sombre piece, a downtempo Gypsy lament that offers a moment of pause - by contrast a little less inventive but no less passionate. Fire Swing begins with the crackle of a bonfire accompanied by a shred intro on violin, which then slides into voluptuous pum-chak Gypsy swing mode. Some sweet vocal harmonies swim in & out of Randall's soaring violinery, with a moment of charango to spice things up before dissolving into the bonfire once again. The Butcher Of Bessarabia launches into near-metal mayhem with a heavy funk assault underpinning the flashes of Romanian fire from the violin. There is simply no time to think and the focus of the musicians is astounding. Flight From Damascus is one of my favourites, for it's dramatically mournful Iranian flavour and relative restraint in composition. Joe Gould's percussive flambosity is given the spotlight to fine effect and Jess' octave violin produces some beautifully guttural sonics. If you are a fan of contemporised Gypsy flavours, and enjoy being stunned by sheer musical intensity and having your aural gears shifted at the speed of a Formula One lap, this little blast is definitely for you. Five goats. - review by Bradfield Dumpleton, 2007.