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Black Ox Orkestar

Discography

 

 

 Everything Returns

 

 

Black Ox Orkestar began in the summer of 2000, the project of four Montreal musicians exploring their Jewish heritage for sounds that could speak to them in the present day. Thierry Amar (upright bass), Scott Levine Gilmore (vocals, cymbalom, piano, guitar & percussion), Gabriel Levine (clarinet, guitar), and Jessica Moss (violin) sought to capture the rawness and emotional intensity they heard in pre-WWII recordings of Jewish and non-Jewish music from Eastern Europe and the Balkans. They also threw their own musical histories into the mix—years of playing out-jazz, punk rock and avant-folk—with the aim of circumventing typical approaches to the ‘fusion of old and new’ and finding more vital artistic and interpretative pathways to tear old sounds from the past and make them resonate in the present. The band tried to be true to the strangeness and beauty of archaic songs, translating these into new forms, while also writing entirely original material, in the spirit of a continued imaginary tradition still humming in their ears.

Black Ox Orkestar released two albums on Montreal indie label Constellation: Ver Tanzt? (2004) and Nisht Azoy (2006). Among various accolades at the time, PopMatters called them “the darkest, densest folk group around…a dark trad-Yid band is a welcome change” and Klezmer Shack wrote “absolutely wonderful… incendiary… when a band plays this well, with a range of moods and strengths, and engages in the politics of today’s world in Yiddish, much positive should be said.” The band played their final show in late 2006.

Since 2007, primary composer/vocalist/lyricist Scott Gilmore pursued human rights law in Washington D.C. and Gabriel Levine carried on with doctoral work and teaching in Performance and Cultural Theory (publishing "Art and Tradition in a Time of Uprisings" with MIT Press in 2020) in Toronto. They were founding members of Le Petit Théâtre de l’Absolu, a puppet theatre that toured a children’s show through the occupied West Bank and Israel in the fall of 2003, and both kept up with their instruments and musical practices largely on the side through this period. Jessica Moss and Thierry Amar, on the other hand, continued uninterrupted Montréal-based music careers in infamous agit-punk bands like Thee Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, while also making performance, arrangement and production contributions to countless recordings by the likes of Vic Chesnutt, Matana Roberts, Lhasa, Carla Bozulich, Grant Hart, Sarah Davachi, Big Brave, Basia Bulat, Broken Social Scene and many more. Moss is also known for her unique noise-, electronics- and ambient-metal-inflected post-classical solo albums over the past decade, which regularly land on Modern Composition and Electroacoustic year-end lists. Amar is one of the co-founders of the Hotel2Tango recording studio in Montreal.

Following a 15-year hiatus, Black Ox reunited in the pandemic summer of 2020. Initially impelled by an outreach from leftist journal Jewish Currents to be the subject of a ‘Where Are They Now’ feature, the band reconvened at first in friendship and conversation, which soon evolved into a burning desire to tap back into the musical chemistry they’d always held dear. Pandemic restrictions initially limited them to Zoom meetings and virtual file exchange; one of their earliest new recordings, “Mizrakh Mi Ma’arav”, was forged from a voice memo recording of Gilmore on piano and voice, to which Levine added clarinet in his Toronto basement, and Amar and Moss overdubbing strings at Montréal’s Hotel2Tango recording studio. This song was then released as a flexi 7” by Jewish Currents as a gift to its 6000+ subscribers in February 2022, effectively announcing the return of Black Ox. The song also appears on the band’s new full-length album Everything Returns, which picks up right where they left off a decade-and-a-half ago: an entrancing collection of roiling instrumental interpretations of Jewish diasporic traditional combined with brooding vocal-driven originals (sung primarily in Yiddish) showcasing their unique sound and sensibility—offering a distinctive take and timbre within the contemporary landscape of Jewish, Yiddish and klezmer music. A burgeoning new diasporic community of such practitioners, researchers and fans has arisen since Black Ox Orkestar's initial run, and the band's first two albums remain lodestars among this next generation. Everything Returns will indeed mark an exciting and welcome return for many and should offer proof positive of the band's continued interpretive strengths, musicianship, and revitalizing contributions to the tradition.

 

Live Dates

13 Dec 2022 - Toronto, ON @Music Gallery

14 Dec 2022 - Montreal, QC @Museum of Jewish Montreal

15 Dec 2022 - Keene, NH @Nova Arts 

16 Dec 2022 - Brooklyn, NY @Union Pool

17 Dec 2022 - Brooklyn, NY @Union Pool

 

Artist Images

For high-resolution downloads, click here

 

Contacts & Links

Press enquiries UK & North America:
Lauren Barley at Rarely Unable

Press enquiries 
EU:
Ed Benndorf at Dense Promotion