The second record by Montreal’s Black Ox Orkestar placed the group at the forefront of a ‘new Jewish music’ that rejected contemporary fusion and musty nostalgia in equal measure. With backgrounds in folk, punk-rock and free jazz, the group’s four musicians distilled Balkan, Central Asian, Arabic and Slavic sources into a coherent, impassioned sound that gave teeth to old Jewish songs. Never relying on museum-piece reverence or an obvious, forced collision of musical forms, Black Ox rewrote a Yiddish songbook in ways that sound organically anchored to tradition without being suffocated by it. Nisht Azoy (Not Like This) built dramatically on Black Ox’s debut (Ver Tanzt?), striking a similar balance between vocal and instrumental tunes, but with more intensity, mystery, and a readiness to stretch things out, whether in the incantatory opener “Bukharian” or the clomping crescendos of “Az Vey Dem Tatn” and “Tsvey Tabelakh”. Further upping the ante with greater use of percussion and group singing, the band’s entirely acoustic instrumentation pumps and pulses with explosive energy and emotion. Radwan Moumneh captured the 4-piece band (at Montreal’s (original) Hotel2Tango studio) with a detailed warmth and authority, and a large cast of guest players expanded the group to bona fide orchestral size on “Tsvey Tabelakh”. The slow plaintiveness of vocal songs “Ikh Ken Tsvey Zayn” and “Golem” rank among the group’s most spine-tingling, mesmerising moments. “Ratsekr Grec” summons a Balkan dance rhythm in one of the album’s more overtly traditional arrangements, adding a flurry of colliding horns down the home stretch. Taken as a whole, the cycle of songs on Nisht Azoy further opened up a world, inspired by Jewish diasporic culture and politics, that challenged conventional appropriations and forged music that is highly original, deeply felt and very much alive.
As the band wrote: “Nisht Azoy is the melancholy and uncompromising sound of our mongrel music splitting at the seams, the boat creaking as we drag our friends on board. As we sing in Tsvey Taybelakh: ‘When you come to a strange city, my love / Think of my words / When you come to deep waters, my love / You will not drown in sorrow / When you come to great fires, my love / You will not be burnt in sorrow.’”
2. Az Vey Dem Tatn
3. Violin Duet
4. Ikh Ken Tsvey Zayn
5. Ratsekr Grec
6. Tsvey Tabelakh
LP is pressed on 180g audiophile vinyl and comes in a thick paperboard jacket with 10"x10" artwork insert.
CD comes in a custom paperboard mini-gatefold jacket with a printed CD dust sleeve and credits insert.
Thierry Amar: contrabass
Scott Gilmore Levine: mandolin, cymbalom, guitar, saz, violin, percussion, voice
Gabe Levine: clarinet, guitar
Jessica Moss: violin
Brian Lipson: trumpet on TRACK 5
Pierre-Guy Blanchard: drums on TRACKS 5, 6, 7
Tom Bernier, Nicolas Caloia, Noah Laser Cannon, Brooke Crouser, Will Eizlini, Beckie Foon, Eric Gingras, Gen Heistek, Eric LaRocque, Eric Lewis, Brian Lipson, Nikko Snyder, Sophie Trudeau (the Two Doves Friendship Band): various instruments on TRACK 6
Recorded at the Hotel2Tango in Montreal by Radwan Moumneh with Thierry Amar, summer 2005. TRACKS 2 and 4 recorded by Howard Bilerman, summer 2004. Mixed by Radwan and Black Ox at the Hotel2Tango. Mastered at Grey Market by Harris Newman.