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Barbez — Insignificance
(Important Records imprec063, 2005, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2006-05-01

Insignificance Cover artI don’t know if it’s a trend or not, but I’m all for it. Barbez is an American independent band taking its inspiration from traditional music all around the world (special focus on Russia and the Middle East) and its energetic esthetic from art-punk. Forceful female vocals from Ksenia Vidyaykina find colorful backing from a bass/drums/guitar trio augmented by full-time mallet and theremin players, providing a wide variety of sound that always keeps you guessing and never come off as mere novelty. Two traditional Russian tunes and a few choice covers augment a slate of original compositions by guitarist Dan Kaufman, who does not himself dominate the arrangements. Drummer Shahzad Ismaily deserves a lot of credit for driving the music — his playing is very diverse, with catchy patterns on toms as common as kick-snare beats. Pamela Kurstin also merits special mention on theremin; she often performs a kind of counterpoint role that might normally be filled by a violin, and in fact her playing is so smooth and non-gimmicky that you might mistake it for a violin. A few years ago I fell in love with Charming Hostess (and I know I’m not alone in that) — Barbez provides the same kind of thrill, substituting instrumental range for the extra singers. I’m enthusiastically adding Insignificance to my Year’s Best list, and citing its title for extreme irony.

Filed under: New releases, Issue 33, 2005 releases

Related artist(s): Barbez

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