One of my favourite discoveries of recent years is Oi Va Voi. Bringing together a bizarre blend of new vocalists, Balkan, Slavic, and otherwise obscure rhythms and melodies, alongside very soft and gentle electronic backing, they’re really quite unusual, and quite brilliant too.
Their first full album Laughter Through Tears was released ten years ago this week, and far from the sillier sound which followed on subsequent albums (I’m looking at you, Yuri), it’s sedate and beautiful whilst also being contemporary and experimental. That’s quite a combination.
The opening track is the single Refugee, featuring KT Tunstall on vocals, and it’s really rather excellent. Immediately, within seconds of pressing play, you’re transported to another part of the world entirely.
Tunstall turns up on a number of tracks, although I’m not convinced any of the others offer the sheer power of Refugee. Yesterday’s Mistake has a pleasant trippy rhythm, but is sadly a little forgettable. Od Yeshoma is similarly nice to listen to, with an intriguing vocal, as is the unpronounceable A Csitari Hegyek Alatt.
There are songs in all manner of languages and encompassing all manner of styles, which I think is why I like it so much. This particular one is in Hungarian, and was also sung by a male singer on the preliminary version of the album Digital Folklore the previous year.
Ladino Song is partly in Spanish, and has a wonderful Spanish guitar feel to it as well, with KT Tunstall popping up again for the vocal. The single 7 Brothers, with its slightly impenetrable vocal, is great too. There are times when you want to turn around and scream “Sing in English!” if only to find out what they’re actually on about.
That was a joke, obviously.
This is also an album that’s considerably easier to listen to than it is to find things to write. Subsequent albums Oi Va Voi (2007) and Travelling the Face of the Globe (2009) mix the softer more “ethnic” material with livelier tracks and really keep you on your feet. Laughter Through Tears is more subdued, more relaxed, and entirely pleasant, but seemingly very difficult to review. This might be quite a short blog.
D’ror Yikra is really sweet, and Gypsy introduces some really unusual styles, presumably from the world of the Romani people. It also has an almost rap style vocal, which makes it very memorable and fun to listen to. Hora is a very pleasant piece too.
The final track is Pagamenska, closing off the album with a spoken Jewish vocal introducing us to the expression “Oi va voi,” from which the band get their name. And the final track is a beatsier version of 7 Brothers to bring proceedings to a final close. I might have struggled a bit to put words to it, but it’s a great album, and one which I always enjoy hearing.
Laughter Through Tears doesn’t appear to be available through iTunes, so you’ll need to get a real copy.