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Hidden Melodies Revealed

3.3 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 7, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The Sway Machinery is an all-star collective lead by guitarist Jeremiah Lockwood of Balkan Beat Box and includes Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on drums, Stuart Bogie and Jordan McLean of the Antibalas, and touring member of Arcade Fire Colin Stetson on bass saxophone. The Sway Machinery's sound stems from Lockwood's rich musical relationships with his grandfather Cantor Jacob Konigsberg and renowned bluesman Carolina Slim, who guided Lockwood's musical development. Lockwood's deeply personal bond to these two musical traditions helped him to create a unique musical language of his own, as he learned to move from singing in his grandfather's study to playing with Carolina Slim in New York City subway stations.

Though The Sway Machinery carefully cultivates Lockwood's deeply felt connection to his musical roots, his accomplished colleagues bring to the table the sounds of afro-beat horns, unassailable rock beats and an astutely contemporary musical sensibility. Lockwood's ambitious melding of styles results in what The Village Voice has called a most joyful synthesis.

Review

The latest indie supergroup has a sound that....well, you just have to hear to describe. Listen now! --Spin Magazine
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 7, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: JDub Records
  • ASIN: B001NH4COE
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #547,409 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Colan VINE VOICE on May 28, 2009
Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's interesting that the Product Description for this album does not mention an important fact about this music - that it is based on traditional Jewish songs, and a good amount of the songs are in Hebrew (the rest in English).

That does NOT pigeon-hole this album into a "type" that you can dismiss - although that is probably why it is not described in those terms. The music is a modern mix of alt-rock or art-rock playing with a healthy dose of World Beat sound, and (on many tracks) supported by various horns and a violin. And it rocks! Except for a couple of tracks that are spoken word.

The origin of the music gives it some important characteristics - lots of minor chords; unusual chord progressions and rhythm structures; some interesting breaks; at times dissonant. In some ways it reminds me of middle-period King Crimson albums, and like KC, I think this album would be good played loud on a good stereo. But it is complex, which for casual listeners may make it less than accessible. I suggest you give it a few listenings before you decide what you think of it.

If you think you won't enjoy music whose lyrics you don't understand (not a problem for me), then read the lyrics and translations on the band's Web site, swaymachinery dot com.

For me, 3 stars is a solid, good album, and that's how I rate this one.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Overall the music in this collection is pretty cool. I like world music, the intricacies of the different pallets help to make something unique and interesting. What I did not like about this cd and what caused me to give it 4 instead of 5 stars, is the sort of pretentious ramblings of the lead singer. In one "song" he only chats with the mic in a psuedo poetic verse. It never really goes anywhere and is kind of annoying hence the -1 star. When the music is playing its fun and jazzy. I don't speak Hebrew but as with all world music the sound is what is the key factor, and for that it delivers just fine. All in all a nice collection for your world music collection.

Thanks for reading my review.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The music is absolutely fantastic -- high energy, creative. A definite original groove. What I didn't care for was the vocals, and this is purely personal preference. Several of the songs are traditional jewish songs, sung in (I assume) hebrew (or would it be yiddish?). It's not a sound that I am used to.

The other thing I didn't care for was a few 'short stories' intermixed. They are original stories. They are read in a low, kindof whispery voice that I found rather... disturbing. The stories and some of the songs are in english.

I simply didn't "get" this music. I'm sure I would love an instrumental recording from this group, but the vocals just didn't work for me.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was not sure what to expect from this CD. What I found was a very interesting faith based mix of Rock, Jazz, and Jewish folk, with some Hebrew. It kind of has like a story backdrop with an almost hypnotic feel to it . I really enjoyed it very much. It has interesting rock guitar riffs and some nice horns. Sway is a good description because you almost sway to the rhythm while you are listening to it. It reminds of religious Jews that sway when they are praying. Something completely different yet still easy to connect to whether you are jewish or not.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is one crazy album. Apparently it is classified as yiddish fusion...I have learned I am not a big Yiddish fusion fan.

The strong point of this album is the instrumentation. Many of the songs have phenomenal horn riffs and pounding beats. "Amin Zemniros", "A Staff of Strength in the Hands of the Righteous", and "Aveinu Malkeinu Z'kohr" all have wonderful horn parts.

Another positive point of his album were the three spoken tracks. "When I First Came to This Country", "The Mask", and "The Princess" are all spoken tracks that tell brief stories. These were very well done and some of my favorite tracks on this album.

Unfortunately I found the somewhat yodeling Yiddish singing to be distracting from the rest of the music. Some of the singing made me wince and really grated on my nerves.

For all the craziness of the funky music and grandiose singing, some tracks were more accessible than others. I found "Tell it all to Me", "Ahavas Olam", "I Shall Chant Praises", and "Drinking and Driving" to be the easiest to listen to and most accessible tracks on this album. So, give those four a listen first and if those are too far out there for you then this is probably not an album for you.

Part of it was probably because I couldn't understand the Yiddish lyrics; but overall I thought the singing ruined what could have been a great instrumental album.

Although some of these songs were okay I just felt like this was a bit outside of my comfort range for listening (I have a pretty big comfort range and listen to a lot of experimental music). Definitely not a band I will check out in the future and definitely not something I will listen to regularly. Maybe if they did an instrumental album in the future they might be worth a re-listen.
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Format: Audio CD Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The description of this album fails to mention that it is based in Jewish Folkloric Tradition. My machine skipped directly to Track 7 Ahavas Olam and I was unprepared and taken aback by the multiple musical layers and the overbearing nasal nature of the chant. Restarting at Track 1 and listening to the album in its entirety several times, I started to appreciate the music and the vocals more.

It seems that the music and the vocals in this combination would shine in an outdoor concert as both are performed in the style of outdoor instruments:

* The horns: trumpet, french horn, and saxophone carry a reediness and compete at times with the guitar, Lockwood's vocals and even Brian Chase's excellent percussion work.

* The vocals, true to Cantor style is nasal and has a loud droning quality that is constricted in this album and is best suited for outdoor. At times the chant holds a strong marching/ethnic-folksy rhythmic droning style that threatens to overpower even the horns themselves.

The music starts out bright and engaging in Track 1: Intro but mellows out progressively. The album is split into 4 musical chapters and styles divided by the three verbal poetic tracks: 3 When I first came into this country, 10 The Mask, 13 The Princess. While the poems themselves are moving, Lockwood's nasal, whispered reading sounded a little creepy, especially with the heavy breathing.

Most of the songs are in Hebrew (4 Lockwood originals in English) and are traditional Jewish folk songs set on music with few borrow accents from other musical styles here and there. It is however, overwhelmingly Jewish Folk.

Overall a very contemporary interpretation while still staying true to tradition. This is not for everyone. And repeating myself: This would be fantastic "en plein air"; the recording simply doesn't do it justice.
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