posted on May 08, 2009 19:00
A review of the album 'Royal Family - Divorce' by Storsveit Nix Noltes
Review Snapshot: Balkan folk instrumentals tarted up with punk riffing and a brief spell of shoegazing squall. The genre sound is done well but the lack of variety in the tracks means your interest will wear off very soon, though it's probably good fun live.
The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10
The band’s name is sufficiently Scandinavian and melodic to suggest that they deal in catchy tunes – and with that allusion to Hollywood hellraiser Nick Nolte, arse-kickingly catchy tunes at that. Plus, that album title can only be said in a Lydon-esque sneer. This seemed promising.
Imagine our disappointment, then, to hear a full album of instrumental Balkan folk. For that, dear friends, is what ‘Royal Family Divorce’ by Icelandic post-rock supergroup Storsveit Nix Noltes gives you.
If you’ve ever seen a film by Emir Kusturica, then you’ve heard this kind of music in a typical scene of his: the scrawny, scruffy middle-aged peasant somehow manages to pull the sultry young gypsy babe and at the wedding the entire campsite is dancing around to it. (Your reviewer hasn’t seen Kusturica’s film on Diego Maradona yet, so we’re curious as to how he’ll work a Balkan gypsy wedding scene into that one. Perhaps Napoli take a pre-season tour of rural pre-war Yugoslavia.)
Oh, but there’s a bit of modernising and indie-ing up done to the genre: some fairly basic electric guitar chugging through all the numbers. Second-last track ‘Winding Horo’ (most of the track titles have ‘Horo’ in them: we believe it’s Serbo-Croat for “condescending, middle-class Lonely-Planet ethno-tourism”) has a bit of MBV-style screeching, the only point where this record briefly considers taking a creative risk.
Look, it’s not a bad album and were you to hear this music live you’d probably have a good night. But on record the whole thing is samey to the point of boredom: same rhythms, same arrangements, no vocals or variety to break things up. It’s background music for when you’re dancing with a sultry young gypsy, and it doesn’t bear attentive listening.
And maybe it’s just us but there’s something vaguely dispiriting about a bunch of Reykjavik indie kids turning out a Balkan folk record. Perhaps it’s the same culturally-right-on self-satisfaction that makes many fans of Beirut so insufferable. (Your reviewer has a hip local bookstore whose staff we’re thinking of here; we’re sure they’ll love this album.)
But if you’re engaged to marry a Serbian gypsy or a bourgeois-bohemian ethno-tourist, this’ll be a hit at the wedding reception.