Orkestar Kriminal – Ryobra – 2018


On Bandcamp

Orkestar Kriminal’s second full-length album Ryobra translates to “Ribs” in Russian, referring to the clandestine method in which prohibited music was once distributed in the Soviet period, with phonographic grooves cut into old x-rays. With their unique instrumentation (sousaphone, trombone, saxophone, trumpet, musical saw, bouzouki, baglama, electric surf guitar, drums, piccolo, flute, violin, accordion, voice) Orkestar Kriminal dares to cut grooves of their own, arranging some of the world’s long-forgotten criminal ballads with all the fervor and gusto that they could muster.

Ryobra features daring arrangements of old underworld ballads and tells the tales of impoverished peoples from the interwar period driven to a life of crime. Sung in Yiddish, Russian, Pashto, Spanish and Greek by the multi-lingual band leader Giselle Claudia Webber (Hot Springs, Gigi French, Giselle Numba One), the album was recorded live off-the-floor at Hotel2Tango by Grammy award winning engineer Howard Bilerman (Leonard Cohen, Godspeed You! Black Emporer, Arcade Fire), produced by Josh Dolgin (Socalled, Abraham Inc., Canailles) and mixed by Tyler Fitzmaurice (Amadou & Myriam, Cadence Weapon, Weezer).

Ryobra starts out with “Moyshele Stolyer”, a Yiddish song which depicts the betrayal, attempted payoff and failed escape of an underworld character who has been turned in to the early soviet secret police. In the Russian song “Moldavanke Musyka Igrayet”, Kostia, the boss of the Odessa underworld, sends Mania to the labour camp at the White Sea–Baltic Canal in order to help Kol’ka escape. The song ends with the death of Kol’ka, on Kostia’s orders, for his violation of the criminal code of honour. “Charsi” is based on a traditional Afghan folk song, sung in Pashto, praising the many advantages of cannabis, a drug which is generally frowned upon in Afghan society. The Mexicain narco-corrido number “El Corrido De Juan Meneses” bears witness to the fact that the ambush of senior police commanders with high-powered automatic weapons is not a recent innovation in Baja California del Norte. Other songs like the Yiddish pickpocket’s self-eulogy “Avreyml Der Marvikher” speak of the hardships from childhood leading up to a life as a thief. The album finishes with the epic Greek rembetika ballad: Iroini Kai Mavraki, telling the tale of a drug smuggler, busted on his way back from Northern Turkey.

Band members:
Giselle Claudia Webber (Hot Springs, Giselle Numba One, Gigi French): vocals
Christos Smirnios (Swamp Ward Orchestra, The Mahones): drums
Julie Richard (Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra, Urban Science Brass Band): sousaphone
Etienne Barry (Les Deuxluxes, Barry Paquin Roberge): accordion
Anna Frances Meyer (Les Deuxluxes, Barry Paquin Roberge): back-vocals, flute, piccolo
Julian Selody (Lemon Bucket Orchestra): saxophone, clarinet
Lisa Gamble (Hrsta, Clues, Thundrah): musical saw, baglama, percussion
Eli Richards (Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra, Lemon Bucket Orchestra, Bad Uncle): trombone, trumpet
Brigitte “Briga” Dajczer (Gitans de Sarajevo, Klô Pelgag, Roma Carnavale): fiddle
Sam Minevich (Gigi French, Yellow Jacket Avenger): guitar, bouzouki