Ever since the demise of Les Negresses Vertes, there’s been a vacancy for a band, Parisian or otherwise, capable of putting on their own vagabond swagger. Enter Les Yeux Noirs, a flamboyant septet whose raison d’être is to rampage through a music inspired partly by klezmer, partly by French chanson, and to do so with an enormous élan.
Executed in a blaze of dulcimer solos and runaway violins, tChorba (‘soup’) is the sixth album from Olivier Slabiak and his cohorts, and its title reflects the change that the black-eyed boys made a few years back when they reinvigorated their line-up with drums, cimbalon and electric guitars. There are lots of tastes in this particular cauldron; traditional Yiddish songs mixed with self-penned songs, folky sounds and wild pieces like ‘Hora de Mîna’.
It’s easy to get carried away with the sheer velocity of ‘tChorba’ and ‘Trado Trado’, but Les Yeux Noirs are possibly most affecting when they slow down for their songs. ‘Voz iz Gevein’ is a sombre thing, all muffled drums and lowdown piano, while ‘Petite’ conjures up a side of Montmartre too bittersweet for postcards.
tChorba straddles many worlds, and it’s probably best not to look for its spiritual ancestors in one place. Rather, like the late Negresses, tChorba is about a pervasive atmosphere – a scent, even.