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Published: 2005/12/12
by Jesse Jarnow

self titled- Ghorar Deem Express

Floating Opera Records 05

Ghorar Deem Express shouldn't work. But they do, and incredibly well. At first glance, a million terrible hippie stereotypes leap to mind: band from Amsterdam, nine members (including three saxophones, one accordion, and one auxiliary percussionist), and a press sheet that promises "boundary-smashing" music that combines dub and rock and funk and hip-hop and… yeah, man, like every buncha stoners to come down the pike since Clinton got elected. Ghorar Deem Express are one of the few bands to get it right, though, and find that rare combination of chance ("hey, man, I know another two sax players, let's have 'em jam with us") and knowing how to transmute that chance into great music ("well, we've got an alto, a tenor, and a bari, let's have 'em blow together like on Coltrane's free shit").

Exuding smarts (the careful introduction of voices on the opening "Schonel Schnerb"), taste (cool Bengali rapping in "Mucoid Plaque"), and atmosphere (Rachel Koppelman's accordion throughout), GDE transmit a worldly hipness that evokes cosmopolitan underground parties filled with exotic women and unnamed liqueurs. Crammed in the corner of a stageless basement room filled with entwined dancers, Ghorar Deem Express might seem exactly at home. And — who knows? — maybe that's where they usually exist.

More important — at least for the moment — they manage to convey that completely on their self-titled debut. Playful without being pandering, the nontet (?)treat their genre obsessions with utter respect: distorted guitars actually sound menacing ("Kikkoman"); the reggae toasters actually have flow, even in Italian ("Hey William Tell"); and the surreal lyrics are really surreal (during "Trampass," "choking chambers crash as lazy raving jangles / levitating bellows brashly blare"). Like the phrase "Ghorar Deem" — which, according to the liner notes, means "horse's egg" in Bengali — the band seems to make sense in another place, maybe even another time, so why not now? Things ain't getting any more normal.

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