Beat Box are back and they're tighter than ever. It's been two years
since the release of BBB's last album and big changes have taken place
in the world and in the band's lives - and they've brought it all back
home with the release of Give(Nat Geo Music), their most musically intense and lyrically explosive album yet.
Recorded primarily at Tel Aviv's Vibromonk East studio, Givewas
conceived of as "a smaller, more introverted album," according to Ori
Kaplan. "It was fun for us to see what just came out of the three of us
while we played with old analog synths and children's toys."
Brimming over with handcrafted beats and samples, Giveyields
up BBB's the most textured sonic palette of their career. "This is our
most hardcore album so far," says Tamir Muskat. "Definitely musically -
there's more of a harder-edged, electronic sound. The songs and their
subjects are also kind of darker and more political."
just the three of us in the studio this time," says frontman Tomer
Yosef. "No guests, just us, and I think that concentrated our sound like
"When we're together there's something that just
works", Tomer adds. "We go into the studio in the morning and each of us
just has an idea, and we leave at the end of the day with a song that's
almost finished. That's still incredible to me."
uninitiated, Balkan Beat Box first burst out of New York City's
underground music scene in 2005, with a self-titled debut that
introduced the world to their Mediterranean-inflected, globalized
Founded by Israeli-born ex-pats Ori Kaplan
(ex-Gogol Bordello), Tamir Muskat (ex-Firewater), the band built their
reputation on explosive live shows, becoming an audience favorite and a
critic's darling. BBB soon added frequent collaborator Tomer Yosef as
frontman - his wild onstage energy galvanizing live audiences ever
The three emerged as a cohesive songwriting trio on 2007's Nu Med-
Tamir crafting hard-edged beats, Ori orchestrating melodies and Tomer
writing the hard-hitting lyrics - and took their sound to Belgrade and
other points East on 2010's Blue Eyed Black Boy, their first for the Nat Geo Music label.
by last year's people's protest movements across the globe - from the
Arab Spring, to Occupy Wall St., to Israel's own massive social protests
Give captures the cautious hope and re-energized spirit of our time.
Ori puts it even more forcefully, explaining that Give
is about "our dissatisfaction with the social economic and political
systems which govern our lives and set the tone for what kind of world
our children will live in. It's about our support to the various
movements and revolutions taking place in the world, and the fight
against corporate greed that has gripped our society and paralyzed or
bought off our leaders."
This exasperation is apparent on songs like "Political Fuck" and "Enemy
In Economy," which tells the true story of Tomer's detention by TSA
authorities after being mistaken for a terrorist on an Alaska Airlines
"We were on tour and I had just gotten this new camera, so I was taking a
lot of pictures on the plane," Tomer explains "and this one stewardess
she got freaked out because there was this dark skinned, Arab-looking
guy - me! - taking pictures on her flight. So when we landed they held
us on the ground while a sheriff and 15 officers came on the plane and
took me off in handcuffs. They had dogs on the tarmac and everything!
They held me for questioning for over two hours before they let me go. I
guess they must have Googled me or something. I have to say that the
Sheriff was very nice, but the whole thing was just crazy and really
pissed me off."
BBB's passion burns brightest in one particular suite of songs -
"Money", "Minimal", "Porno Clown" and "Look Like You" - which introduce a
character that Ori calls the "fantasy man." A stereotypical "big shot
capitalist" on a collision course with insanity thanks to his empty
materialist values. Or, as Ori puts it "He finds himself in a demented
moral state, and leaves the faade of his life behind, shedding his skin
only to find himself lonely isolated and mute." The consumerist is
One of the other animating forces on Give
is fatherhood - all three members have become fathers since the
recording of their last album, and Tomer explains how that influenced
the band's outlook:
"When you have kids, you become a little more aware of what's
happening in the world and what kind of world that we're leaving your
kids. When we started looking around, we didn't like what we saw and
that gave us the urge to speak out, to use the little power that we have
to change things."
"It was kind of a crazy vibe in the studio sometimes," Tamir laughs. "We
were recording some of our most hardcore songs ever, but our kids would
be there, too, running around and playing in the middle of everything. I
think it gave things a hopeful vibe, too... it reminds us that we're
fighting for something, not just against everything."
That hopefulness emerges most fully on "Part of The Glory," a meditation
on the role of social media and YouTube, which Ori describes as "how we
all have something unique in us. How we have these glorious talents
that we display on YouTube. But how in spite of that we live with this
shadow society of migrant workers and %u2018illegal aliens' who run the
engines of our world, and how we choose to ignore them in real life."
Like all great social protest music, from Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan to The Clash to Rage Against The Machine - Give offers upa
complicated, complex message. It's equal parts anger and hope - forcing
us to take a hard, sobering look at the world we live in now, while
pointing to a better world that we can achieve if we choose.