Shantel - Disko Partizani
Talking street in the Balkans isn't exactly like any slang-fuelled conversation overheard in Berlin or Frankfurt, but Shantel, born Stefan Hantel, has always tried to connect the geographical and ethnical dots between Western and Eastern Europe. The dots of his heritage. What makes a German native embark on a cultural journey to later be known as the mastermind of Balkan pop is one for the books. "Disko Partizani", appropriately released by Crammed Discs, is the latest installment of an ongoing party where Emir Kusturica always shows up in sunglasses with loads of gel in his hair.
The comparison with the Sarajevo-born director and musician is almost inevitable. It's not throwing someone's name against the wall to see if it sticks; it's helping put the right imagery to this hypnotic sound that makes you want to marry every lady that crosses your path. The 2000s have already seen some Balkan-influenced instant classics, like "Swell Henry", by Chris Speed's jazz combo Yeah No, and "Darkness at Noon", by the amazing A Hawk and a Hacksaw led by former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes.
While the abovementioned projects dip a big toe into the Gypsy pool, Shantel adds that extra sugary boost to an already good soda. With cuts as powerful as "Disko Boy" or the title track, this record may well dethrone Sudoku as the latest bane of office productivity. Throughout its 14 songs, "Disko Partizani" deflowers some traditional songs and takes them to a nauseous ride on its imaginary carrousel.
Traditionally from Bulgaria, where it is used as a wedding song, "Sota" sees its original kick sewed to a house-driven spin, augmented by guest vocalist Vesna Petkovic. Another good example of tradition being pushed to the dance floor without losing all its kitsch is "Immigrant Child", a celebratory soup of Eastern influences. When Shantel comes in, the Balkan claws come out in their glorious existence through commanding horns, menacing accordions, imposing trumpets, and an oversized tuba.
"Dubstar Bugarskji" is probably the most schizophrenic track on the album. In four minutes, Shantel drops some occidentalized beats that go hand in glove with Bulgarian Filip Simeonov's clarinet and the trumpet executed by Sicily-born Roy Paci. Gluing all these elements together is the sharpened vocals of Miss Platnum, a Romanian lady based in Berlin. This is the kind of music you would expect in a rollercoaster just outside Belgrade, but somehow, "Disco Partizani" also finds its way to smoke-filled clubs there and elsewhere.