Album Review: Hallouminati – Tonight, Is Heavy [Batov Records; June 2018]

Hallouminati, of Derby, Nottingham, London and Cyprus, present their debut album, released on London based gipsy, rock, jazz London label Batov Records. They have been touring extensively since 2010, making a mark in the gipsy, klezmer, ska, and raucous party scenes with their pretty original blend of “brass, bouzouki and beats”.

In the opening track, ‘Takimi Strut’, there’s an uplifting, yet emotional tone to the bouzouki; one that tends to give people a warm sense of nostalgia — a warmth that is then interrupted by faded-in background audience vocals. This perhaps paves the way out of the calm Cypriot melodies and welcomes in their somewhat bolder ‘rude rebetiko’.

An example of this is the bold brass that comes unapologetically pounding in the second track ‘Agape Mou’, alongside a racy bouzouki track. Here we are introduced to the vocals, (very ‘Cat Empire’-esc), and our the first hint of punk.

In ‘Koqatwo’, a canter beat becomes almost gipsy, whilst ‘The Buffoon’ provides some reggae and a tad of dub (in which the brass section fits in perfectly) and then a double-in pace creates a ska rhythm. At this point, it’s easy to imagine an energetic, sweaty dance floor jumping to the music.

‘Danfixer’ opens with an epic bass riff – upbeat and fast – h then a deep, bassy brass enters, all to be slowed down momentarily in ‘Treacle’, which drops into our second reggae beat of the album, on which I rather enjoy the whispered vocals.

A fairground-esc piano opens ‘Demonominator’ joined by a soulful saxophone which builds to a driving bass drum, creating a burlesque musicality that’s reminiscent of the old Pink Panther cartoons.

The penultimate track brings us flying across the sea, back to rebetiko melodies, with drops into darbubka and bouzouki for what feels like a tamer track, before the closing ‘Here’s To Life’, which as it’s title suggests is an Opa! to the whole thing.

I think Hallouminati have bridged perfectly the musicality of Cypriot rebetiko, New York brass band and London ska all, wrapped up in a punk party aesthetic.