For the duration of my life, guitars have driven almost all of the music around me. Whether they be sensitive strummers or wailing rock gods, they’ve been sort-of inescapable. And as I’ve moved through different jobs as a music booker, I’ve found my ears got kind-of worn-out on the guitar; even great players rarely catch my interest. It often feels like the possibilities of the guitar have been explored, past the comfort of familiarity and straight on to dull repetition, especially in the Folk community. ((Sorry, dudes, it’s just… y’know. I still love a lot of guitar-playing acts; it just rarely gets me all excited to hear a new guitar-based band. I’m going to theorize that this is part of the root of the banjo/ukulele revival, and I hope it continues.)) Which is why I love bands like Ozere; the guitar may sneak in occasionally, but it’s not the meat of the music, and it’s a refreshing change.
Not that Ozere is using any instruments or technology that are wildly new; their instruments have a history that stretches back before the guitar came into common use. Their inspirations, too, have deep roots; I hear familiar phrases and rhythms from Klezmer, Classical, Celtic, and Middle Eastern music woven into their original compositions. But there’s a fresh sensibility around this Chamber Folk act, combining the two worlds – the tightly-controlled world of classic music styles, with a more regimented and faithful performance, and the more free-spirited, loose, collaborative approach to music of the folk community.
There’s a great depth and range to the sounds used, but that’s not to say it comes across in any way fragmented; it feels very much like the considered craft of great artists coming together to build something seamless and lovely. While many bands bring together the same sorts of influences, few make them work so gracefully. ((“Fusion” acts are generally the worst, right?)) Ozere aren’t trading on any kind of image or idea of being “World” music, but instead are very much artists of the 21st century, for whom the world is accessible and the sounds and ideas of the world have been fundamental in their experience of music.
I’d had them on the short list for the Peterborough Folk Festival this year, and met some of them briefly at the Folk Music Ontario conference this Autumn; I feel that, along with groups like Euphonia, Ozere are at the forefront of smart artists bringing music that’s been relegated to the Highbrow ghetto back into the popular consciousness, and it’s pretty exciting to see. They’re gearing up for a full-length album next year, and playing live quite a bit – check out their site for more details on where you can see them next.
As you can tell by watching the live video below, this isn’t a band relying in any way on studio/production tricks to create their sound – they’re great live artists!