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Sample Track 1:
"Jackson" from New York Underground Tapes
Sample Track 2:
"Sing Sing Cocek" from New York Underground Tapes
Layer 2
Slavic Soul Party!, US 2012 Tour An Expansive, Floating Thrill:
Slavic Soul Party! Celebrate Their Latest 45 and Fresh Wax Cylinder on a Ship in the East River, June 24

Wax cylinders and party boats. In-your-face brass and anything-goes spirit.

It’s the unconventional floating album release by Brooklyn’s Sing Sing-rocking, longshoremen-rousing Balkan brass rebels, Slavic Soul Party! Eschewing the well-worn path to so-called success, the band funds its own projects, creates its own sound, writes its own rules. The band has reveled in this DIY ethos on its latest album, New York Underground Tapes, out on slick red vinyl—and now on 7” and wax cylinder.

By tossing convention aside, SSP! translate that special in-the-moment spontaneity, the great flexibility and willingness to keep the music going wherever and however they can, of many traditional brass bands. From Belgrade to New Orleans, brass bands play where the party is. With a nod to that spirit, Slavic Soul Party! aim to bust through the usual humdrum of concert-going habits.

“From the beginning, we didn’t want to play in a club to celebrate our album,” explains Matt Moran, SSP!’s drummer and bandleader. “We wanted to channel that expansive thrill of the unusual. We want to break cycles and expectations of going to a concert or club. What better way to do that than to get people dancing in the middle of the East River, looking at the city?”

Along with the views and thrills, red-hot Balkan Beats DJ Robert Šoko, a long-time SSP! friend and Balkan dance music expert—will spin a guest set, and an optional Serbian and Bulgarian buffet will keep dancers on their feet.

The party sails June 24, 2012 on the Cabana, which leaves from E23rd and FDR. Tickets: $18, limited numbers of tickets available from

Boarding begins at 6 PM, boat sails from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM.

About the album:

Slavic Soul Party! has blasted brass beats to the roars of men at Sing Sing prison – brawled with a Russian women's basketball team in a Bulgarian hostel – traded riffs in the streets of the mahala with a Serbian Romani band – paraded with kids through a Zimbabwe township – egged on a trucker as he stripped down to his cigarette in a Brooklyn longshoreman's bar – and their sixth record New York Underground Tapes (Barbès Records, release date April 17, 2012) captures years of funk, chaos, vitality and dubious choices. This red vinyl LP and digital download is the perpetual underdog's dirtiest, nastiest record and a contrarian comment on the definition of success.

In 2011 the 9-piece brass band's favorite studio was destroyed when a Brooklyn rooftop water tower collapsed. After the deluge SSP! assessed the loss, but saw the beauty of what remained. “We realized that come hell or high water, we had an amazing web of people around us,” says bandleader and drummer Matt Moran. “These days community can take more different forms than ever before.”

Inspired by prison inmates, an SSP! super-fan, a Brooklyn filmmaking team, Balkan colleagues, and the Romani accordionist in their midst, the band started writing and recording songs, turning to their fans in lieu of industry infrastructure via Kickstarter. The response was overwhelming. “We made a record” Moran says, “of, by, and for our people.” It's underground in the best sense, and that's the way SSP! wants it; the digital download is distributed through iTunes, but for the lustrous red vinyl you have to go to the band.

Drop down into the grooves of New York Underground Tapes and you'll find jazz swagger inside twisting Balkan dance beats, Serbian truba propelled by Brazilian samba-reggae, Bulgarian wedding sounds that invoke Michael Jackson, Ellingtonian harmonies dissolving into Romani sa-sa, and astonishing Serbian-Romanian-Romani accordion. If you're wondering how anyone could pull that off, consider that the members of SPP! also make time to play with Šaban Bajramovic, Machito, N'Dea Davenport, Tito Rodriguez, Balkan Beat Box, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. SSP!'s innovation is the result of their reality: hardworking musicians making their rent and their music out of the unplanned results of immigration, proximity, and globalization.

Slavic Soul Party! thrives on the X factor. Brightly lit stages can be wonderful, but life out of the limelight is what stimulates the band. After polishing their reputation as one of the most innovative Balkan brass bands on either side of the Atlantic, SSP! has flipped to the B-side: finding new audiences in prisons, public housing, libraries and weddings. In fact, almost half of their April – June 2012 tour dates are prison and hospital work.

Bandleader and drummer Matt Moran explains, “when you're right up in peoples' faces, when they know you're playing for them, with sweat and ecstasy all around, that's when you can make magic and transform peoples' lives. That's being a brass band, to me. We're supposed to help you move through life. And there are lot of people who get it, who need it, who can't come to festivals or clubs.”

{full story below}

Moran wants to build a shack onstage – which might explain why the globetrotters' fiery Balkan brass, throbbing funk grooves, Romani accordion wizardry, and virtuoso jazz chops still fill the cramped back room of Barbès every Tuesday night. “Years ago I saw a [choreographer] Pina Bausch piece where her elegant dancers built this tiny red shack on the middle of a glorious world-class stage, and then had a grinding dance party inside it. Looking back, I think that moment shaped a lot of who we are.”

The Pina Bausch moment is a good metaphor for the new record: built on an infrastructure of talent and achievement, it's a playful disparagement of success and a reminder to be careful what you wish for. The lines dividing inside from outside, exoticism from acculturation, are porous and portable.

“Balkan brass music is street music in its native habitat, but people don't often think about what's underneath, the substructure allowing that street to be the party it is,” says Moran, alluding to both music and issues of identity and expectation. East European musicians devoured Latin music in the 60s and 70s to create new sounds that westerners consider distinctly Balkan; a 20th century exotic musical fad (early African-American jazz) was “exploited” by European musicians to create “Gypsy jazz”. SSP! is a rare outsider (well, mostly!) to Balkan traditions that has been invited into musical conversation with their East European colleagues, and ended up in the stream of the living tradition. Learning from it, influencing it, constantly upholding and subverting it.

SSP!'s three previous albums (Taketron, Teknochek Collision, and Bigger) established their credentials for innovation on a solid Balkan foundation; brass kings Boban & Marko Markovic Orkestar banished any doubts when they beknighted SSP! in Berlin and Marko jumped onstage to join in his favorite Moran original. New York Underground Tapes is a raw and unvarnished tribute to what SSP! has created: a funky and virtuosic American take on Balkan brass, a hub for New York's Balkan scene, and a supportive underground community around the world. As drummer and instigator Matt Moran says, “Like any brass band worth its valve oil, SSP! plays for our people, and that's what you hear on this record. Straight-up, bare-knuckled brass funk, inspired by and dedicated to the people around us. If you're getting married call us.”

With the release of New York Underground Tapes these pioneers of Balkan brass funk are calling it the end of the album – but don't mistake that for the end of the band or its recordings. The group is looking ahead to its first vinyl 7” and even a wax cylinder recording (both on Electric Cowbell Records) and a tour in Eastern Europe (Aug/Sept 2012).