Change Yer Life

Bella's Bartok

Independent release, 2016

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


As a general rule, the more unconventional a band gets, the better for me… to a point. Extremely esoteric, disjointed art-noise will rarely make it through an entire listen, while atypical fusions of genres often yield repeated listens, and, in this case, a favorable review. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Bella's Bartok, from Amherst, Massachusetts, might best be described as circus punk, an obscure, rarely touched on sub-genre of sounds that could soundtrack a party at a big tent, but they also take in klezmer, folk and pop influences. Change Yer Life was recorded, mixed, produced, engineered and released by the band, with the six players bring accordions, mandolins, trumpets, trombones, among others, to the unorthodox festivities.

“The Strigol Waltz” starts the album off loud and dance friendly, with full horns and an addictive pace that's a frenzy of gypsy punk rock. Similar tracks like “Satan's Song,” with its anthemic brass and the percussive heavy “Zora” confirm that Bella's Bartok bring the party with them.

Other songs are straight up carnival rock, such as the eerie and quirky “Masquerade,” which sounds like the theme song to a sideshow attraction with its bold, upfront music and group vocals. “Ode To Bregovic (Toro's Lament)” then moves with a shuffle that brings to mind visions of dancing elephants and trapeze swingers.

The band reportedly began as an acoustic outfit, and evidence of that is found in the somewhat gentler tunes here. Songs like the sparse and darker first half of “The Strange Ones,” and the seven minutes of “Mother,” which is part lullaby, bring the tempos and volume into a different, intricate perspective. The album closer, “Ramona,” is one of the strongest tracks with vibrant melody and impassioned singing.

Fans of Gogol Bordello, Darla Farmer and Eastern European sounds are likely to find the songs on this delightful and impressive first album as unusual and charming as I do.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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