Every once in a while, you’ll come across a piece of music or a band that open a door to something new. Before immersing myself in Tshok’s new EP Live at The Penthouse, I was mindful of Klezmer, but somewhat indifferent. However, since then, I have thought of nothing but. Tshok have introduced me to a phenomenal sound, this EP is mind-blowing, giving me goosebumps from start to finish.
Named after a Yiddish word used to describe the laughter-like sounds of the klezmer clarinet, 9-piece, Leeds-based band; Tshok, are comprised of: Christine Pinkard (clarinet, composition, arrangement), Pete Williams (tenor 1), Dom Lodge (tenor 2), Stephen Unsworth (bari sax), Emily Overend (bari sax), Richard Warrington (trombone), Johnny Burns (guitar), Tom Caunt (laud), Hugh Noble (bass) and Colin Byrne (drums). They describe their sound as “a whirlwind of klezmer clarinet, Balkan brass and Nubian-inspired funk.” ‘Whirlwind’ being the perfect illustration, as their electrifying fusion is all at once stupefying and invigorating. Through a combination of Balkan and North African sounds, alongside textures of funk and jazz, Tshok create a veritable feast for the ears.
Their newest EP, Live at The Penthouse, recorded at The Penthouse Studio in Leeds was mixed and mastered by Ben Whelan. Recorded in just one day, the aim was to capture “the raw energy and spontaneity” of a Tshok live show. It certainly achieves this. Indeed, a standout aspect is this energy, it’s a veritable catapult. From the first notes in ‘Bulgar/Boom’ to the close of ‘Kolomeike’, it is non-stop momentum.
The opening track, ‘Bulgar/Boom’, introduces the serpent-like clarinet which winds its way in and out throughout the EP. The wind and brass work in perfect harmony to produce the melody, whereas the rhythm section bolsters and maintains this powerhouse of energy. The climax of the track, when all 9-members come together for this head-bopping, uber-funky section (beginning around 1:21 and repeating throughout), is monumental. The suspense created by the elongated notes on the brass and wind, matched with the quick-paced drums, builds up and up before breaking in an almighty thunderclap of epic-ness (can you tell I liked it?). At this point I was completely and utterly won over. The strength of this moment is quite indescribable, I urge each and every one of you to try and not react to it – it’s virtually impossible.
Following this is ‘The Dome’, another track dripping in vigour, exploding as soon as it gets out the gate. It opens with an almost swing, bebop feel – big, brassy and unafraid. As you listen, you realise that you are hanging on to every note, Tshok have perfected the art of capturing and maintaining a listener’s attention. It would be a crime to not touch on their rhythm. You can certainly hear the influence of drum and bass, particularly in those breakdown moments that are so rich and succulent. From track to track you barely get to catch your breath, and, you guessed it, the final track is no different. A classic Hebrew dance tune that has been transformed, ‘Kolomeike’ lulls you into a false sense of security. Opening with a lonesome clarinet, it is the closest thing to a moment of respite on the EP. Speaking to this on their Facebook, the band said the track has ‘quite a traditional sound to begin with.” However, soon the build-up begins again, almost akin to ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, before crashing listeners back against the rocks. It also features a laud solo, so that’s a first for BELCH!
All in all, Tshok hit like a sledgehammer. It’s no wonder they have been playing gigs across Yorkshire as well as attending various festival such as London Remixed, Oxjam Leeds and plenty of jazz festivals. Live at The Penthouse was an absolute joy to listen to, if you are to do anything today – make it this!
The verdict: calamari. GOOD calamari. It’s something you might not have tried before, or haven’t come across in the cupboard. But when you take that leap of faith, you never look back. Crispy, warm and piquant with that ZING of lemon! You just can’t believe you haven’t dipped your toes in before. Trust me when I say that you’ll be fighting over the crumbs *chefs kiss*
Listen for yourself: